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Reaching Readers: Interview with Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder of Author Marketing Experts



Reaching new readers has always been the goal of marketing for authors. You can’t sell books if people don’t know it’s out there. But where do you put in your efforts? What should you know in advance? It’s undeniable that social media is more splintered than ever. However, that’s only one marketing lane to keep in mind. There are countless avenues to promote your book. While the process can seem overwhelming, it’s all about knowing your readers and reaching them where they are. Today, we talked to Penny C. Sansevieri, founder of Author Marketing Experts, and host of the popular podcast, Book Marketing Tips and Author Success. We chatted with her about the changes in marketing, important tips that authors need to know, and more.

Author Marketing Experts

WOW: Thank you for joining us today! It’s so exciting to have you with us again to share your insights with our readers. I love how you describe yourself as an accidental entrepreneur. I feel like authors are sort of the same way, especially when they realize the work that goes into marketing. How does having that mindset help an author with their career?

Penny: I don’t know if my story is helpful, per se—I mean I kind of fell into this business with very little prep! But I was tenacious, very much so—and I showed up. I think the biggest difference between successful and unsuccessful authors is consistency. So often authors give up after the first month, or even two months—it’s the consistency that makes the difference. Truly. I think if someone were to ask me the secret to my success I would say: consistency. Consistently showing up. Consistently doing whatever it takes to get yourself out there. That’s really the difference between authors that I’ve seen are successful vs. those who languish in obscurity.

Another element of this is gratitude—and not to get all preachy at all. But I’ve come across some authors who feel they’re owed something because they wrote a book. And yes, writing a book is a huge deal. We all know how hard that is! But being grateful and gracious when you get a review, or in some cases don’t get a review, or don’t get the accolades you think you should, will help you succeed—believe it or not, it’s true. I’ve seen a number of authors undermine their own success by assuming they’re owed this or that and then being upset and giving up when they don’t get it.

WOW: Gratitude is important! I think readers can even feel that gratitude. What do you think is the first step an author should take when getting ready to publish their book?

Penny: Decide how you’ll publish it. A lot of authors favor indie publishing, as do I; I have 23 books all independently published. But there are so many options these days, you’ll really want to find what is the best one for you. Do you go straight to Amazon and publish via KDP? There are some real benefits to that. Or do you sign with a hybrid publisher and let them own the rights to your book? It’s good to dig in and do some investigating before you sign!

WOW: Great point! There’s so many options and that can feel overwhelming. So much has changed about the book world over the years. What have you noticed in your time in the industry?

Penny: Well, in short... a LOT. When I first started in the industry there were 500 books published each day, and now that number is well over 8200 every single day. So what a jump in numbers like that does is it makes discoverability challenging for authors. But here’s the other side to that: 95% of books published don’t have any marketing. I know that seems like a big number, but speak at enough conferences and talk to enough authors that I know and it’s pretty accurate. So you might think, “Well, if they aren’t marketing their books then it should be easy to get mine noticed, right?” But the thing is that these books, even with no marketing behind them, are still cluttering virtual shelf spaces. So authors have to be strategic about marketing their books. Yes, it’s absolutely possible to get your book noticed, even in this environment, but you’ve got to be strategic in your marketing choices.

Penny C. Sansevieri

“When I first started in the industry there were 500 books published each day, and now that number is well over 8200 every single day. So what a jump in numbers like that does is it makes discoverability challenging for authors.”

WOW: It’s hard to believe that so many books are being published. I can’t imagine it’s easy to be noticed as an author! How has your own business evolved with the changes in the industry?

Penny: Yes, that’s a great question because it absolutely has changed. In fact, our marketing and publicity work today looks nothing like what we did five years ago. And podcasts are a great example of this. So five years ago podcasts were very much in their infancy, but now that market has exploded. Also, online media has become a tremendously beneficial way for authors to get the kind of attention they need for their books. And influencers! Wow, that’s been a big deal as well thanks in part to Tiktok and Bookstagrammers.

WOW: Podcasts are definitely bigger than ever! And getting to know all the online media options is a big deal. It makes me wonder about how much preparation authors should plan for when getting ready to market their book(s)?

