Today’s interview is with a book promoter. His name Nick Wale, and he has the distinction of having had 15 books in the Western top 100 at the same time. He started off working for thriller writer Cliff Roberts, and during their first year together, he helped move $100,000 dollars’ worth of his thrillers. He then worked with romance superstar MJ Summers and helped her novel “Break in Two” become a huge success. Lately, he has been spending time with writers like Rick Jantz, G.P. Hutchinson, Jeff Breland, John D. Fie. Jr., and J.C. Hulsey, turning their books into bestsellers. If you are interested in the inner workings of book promotion and how to help your Western sell, you may be very interested in this interview.
Nick, thank you for this interview. It’s great of you to join us.
It’s my pleasure.
So how did you get into this business of promoting books?
It happened overnight, really. I have always loved promotion. I’m a huge fan of the record industry and the way they built singing stars. Building an author into a star name has been a lot of fun. I started with Cliff Roberts, who started off selling a few books a month and ended up having one of the top selling thriller series of the year. Then I worked with MJ Summers who, as everyone knows, had a huge hit with her romance novels. After that, I worked on a number of great projects across the board and racked up some good successes—paranormal, non-fiction, romance, detective novels and, of course, Westerns.
Which do you prefer to work on? Do you have a particular favorite genre?
I love working on all kinds of projects—but Westerns are a special favorite of mine because I grew up reading and watching Westerns.
Why aren’t more promoters like yourself working on Westerns? Are people promoting Westerns?
Well, you have book promotion, and it’s very general promotion. People take a book and they put in front the reading audience. That audience buys, reviews, doesn’t buy, etc., and the book promoter is constantly trying to put together the crossword puzzle. Why isn’t this book selling? Why is that book selling? But I don’t think there are many book promoters who have the knowledge and confidence to take on Westerns because they just don’t feel they will sell, and every book promoter is looking for a huge success with every book they work on. Westerns aren’t generally known as bestsellers, but they are, and I’ve proven that time and time again.
When did you first realize that Westerns could sell?
I’ve always enjoyed Westerns. I’ve known Western writers from very early in my career, and I always knew those writers were being ignored without cause. The first one I worked on was a great Western by a very talented writer called Rick Jantz. The book is called “Colson’s Law,” and it took off very well. We did a very budget-friendly promotion, and the book went through the roof. Jantz became a name.
And you continued to push Westerns?
After Rick, I worked on G.P. Hutchinson’s “Strong Convictions,” which is still going strong today. His second book “Strong Suspicions” is also doing well. I’ve since worked on additional Westerns, and at one point had 15 of the Westerns in the top 50. I worked for J.C. Hulsey who had wonderful success with his “Traveler” series. He has a true Western spirit, and now runs a fantastic Western publishing house (Outlaws Publishing) which I am working with, alongside my regular clients. He’s one of the few publishers who cares more about promotion that charging his clients upfront fees. You know, this leads to me an interesting point. It doesn’t matter how long a Western has been on the market—take John D. Fie., Jr. An Outlaws author who had a Western on the market with another publisher for a long time without success. Once he signed with Outlaws and I started working on his stuff, he flew. He’s still up there in the top 50 with two books: “Blood on the Plains,” which I can personally recommend as a wonderful book; and “Luke Pressor: U.S. Marshall.” Cliff Roberts then decided to write Westerns and releases a slew of wonderful stories. Then there’s Jeff Breland who has a real talent for writing Westerns, Kenneth S. Pratt who is currently in hitsville with his “Willow Falls.” Then there’s Dennis Gager with “Storm to the Past,” and the list goes on.
How many Westerns have you helped sell?
I’d estimate close to a half-million ebooks by now, perhaps a quarter of that number again in paperbacks and half of that number in audiobooks. I would say that Westerns I’ve worked on have hit the Kindles of a large percentage of the Western readership.
How do you start to promote a Western? What would the first steps be?
The first thing to look at is the title. How is your audience going to relate to the title you’ve chosen? Have you chosen a series title? What do you have depicted on the cover? How are Western readers going to relate to your book? How are reviewers going to rate the book? How is the Amazon algorithm going to work with your book? How are you branding yourself? These are all questions we need to think about. Then we need to look at what you are doing on other fronts—do you have an audiobook available? Do you have your book available as a paperback?
Why are titles so important?
That’s a great question! Titles sold the movies, did they not? Look, star power is when you have name recognition—few authors have that. Title recognition is how people buy a book based on what they want. If you want a book about caring for your pet hamster you look for a book called something like “Caring for Hamsters.” If you want a Western, you look for “Gunfight,” “Rider,” “Sheriff,” etc. Authors should consider the buzzwords alongside their chosen titles.
How important is true advertising, like Facebook and Google, in your opinion?
“Advertising is the so-called kind-of solution you have been waiting for,” is the way I describe advertising. Advertising is what you do when you have a product that has an audience. When you know that Western readers are buying you on a daily basis, you introduce advertising. When you are starting out, you network. You take your book to the Western groups, communities and clubs, and there you start to build a readership. Once you have a bit of a following, and you know the demographic who likes your work, you start introducing ads. Advertising is useless unless it’s done in conjunction with reviews, keywords, correct covers, free giveaways, author recognition promotion and all the other stuff. I am not an ad-man. I am a press man. I build images; I don’t just run ads. I only run ads when it’s going to help my client gain more name recognition, and unless you have a proven product, you are not going to gain anything by buying Facebook ads at $5 a pop.
