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Meghan Ward (right) at Writerland posed a question that I’ve been mulling over for a long time: “If Publicity Doesn’t Sell Books, What Does?” Several authors from the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto weigh in on what worked — and what didn’t. Among the what didn’ts:

  • Excerpt in O magazine
  • Peoplereview
  • Coverage in major newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, etc.

What did:

  • Paid speaking gigs
  • Coverage in a blog with a big reach
  • Finding your niche and working it

The answer? I’m with Pulitzer Prize-winning author T. J. Stiles (The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt): “Everyone’s in the dark—not when it comes to what makes a good book, but what makes a commercially successful one. So many great books don’t make money. … as William Goldman said about Hollywood, ‘Nobody knows anything.’”