Penny: Well, it’s a learning curve for a lot of authors, and I get that. But I think the more you can learn about the industry—like attending writer’s conferences, even virtually—is helpful to get an understanding of what’s out there and what other people are doing. So often I hear authors say that they don’t know what they don’t know and the industry is confusing—and I get it, they’re right, it is confusing, but that’s where spending some time learning can be really beneficial.

Also, most marketing should start ahead of your book launch, so reaching out to bloggers and influencers and getting to know them, following them on social media, etc.

WOW: I completely agree! What kind of tools should authors have to make sure the marketing of their book is a success?

Penny: It’s not so much a tool as it is a lane. Let me explain. One of the biggest errors I see authors making is marketing their book to the wrong audience. Making assumptions on who your reader is, or not being sure of who their reader is a big mistake but authors do it a lot, unfortunately. So find your lane and own that lane, and the more you can narrow your focus, the better your book will do.

And I know that sounds perhaps counterintuitive. I mean you want a big audience, right? But marketing to everyone is an expensive endeavor. I taught a class a while back and an author attending said that the readership for her book was between 8 and 80, which is more of a hopeful number than a realistic one. As I drilled down, it turned out that her book was really young adult. The 8-year-old isn’t likely going to be interested and the same for the 80-year-old. Where she was going with this was that she wanted the kind of base the Harry Potter books have, and while that’s a great goal, I can assure you that these books started out owning their lane and expanded from there.

The lack of market focus is also costly. This author was running Facebook ads for this wide demographic and, as you can imagine, it was costing her a lot of money. So the more you can narrow your focus the more you can zero in on your exact right reader, the better your book will do. Goals are great things, but a big, robust goal always has a lot of micro-steps, and those are the things that a lot of authors want to overlook.

Penny C. Sansevieri

“One of the biggest errors I see authors making is marketing their books to the wrong audience. ... Find your lane and own that lane, and the more narrow your focus, the better your book will do.”

WOW: Knowing your audience is such an important factor. When is the best timing for book promotion?

Penny: Ideally, before the book is launched. So if you’re doing your own marketing, start to get to know folks who review in your genre. But in terms of timing, there is no “best,” just don’t wait too long. I have spoken to some authors who want to put the book up on Amazon and “see what it does.”

WOW: Good point about not waiting too long. That comes to mind some of the conversations I have with authors about where to invest their money in terms of promoting their book. What do you think is the best place for authors to focus their attention?

Penny: It really depends on their genre and their goals as well as the age of their book. Amazon Optimization is critically important for a book to get noticed, and I love running Amazon ads for the authors we work with—so some attention should be paid to Amazon because for many authors, that’s the #1 place that their book is sold. Authors also often overlook their local markets which works for pretty much anyone, regardless of genre—and local media, libraries and bookstores love their local authors.

Media is also great, but there’s an element of this that’s also important and that is timing and tie-in—because in order to get the media’s attention, both of these elements need to be paid attention to.

WOW: Great point about local markets. Speaking of media, social media continues to be an important part of authors connecting with readers. For the author who simply doesn’t know where to begin, any advice you’d share?

Penny: You know one of the biggest and most well-attended classes I teach is about marketing without social media—because so many authors feel like social media is a black hole and to a degree, that’s true. The other element of this is that you don’t have to be everywhere, just everywhere that matters. So if you want to keep doing social media, that’s great—but don’t feel like you need to be on every platform unless you really have the time to do so. Because social media doesn’t sell books—it gets you exposure to your potential readership, but for the most part it’s a “touch,” meaning that it gets your book in front of your readers, and in marketing we always talk about how you need 7 impressions to your book, message, or product in order to make a sale. Treat social media as one of those “touches”—rather than a direct sales tool, which it often isn’t.

Penny C. Sansevieri

“Social media doesn’t sell books—it gets you exposure to your potential readership, but for the most part it’s a 'touch,' meaning that it gets your book in front of your readers, and in marketing we always talk about how you need 7 impressions to your book to make a sale.”

