Sales & Marketing

Common Sales & Marketing Topics
Toplight’s sales and marketing staff is engaged from the moment a manuscript is officially delivered. While Toplight is responsible for the sale and marketing of your book, your participation is crucial to the success of our efforts. At several key milestones during the publication process, Toplight will automatically contact you with updates or to solicit suggestions. Several common sales and marketing concerns—online promotion, reviews, signings, conferences, and more—are covered here. For topics not covered here, direct questions to Savannah Clemmons.

Marketing Questionnaire
Shortly after delivery of your manuscript, you will receive a marketing questionnaire. It is important that it be completed and returned promptly.

Title, Cover Design, Format, Binding & Price

Once you delivered your manuscript, Toplight began work on several critical elements.  A title, if one hasn’t already been settled upon, will usually be finalized very soon after manuscript delivery. Your cover will be an essential marketing tool, and we will finalize the cover design shortly after the manuscript is delivered. If you suggested ideas when you delivered the manuscript (see Preparing Your Manuscript), we will be happy to consider them.

Within a few weeks of delivery of your manuscript, attention will be given to format, binding and price. A decision about list prices for the softcover and ebook editions will be made based on our judgment of what will produce the best sales result. All Toplight titles are originally offered in softcover. We will also determine if your manuscript is eligible for an ebook edition. The most common obstacle to ebooks is a permissions snag, so be sure to avoid “print only” restrictions with your permissions.

How You Can Help Promote Your Book
Toplight promotes its books to all appropriate markets (retail, specialty, direct-to-consumer, library, and higher ed) through our business relationships with booksellers, our sophisticated metadata routines, direct mail/online/print advertising, conferences and trade shows, and course adoptions. Much of our activities promote groups of books, subject lines and the company brand, though we do undertake some level of single-title promotion for each individual book, as well.

Here are tips about how authors can help with promoting books:

  • Be sure to reply promptly to inquiries and form letters from the sales & marketing department (e.g., marketing questionnaires, requests for review copy suggestions).
  • If you use social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, we encourage you to periodically tweet or post about noteworthy activities to your network of colleagues, friends and family.  Examples of noteworthy activities are revealing the cover, sharing a link when the book first appears for pre-order, sharing a photo of your copies when you first receive them, and sharing a complimentary review.  Follow McFarland on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and refer to us in your posts and tweets.
  • A few months after you’ve delivered your manuscript, keep an eye out for your book’s page in Toplight’s online catalog. Help us make sure that the catalog description is accurate. At this still-early stage of the book, changes should be forwarded to marketing coordinator Kristal Hamby.
  • Authors are encouraged to mention their books in all of their bylines (for journal articles, etc.). Consider including in your (auto) email signature a brief mention of your book and a link to the book within Exposit’s online catalog. Likewise, if you are making posts to discussion forums and blogs, consider an auto signature that mentions the book.
  • Once the book has been published for a few weeks, inspect the book’s page on the most important online booksellers and book information providers. The key sites include Amazon, the Apple iTunes store, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Goodreads, Google Books, the Google Play store, Kobo, LibraryThing, and WorldCat. Ensure that they are accurate (but be aware that changes and/or inaccuracies just post-publication are fairly routine and often remedy themselves in the coming days). In some instances, you may be able to make correction requests directly with the site. Where this is not an option, contact marketing coordinator Kristal Hamby.
  • Beyond ensuring accuracy, consider enriching the listings on those online sites. In addition to having a page for the book, sites such as Amazon will also have a page for the author—consider enriching the author page, as well.
  • After the book is published, encourage your contacts, colleagues and others who have read and enjoyed your book to post customer reviews on Amazon and the other key sites. Customer reviews will have an impact on sales, and your book may very well look naked without them.
  • Consider experimenting with Goodreads and LibraryThing. These two social media sites focus exclusively on books and shared recommendations, and offer opportunities for authors to interact with readers and publicize author activities.  With social media, authors should aim to have a conversation with their readers, rather than simply trying to “sell” their book.
  • Consider experimenting with Facebook and Twitter. Facebook offers intriguing opportunities for “word of mouth” promotion, including the possibility of fan sites for a book or yourself. Again, an author should aim to interact with readers and provide them a service, not simply “sell.” Twitter encourages frequent, rapid interaction with other users and fans. Focus on building and communicating with a community of people who share an interest in your book’s topic.
  • Consider supporting an existing Wikipedia entry or creating a new entry that relates to the topic of your book. Above all, make sure your small contribution is relevant and helpful. Provide a note, or a few notes, referencing your book (make sure the note provides a link to the book’s permanent page in the Toplight online catalog).  Wikipedia users that need to go deeper than the article will want to know about your book.

Pre-Publication Endorsements (Blurbs)
Blurbs are brief pre-publication endorsements from well-known authors or experts in your field (different from book reviews). We encourage them for Toplight Books. Before you secure any, consult our blurb instructions.  Contact Kristal Hamby if you have questions.

Book Reviews
Toplight automatically distributes review copies to the appropriate major review media. This may include industry publications, library publications, popular magazines and online review outlets according to topic. Newspapers are not ordinarily a part of Toplight’s review efforts, although there are some exceptions.

If you are aware of special magazines, websites or high quality blogs in your particular field that feature book review sections, it would be helpful if you could provide us with names of the periodicals, names of the book review editors or other key contact person, and physical mailing addresses. It is not uncommon for authors to suggest as many as five to ten contacts, and Toplight is typically generous with review copies. However, regardless of the exact number of suggestions you have to offer, please rank them in order of importance. Email your suggestions to marketing specialist Savannah Clemmons.

