Thursday, November 5, 2020

Making Your Book Into a Classic

 A Memoir—and Marketing Technique--to Be Pondered
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning author of fiction,
poetry, and the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers
Here is a book that neatly combines my love of memoir and marketing. The dust jacket of this beautifully designed book explains: When God Says No by Judith Briles was first published in 1990, republished in 1994 and again in 1997.  But wait! Here it is again published in 2019 when it “took on a life of its own.” As I read, it became clear that in spite of its many touching memoir moments, it was the journey this book took along with that of the author that caught my attention—something that would illustrate to my readers that a book needn’t die. It can grow. It can become a classic. And that reviews are one of the marketing tools that can best make that happen!
The thing is, it can only happen if the author (or publisher!) knows or has a sense that it can and also knows how to make something so miraculous transpire. In fact, it is the best example I have run across for the authors I have tried to convince about the value of reviews. It illustrates these steps:
1.    Know that these days books needn’t die as they once did when they were given ninety days before bookstores sent them back to publishers to be re-marketed on discount sale tables or shredded!
2.    The author and/or publisher must realize a potential for a new edition or the magic never happens.
3.    Such a realization is more likely to work well if the author has been keeping notes about new events, information, or ideas that affect the content—anything really, from a memoir to a how-to book.
4.    That authors and publishers who keep honing their marketing skills are most like to make this book successful—from the first edition to, well, whatever number the last might be.
Note: The author of this memoir has been sending me copies of her new books for several years, usually with a handwritten note—both a gesture of gratitude and a request for a review or blurb tucked inside the front cover. It’s part of her process and certainly one that should be added to the marketing repertoire of anyone who wants to make a career of writing books!
Those who know my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers may have guessed that making a book into a classic by using repeated editions and putting reviews at the forefront of their marketing expertise is the reason I wrote How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career. One of my favorite sayings is MSNBC’s “The more you know…”  The future of one of your books may depend on just such a notion!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s first novel was set in Utah. This is the Place, has won eight awards and, though out of print, the paperback is still available in Amazon’s new and used feature—usually for less than a dollar. That’s another little tips for making a book into a classic. Letting Amazon keep it alive with their New and Used Book feature.  Her book of creative nonfiction Harkening, is a collection of stories most of them set in Utah. Also, out of print, it is also still “alive” and has won three . Her practical and detailed how-to book on promotion, The Frugal Book Promoter is an example of using editions for the same purpose. Published by Modern History Press in its third edition, it was once dubbed a “classic” by The flagship book in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, it is available at


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Terry Whalin said...


Interesting to learn about different editions for these books. It's all new territory for me since none of my books have ever had different editions.

Thank you,


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Terry. Some of your books are already classics! Great books to help authors! Maybe you were more careful about not including anything that could become dated material (like links!!!). I'd have to dig in my library to find your books and see how you managed that! Having said that, though, many of my editions were caused by a necessary change in publisher (or very fortunate one in a couple cases). So, updates. New publisher requirements, etc. I quite like making my books current, but I am more careful making sure that what I include fits the "classic" mold even better. Ha!
Hugs, Carolyn

Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, this is a valuable post. Sometimes it takes republishing with an updated version and even a new book cover can do wonders. This is what happened to my book, How to Write a Children's Fiction Book. I first published it a few years ago and nothing happened. I republished it with revisions and a new cover, got reviews, and it selling! Sometimes a books second or third life far exceeds its first!

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