Book Marketing Tips from Author Helen Sedwick

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Frances CaballoToday I interview Helen Sedwick, author of Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing. Her book has attracted 77 reviews on Amazon. Eighty-six percent of those reviews give her a five-star rating and the rest of the reviewers give her four stars. Yes, she doesn’t have a single review that criticizes her book, which is amazing. Here is how Helen, soon after publishing this legal handbook, landed guest writing posts for Joel Friedlander and Jane Friedman and began selling plenty of books.

Did you begin to market your book before you wrote it or while you were writing it, or did you instead wait until it was already published?

In 2013, I self-published my novel Coyote Winds and started a blog about the Dust Bowl, coyotes, and other topics related to the book. Like most blogs, no one read it.

After some research, I learned that one secret to successful blogging is offering readers something of value. I scratched my head and wondered what I could offer. It dawned on me that I could use my 30 years of experience as a business lawyer to help writers understand and deal with the legal issues of writing and self-publishing. The Handbook was born.

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I started blogging right away. I wanted to see if there was any interest in the subject (there was) and learn what topics drew traffic. Blogging also generated content for the Handbook. I released the Handbook about a year later.

[clickToTweet tweet=”One secret to blogging is offering readers something of value via @CaballoFrances” quote=”One secret to blogging is offering readers something of value via @CaballoFrances”]

I did not have large following when the Handbook was launched, but I did have a lot of valuable content online. My following grew as word about that content spread.

What market research did you conduct before writing your book, or was your decision to write this book based on a gut feeling about the market?

Research and gut feeling both played a role.

Before I dove into writing the Handbook, I researched what books were available to help writers deal with legal issues. I found the books were written for writers negotiating contracts with traditional publishing houses and were not all that useful for self-publishing authors.

At the same time, self-publishing was exploding. I figured authors were going to need help with business set-up, taxes, contracts, copyright and other issues, even if they didn’t know it yet.

I also heard about writers who signed on with predatory self-publishing companies and couldn’t get their rights back. Market or no market, I wanted to help writers avoid those mistakes.

What was your marketing strategy? What roles did blogging, guest blogging, advertising, and social media play in your book marketing endeavors?

My marketing strategy was simple. I wrote a lot of valuable content, and then sought ways to get the word out. Although I advertised a bit and posted on social media, the most effective approach was writing guest posts for self-publishing gurus who already had strong followings.

[clickToTweet tweet=”My marketing strategy was simple. I wrote a lot of valuable content via @CaballoFrances” quote=”My marketing strategy was simple. I wrote a lot of valuable content via @CaballoFrances”]

Face it, legal topics are not entertaining or sexy. Most writers zone out as soon as they see words like infringement or liability. I hoped that if writers saw this information in a familiar forum, they would read the posts and go on to buy the Handbook.

In the months before my book launch, I reached out to Jane Friedman, Joel Friedlander, Nina Amir, Joanna Penn, and others, and offered to write guest posts on legal issues for writers. The response was overwhelmingly positive. They all needed that kind of content. Writing for their sites gave me reach and credibility that would have taken years to build on my own.

Now I get requests for posts and podcast interviews almost every week. I do not have to seek them out any longer.

Did you hire someone to handle a blog tour?

No. I contacted the bloggers myself either by email or by approaching them at conferences.

Did you send out press releases and do any media interviews?

I sent out some press releases, but they did not generate much interest. I suspect press releases get lost in inbox clutter. My personal emails to key people worked better. I was offering them something they needed.

How soon after publishing your book did you start blogging for publishing experts? In fact, how did you map out your guest blogging strategy?

I was not scientific in choosing which experts to contact. I reached out to the ones I enjoyed and followed.

I contacted Jane and Joel a few months before the Handbook was launched when I had galleys I could send to them. They were great. They both timed my first posts to go up at the same time my book was released. The jump in sales was immediate.

How did you amass 77 customer ratings on Amazon and, by the way, not collect even one negative review? In fact, 86% of your reviews have five stars. 

The reviews grew organically. I worked (and still work) hard to explain legal issues in a useful, non-intimidating way. I focused on the How-To’s: how to choose a self-publishing company, how to protect rights, how to use images, how to avoid scams. With the help and advice of my editor, Mark Shimsky, I strived for a conversational tone.

I am delighted when I get reviews from people saying that they’ve dog-eared multiple pages of my book for reference and feel like they know me.

What was your strategy for retail venues, both online and brick-and-mortar? Did you publish via Ingram Spark or just Amazon? Did you upload your book to Kobo, Smashwords, iBooks, etc.? Basically, where is it available? How do you think that strategy impacted sales?

I use all of the above. I signed up with KDP Select for a couple 90 day periods and ran Countdown Deals. They generated some sales and reviews, but nothing spectacular.

Now I use all channels, but 90%+ of my sales are through Amazon. I also do a lot of speaking engagements where I sell books directly.

Of all your strategies, what helped the most with sales?

First is identifying and filling an empty niche in the market. Everything else fell into place after that. The best handbook in the world won’t sell if it’s not giving information people need.

Second is generating good online content before you hit the market. If you are going to promote yourself as an expert, then you must have material online that establishes your credibility.

Are you active on social media?

I am active on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, I primarily post links to interesting or helpful legal articles. On Facebook, I am more social. I Like and Share what I enjoy as a writer, mother, and dog lover.

As I look at your book, here are the ratings:

Those are impressive numbers. Looking back, what contributed the most to your sales?

Maintaining a presence on the internet has been critical.

A few months ago, I was too busy with my legal practice to keep up with blogging, tweeting and guest posting, and my sales slowed. As soon as I resumed social media postings and blogging, sales perked back up. As a writer, you need to keep reminding people about your books and your writing.

Anything else you’d like to add about how your promotional efforts contributed to your sales? (BTW: How many books have you sold since publishing this book.)

There’s an adage about marketing that says it all: Be visible, be helpful, be available.

In the 18 months since I launched the Handbook, I’ve sold about 1500 print and 3000 ebooks.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Marketing secret: Be visible, be helpful, be available via @CaballoFrances” quote=”Marketing secret: Be visible, be helpful, be available via @CaballoFrances”]

How did your strategy with Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook differ from your strategy with Coyote Winds?

I made all the usual marketing mistakes when I released Coyote Winds. I had not decided whether my audience was young adults or historical fiction readers. I had no blog, no twitter account, and no author platform. While the book received glowing reviews, sales were disappointing. No Hollywood contract was heading my way.

I was determined to do better with Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. Since I was familiar with self-publishing, I spent more time developing a marketing plan long before I launched the book. And it worked.

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Helen SedgwickThe author of today’s post: Helen Sedwick is a business lawyer and author who helps  other writers with her nonfiction book, Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing, available on Amazon.



Sell More Books with These Tips by Frances CaballoAbout the Author of this Blog: Frances Caballo is an author, podcaster and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a contributing writer at She’s written several books including Social Media Just for Writers, Avoid Social Media Time Suck, and Twitter Just for Writers, which is available for free here on her website. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writer conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Ask Frances to prepare a social media audit for you.


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  1. Great stuff. Very helpful. Helen’s tips are among those I pass on when people have questions on protecting your book from pirates.

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