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Writers need to become more marketing savvy and augment their storytelling skills with storyselling skills, according to a branding expert at the University of Ulster.

Stephen Brown, Professor of Marketing Research in the Ulster Business School, and a specialist in the marketing strategies of brand-name authors like J.K. Rowling, James Patterson and Dan Brown, says that novelists need to wake up and smell the customer.

“Ever-tougher competition for eyeballs, coupled with drastic structural changes in the publishing industry – such as the rise of ebooks and the decline of traditional bookshops – means that today’s authors must adopt an entrepreneurial attitude.  They need to take a leaf from the book that’s being written in the music business, where bands are building brands without the aid of record labels and similar intermediaries.”

In his latest book, Selling Stories Successfully, Professor Brown states that the days of outsourcing selling have gone.  Authors must build their own brands, sell their own books and take ownership of their self-marketing strategies.

“Writers, regrettably, are reluctant to take this responsibility. There is a widespread perception that culture and commerce are incompatible.  Marketing is still erroneously associated with Yeats’s ‘greasy till’ and Orwell’s egregious ‘swill bucket’.”

He continues: “History, however, shows that many bestselling authors had a background in business or possessed natural authorpreneurial flair.  Jo Nesbo was a stockbroker, as was Jeanette Winterson.  Salman Rushdie was an advertising man, as were James Patterson, Joseph Heller, Elmore Leonard, Clive Cussler and Peter Carey.  Tom Clancy was an insurance broker. Harold Robbins ran a grocery store. Dennis Wheatley was a wine merchant.  Kurt Vonnegut was a used car salesman.  J.G. Ballard sold encyclopaedias door-to-door.”

Ballard also coined the apt expression: “Any fool can write a book but it takes real genius to sell it”.

“Marketing skills aren’t sufficient for literary success,” Professor Brown concludes, “but they are increasingly necessary in today’s challenging and changing marketplace.”

Stephen Brown is Professor of Marketing Research at the University of Ulster.  He has published 21 books in total, including The Marketing Code, Consuming Books and Wizard: Harry Potter’s Brand Magic.

Selling Stories Successfully is an innovative ebook, published simultaneously in English and Italian by 40key DigitPub (