WOW: I think that’s a great perspective. Social media in general isn’t the best place to push sales but to engage with readers! Since social media has seemed to splinter, where do you think readers are now online? And how can authors find them?

Penny: Every author needs to have a website—and it doesn’t have to be fancy, just a one pager is fine, too. That’s part of your platform.

WOW: I completely agree. Are there any free or budget-friendly marketing methods an author can do?

Penny: Yep—and that’s where an author’s mailing list can come in. A mailing list is direct access to your readers and sure, it takes time to build a mailing list, but I’ve never known a single author who regrets doing this.

WOW: I’ll bet. So, if authors were to invest $100 in a specific marketing or advertising area, what would you tell them to invest in?

Penny: To be honest, $100 doesn’t get you much in marketing. Sure, there are some review services out there that promise to tweet about your book or share it with their mailing list for $25 or so—but the key here is who are their followers. A share is fine, but sharing to your readers is a much better use of your money. If you have just $100 I would suggest get some education so you know how to rock the DIY aspect of your book marketing!

WOW: Probably the best use of that level of marketing budget is education! How much does knowing your genre play a part in marketing?

Penny: It plays a huge part, in fact, as I mentioned above, marketing to the wrong readers can kill your marketing and costs you a lot of money in the process!

WOW: Absolutely! There are so many scams out there, including in the marketing world. How do authors protect themselves from investing in the wrong service?

Penny: I just did a podcast on this! It’s a big topic, especially nowadays. First off, I would say that if an offer feels too good to be true, it very likely is. No one can promise a bestseller, or guaranteed placement in a bookstore, or a spot on a major morning show. Also, there are a lot of movie and TV scams going on right now, so scammers reaching out to authors inviting them to turn their book into a movie, but when you dig into this you find that the cost is quite high to even get this considered. I can tell you, right up front, that these kinds of things never work.

You want to know how to get your book optioned for a movie or TV show? Get lots of great reviews, get some great buzz going—and pitch the heck out of the book to bloggers, bookstagrammers and influencers. That won’t guarantee you a walk on the red carpet, but a book without buzz generally doesn’t get the kind of attention that drives a TV or movie deal.

Penny C. Sansevieri

“If you have big goals that’s awesome, but remember that big goal is comprised of a ton of micro-goals. Those micro-goals help to pave the way to big success.”

WOW: That insight helps so much. What do you think is the biggest mistake an author can make when promoting their books?

Penny: Subscribing to the “spray and pray” theory, where they throw a whole bunch of stuff against the wall and hope that some of it sticks. Which is why I said earlier to be strategic and find your lane!

WOW: So true! What has been the best avenue for success that you have seen with the authors you’ve worked with?

Penny: Authors who are engaged in their own success—and as I mentioned above it doesn’t have to be huge or take over your life (though, books do have a way of doing that!)—but you should be involved at some level. Also, if you have big goals that’s awesome, but remember that big goal is comprised of a ton of micro-goals. Those micro-goals help to pave the way to big success. I wrote an article for Publisher’s Weekly a bunch of years ago called “Nobody is Born Famous” and in it I talked about how a lot of authors wrongly assume that publishing a book will launch them into the stratosphere of success. Far from it. Yes it’s a big and awesome step in the journey, but it’s just one step, the first of many if you’re willing to stick with it!

WOW: Thank you so much Penny for your time. Your insights have been so helpful.

Author Marketing Experts

Find out more about Penny C. Sansevieri by visiting Author Marketing Experts: Her podcast, Book Marketing Tips & Author Success, cohosted with Amy Cornell, is available on all platforms.



Nicole Pyles

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. She is a book promotion manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Her creative writing has appeared in Sky Island Journal, Arlington Literary Journal, The Voices Project, The Ocotillo Review, and Gold Man Review. A poem of hers was also featured in the anthology DEAR LEADERS TALES. Her short story, “The Mannequin of Lot 18,” was nominated for Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2024. Her commerce articles have been published in Better Homes and Gardens, Bob Vila, and Mental Floss. Stay in touch by following her writing blog at World of My Imagination.


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