It can be difficult to predict when published reviews will begin appearing—it often depends on the nature of the reviewing medium. Also, although McFarland/Toplight books traditionally perform well, reviewers make no promises that a book will actually be reviewed. An author may not be able to accurately judge the review media’s level of interest until six or more months have passed.

Toplight will automatically provide you with scans or photocopies of published reviews. We do not track or distribute scans of simple published listings or acknowledgments of “books received.” Another way to learn of published reviews is to set up a Google Alert for your book. If you come across a review that Toplight may not be aware of, please send a copy to Savannah Clemmons.

The importance of customer reviews on internet booksellers such as Amazon cannot be overlooked. After the book is published, encourage your contacts, colleagues and others who have read and enjoyed your book to post customer reviews on Amazon (and other major websites, as well). Customer reviews will have an impact on sales.

For those authors who plan to do booksignings (while they can be fun and we encourage at least one for Toplight Books, they’re totally optional), please contact your local bookstore or other relevant signing host directly. In general, bookstores of all sorts can host signing events for local authors. However, not all bookstores are happy to do so. Your bookstore host will know best which books make the best fit for their business.

The bookstore will want to work out local arrangements (what day, what time, what exactly will happen, etc.) with you. They will want to work with Toplight to obtain books. The signing host should contact Savannah Clemmons to obtain books at a discount. Although it is fine to do some early planning for books that aren’t published yet, booksignings should not be scheduled until finished copies are in the McFarland warehouse. If you require further information, Savannah can advise you about how to best arrange signing events.

Retail, Specialty, Library and Higher Ed Markets
Toplight publishes nearly all books simultaneously in both print and ebook formats.  Our ebooks are offered to consumers through Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, and Kobo, and to the library and higher ed markets through the major ebook aggregators.

Like ebooks, the strongest print retail market is internet retail. McFarland/Toplight has longstanding relationships with Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and our books excel in the internet retail environment.

Large chain book retailers (e.g., B&N, Books-a-Million) will carry Toplight titles in their system for special order.  Toplight presents qualifying books to B&N for store placement, but there is no open-door policy to stock books in stores. Specialty bookshops (including IndieBound bookshops, museum shops and mail-order distributors) can usually make suitable arrangements with Toplight to stock and promote books on the store shelf.

It is perfectly fine for authors to introduce themselves (and their books) to a local bookstore or other bookseller. Encouragement from authors to stock their books can sometimes make a difference in local sales. Toplight also welcomes sales tips from authors about specialty booksellers. However, between in-store versus internet, remember that many bookstores are reluctant to speculatively stock specialized books, and driving internet sales is likely a wiser investment of an author’s time. Sales tips should be emailed to Savannah Clemmons.

For more than four decades, libraries of all sorts have formed McFarland’s base market. McFarland regularly promotes its books to academic, public, and high school libraries in the U.S., and to select libraries outside the U.S., and the same is true for books published under the Toplight Books imprint. Many of these libraries make their purchases through wholesalers and book jobbers. Authors should feel free to notify their local public library or campus library of their book’s availability, but no special effort to contact libraries is asked of our authors.

For applicable books, college classroom adoptions play a role in sales. Please email marketing coordinator Kristal Hamby for assistance with or to share your ideas about advertising for classroom adoptions.

McFarland/Toplight successfully sells directly to individuals. Specialists, professionals and enthusiasts form an important market for many kinds of books. If you are aware of any unique opportunities to promote your book to a specialized group or professional organization, for example, please let us know. Email Savannah Clemmons.

Author Discounts

Toplight extends a special discount to authors. Authors may purchase any Toplight or McFarland book at a 20% discount. On their own book(s), authors are entitled to at least a 20% discount, possibly deeper when ordering in bulk quantities. Contributors (including essayists, forewordists, interviewees, and subjects of biographies), are eligible for a discount for their particular book. Those interested in receiving a quote may contact:

Stephanie Nichols
Sales & Publicity Specialist

Royalties are based on paid sales. For every dollar that Toplight takes in, an author gets their cut as specified in the contract. There are several questions that are frequently asked about royalties, including questions about discounts for booksellers and when booksellers pay Toplight for their purchases.  Note that some copies are sold at a discount, and the author’s royalty is based on what Toplight is paid.  Also, note that most booksellers do not make payment at the time they order stock. Instead, most are invoiced and make their payment later. Questions about royalties can be directed to:

Kathi Price
Finance Officer

Checking on Sales Figures
Toplight/McFarland’s business department will automatically provide you with complete figures for paid sales (both copies and dollars), usually twice per year. You do not have to request this information—it will be supplied automatically. While business department staff is not able to provide information routinely about which sales have been paid, authors may write to them for figures of current shipments and billings. Email your requests to Savannah Clemmons. Please help us serve all of our authors better by keeping these requests infrequent.

Typos, Errors and Requesting Corrections

If you have detected a typo or an error for your book’s website description, please email marketing coordinator Kristal Hamby. In most cases, website-related correction requests are addressed within five business days. (However, if you are recommending extensive changes or a replacement description for your forthcoming book, changes could take longer.)

If you notice missing information, typos or errors on other sites (such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble) and you are unable to correct them directly, please inform Kristal Hamby.  Availability messages from these retailers may fluctuate in the days after a book is published—this is normal. However, if incorrect messages about availability or publication date persist for more than a few weeks, email us.