Can you explain how the process works a little? Can it be done in steps?
Okay, now you’ve walked into my world and you want to be a Western author who sells books. You have a book, it’s called Shilo, and you are gaining one sale per week. Your brother bought the book, and your name is Lee Johns.
The first thing we are going to do is look at your book—what is it? What happens in it? Is there a giant fight scene? So can the book be called “Gunfight at Shilo?” How about “Gunfight at Shilo: The Shilo Western Series Book 1.” That would give you a bunch of keywords that would help you move books, and also make your title more interesting. What is on your front cover? A pale rider? Okay, Poncho, we are going to put a gun battle on the front. Your name? At the top of the cover. That’s where star names go. Now, let’s look at the description. We want it to be punchy, exciting, driven by action. Can we get a foreword written for you? We need someone with some name recognition. Let’s get it done. Keywords? We want to put you right in front of a Western audience, and we are looking for sales this month. We make the changes, and the sales start trickling in, stronger each day.
Then we set up a review drive and get people reviewing your book on a daily basis, then we start hawking your book around to the Western audience. By the middle of the month, we will be rolling with multiple sales each day, or as bestselling author Jeff Breland said, “I moved 26 books today…. What happened?” Or perhaps we’ll still be nowhere—at which point we go back to step one and start again. You need to start off the way you intend to continue. If you don’t, we don’t wait around for intervention—we try a different title, we try a different description until you click. We know your product has a good fighting chance, we know the audience is vast—we just need to make sure we have all the puzzle pieces in the right places.
Later on, we would be looking to get you on radio shows, we would look to take advantage of high level promotional tools like “BookBub,” and we would be looking to build your star power. But to begin with, we start by looking at your product and making it as saleable as possible, and then we build it from there. We are not just selling books—we are building Western stars.
I guess the bottom line is that the process sounds great, and it’s a unique way of working; but how much does all this cost? Many authors have been burnt by “book experts” before.
No, the bottom line is: Can I, an author, sell books? Yes, it’s very possible for you to write a book, sell books and become a name. How much will it cost to get this going? It can vary– We keep it reasonable, so authors have a chance to make a profit—but I can guarantee this—we will make it fit your budget. I’ve been lucky—the majority of Western authors I’ve worked with have comfortably made profit. That’s what I am proudest of. When you are cutting all the crap and doing what needs to be done, you can get this process done for much less than many would tell you it would cost. The biggest problem in the book world is promises—“I can make you,” “I will make you,” “You will make…” In my opinion, there are no guarantees. It’s like anything—you can make it straight away, you can spend years struggling, you can fail to make the grade. It’s a calculated risk, and sometimes the odds are against you. The trick is to regulate what you are spending, and don’t spend so much it puts you in the hole. For example, start off by saying, “I am going to give this three months,” then re-evaluate after three months. If it’s working, keep going! If it isn’t—then you aren’t thousands of dollars in the hole. Treat it like a business, for it is a business.
Why do you think the Western has been forgotten by the book industry at large? Many people say that they have tried to have their Western published by a large publishing house and have been rejected every single time.
That doesn’t surprise me. The #2 Western on Amazon right now is one of mine—it was rejected. It’s not a case of being forgotten as much as it’s a case of bad business sense. Book trends are always changing, and the book industry believes that they are in a loss-making situation. The major book companies are apprehensive to take on anything—and what they do take on is chosen based on what they believe will sell and the demographics of readers. Western readers are the invisible demographic. They have some money, they have a love of reading Western books, they tend to like American culture, and in many cases are patriotic; yet they are almost as invisible to the book industry advertising experts as they are to the music ad guys who are promoting records. They know that romance sells well; they’ve been saying erotica is dying for years; they like artistic books and when those books don’t interest readers, they call them art; and they spend too much time pushing books towards a younger audience at the neglect of the older readers who are buying thousands of Westerns, Western romance books, general romance and historical fiction books every single day.
So the market for Westerns is still strong? Will it continue to be strong?
I’d say it’s as strong as it’s ever been—but it’s different because it doesn’t have the hype it used to have. Fifty years ago, you would see Western movies, Western TV shows, Western singing stars, Western-themed toys, Western books. Now you don’t see many Western movies, Western TV shows, true Western singing stars, but you do have a lot of books to read. These books are written and self-published in many cases. Most are not promoted in any way, but those that are show that Westerns can outsell almost anything on the market. The top selling Westerns are making good money.
You work for Western movie and Airwolf star Alex Cord, do you not? Is he writing a Western?
He may be. He’s working on several products at the moment, and each one will be a blinding success. I’ve worked for Alex for several years now—and it’s always a joy. He is one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read.
How can people get in touch with you? Are you taking on Westerns at the moment?
You can catch me day or night via email. Nick@nickwale.org. I’d prefer you ask me questions before making decisions about promotion. There are a lot of mistakes to be made in the book business, so let’s call this an open invitation. If you have a Western, and it isn’t selling, come and ask me why. Asking questions is free—and I’d love to hear from you.