New hope for old books

When do you think you should stop promoting your book?

a. Six weeks after publication date

b. Six months after publication date

c. Three years after publication date

d. None of the above

If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you know my answer is “d. None of the above.” I constantly remind authors that they should be promoting their books as long as they’re available for purchase.

Allow me to give you new hope for old books.

Readers don’t care about publication dates

As I pointed out in “5 ways to promote your book long after the launch,” readers don’t care when your book is published. All they care about is whether it’s a good book.

In case you doubt me, I’ve got proof.

In her February 27, 2021 Wall Street Journal Off Duty section column, “The 8 Crucial Books for Novice Home and Garden Designers,” Michelle Slatalla shares her favorite books from her personal design book library.

They “cover what I consider the four topics you need to tackle when creating a home: landscaping, architecture, interior design and decoration,” she wrote.

Round ’em up

Articles like this are called “roundups.” A roundup usually gathers up the best, worst, most, least, newest, top, funniest, etc. products related to a specific category or theme.

Sometimes they’re focused on a specific topic and product category – in this case, home design books. In other situations, they incorporate all types of products. (Learn more about them in “Promote your book with a roundup article.”)

I recognized one of the titles in Slatalla’s roundup and knew it was published at least a decade ago. I suspected others might be older books, too, so I checked publication dates for all eight of them.

Documented hope for old books

There wasn’t a single new book on this shelf. The newest book was published in 2017; the oldest in 1989.

Here are the tiles and publication dates:

  1. Time Saver Standards for Interior Design and Space Planning: 1991
  2. On Decorating: 1989
  3. Garden Design: 2003
  4. The Anatomy of Colour: 2017
  5. Home Comforts: 2005
  6. The Oriental Carpet: 1981
  7. A Field Guide to American Houses: Revised 2015
  8. The Furniture Bible: 2014

This proves that a good book is a good book, whether it was published five months or 15 years ago.

Few authors enjoy immediate success

This is an important fact to absorb and embrace. Too many authors are discouraged when their book isn’t a huge success as soon as it goes live on Amazon and elsewhere.

They think that because they sold five copies that first week instead of 500, that the book isn’t as good as they thought it was. And they stop promoting it, which is really unfortunate.

But that’s not how it usually works. Gaining popularity can take a long time. If you give up on your book too soon, you’ll never know what it feels like to see your title on a “best of” list like this.

Stay with it. Keep promoting. Your book deserves that, and so do you.

What are you going today to promote your book so the people you wrote it for hear about it? It’s never too late to get the word out. 

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  1. I have never considered quitting promotion on any of my books though the first was published in hardcover in 1995. It is out of print– but I bought many remaining copies back then. They still sell, and now I even get orders via email for up to all ten of my published books via my web site. (The last indie stores in my area both closed during the past two years but Barnes&Noble here either has or can order many of my books and some are available to independent booksellers from Ingram. The largest percentage of sales come from my area of Arkansas where, in non-covid days, I appeared in public locations to talk about and sell my books on many weekends. A recent news paper feature about me and my work sure didn’t hurt!

  2. Hi Sandy, Thanks for that. Normally one doesn’t write a book to create a splash, but as a permanent contribution, right? An important book of mine, published Dec 2015, has just in the last 3 months suddenly started selling ‘unassisted.’ To my delight! I did some minimal Amazon ads in Dec/Jan, but I think this momentum has also to do with excellent reviews (that I didn’t have back then), an evergreen theme, and, as you discussed, plain old time doing its work. I’m glad to know this is something to be expected. And it inspires me to produce only the best possible ‘products.’

    1. Au contraire, Wendy. Many people write books to create a splash. Some write simply to exploit a trending topic or hot category — a permanent contribution isn’t on their radar. (They’re not even interested in what they’re writing about.) You’re more likely to bump into them on an internet marketing blog than you are here, though. My writing is more sympatico with people like you. (Look at me — French, English, and Spanish in one comment!)

      I’m so glad to see your “older” book is still doing well. That’s so rewarding, isn’t it? Enjoy it!


  3. You’re right. It’s never too early or too late to market your books. I recently received interest in a bulk order of my latest release that came out in November 2020. I let them know that I’m happy to fulfill that and also offered a discount on copies of my previous book.

  4. Thank you for this, Sandy. My first book will be 7 years old this year, and it’s starting to find a new audience because my 2nd book came out in 2020.
    Writing more books is a great way to passively promote earlier ones.

    1. Tina, has it been 7 years already? Yikes! I remember reading about your book in the national media like it was yesterday. It’s an evergreen topic so it should continue to sell for a long time. How’s your new book doing? (Honestly, I hope I never need to read it.) Based on the number and quality of reviews, I have to think it’s doing really well.


      1. Thank you, Sandy. To be honest, I don’t pay that much attention to sales. However, new customers keep appearing in my ecosystem, thanks in part to the new book. So it does appear to be selling at least somewhat.
        Thanks for remembering my first book, which you helped me promote… That one is available in at least 5 other countries now. And as I said, it’s getting more interest because of the new book.
        Your information has been so helpful, you’ll always be my book publicity go-to person. The course I took with you was top rate, and helped me make the most of my own promotion efforts. So thank you again!

  5. Good to hear that old books are not dead. My first book THERE’S A SEAL IN MY SLEEPING BAG came out in the 1960s and is still remembered today but the only copies are in libraries. My 20th book TABASCO THE SAUCY RACCOON published in 2006 was a best seller but now only I have new copies – too many – as the publisher had a disastrous wildfire and ceased business.I am left with 3500 copies of my life with a raccoon book. What to do?
    If I had finished my 21st book I MARRIED AN EGYPTIAN instead of agonizing over those 3500 RACCOON books, I could have given away a free copy of TABASCO THE SAUCY RACCOON for every copy of I MARRIED AN EGYPTIAN sold. I even had Harper Collins Publishers ask me if they could publish the EGYPTIAN book. But concentrating on TABASCO THE SAUCY RACCOON BOOK prevented that. Also nowadays writers MUST have large social platforms/potential readers if they are to be published by major publishers.

    1. I love the title of your first book, Lyn! And yes, publishers absolutely look for authors with platforms because it reassures them that there’s an audience waiting for the book.


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