Sharon Castlen, Founder/Owner of Integrated Book Marketing ‹ Return to Interviews ›




Sharon Castlen

Sharon is the founder/owner of Integrated Book Marketing working with small presses and independent publishers across the country in three areas: Pre-Press coaching, distribution, full marketing strategy & implementation.

Can you describe what you do?
I work with small presses and independent publishers across the country in three areas: Pre-Press coaching, distribution, full marketing strategy & implementation.

How did you get your start in Book Marketing?
I began in Television after graduation from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR with a double major in Communication and Religious Studies. I started my own public relations company in 1984 focusing on not-for-profit and then high-tech. While doing business-to-business marketing, a couple of my clients wrote books and wanted me to help them promote them. As a result of promoting these books, I found a niche in the distribution marketing elements, and have been doing that ever since.

What types of books do you specialize in?
Non-fiction – Secular and Christian. Children’s, parenting, health, business, self-help/how-to.

What’s the main differences between marketing Christian vs. Mainstream titles?
The positioning of the author – their message and who they speak to. Also the distribution – where will readers/purchasers expect to find the book. Some areas will be the same, like amazon and the secular stores and libraries. But the Christian books can also find their way into church bookstores and libraries, Christian stores, etc., so it’s important to target these areas for opportunities. Many of the same marketing elements are used, but who you target changes significantly from the book industry gatekeepers to the end users.

What are a few unique ways that authors can market their books?
Speaking to groups, blogging, using social media to get the word out to keep it visible, and opening doors with their colleagues or organizations that might purchase high volume. Each author has skills and contacts that they can utilize and get help with the rest. Not all authors speak, blog, and not all are good at sharing with friends and colleagues, so each author has to do what is in their comfort zone and what they are willing to learn. But each author HAS to do something, or the books will sit.

A number of authors are now self-publishing or going with smaller publishers. What do you think are the most important components that an author needs to consider as they go this route?
Making sure that if they use an online service that the author/publisher is using their own ISBN and company so they aren’t losing options for other sales. It’s also important to take a cost-effective look at the printing options whether it’s Print on Demand or an offset print process, or a combination of both. You get what you pay for. If someone can do it A LOT cheaper, the book will often look that way and can’t compete in the marketplace. ALWAYS show covers and titles to bookstores and librarians to make sure they will work.

How would you describe your perfect client?
Each client I work with is unique since each brings a different book and a different set of skills to the table. The “perfect’ client is one that is eager to share their message, brings skills and is open to understanding more fully what they might be. But they are also open to learning what they don’t know. Then together we decide what they will learn and then do themselves, or hand off to me or others to make sure all the pieces are done to launch and sell a title in a timely and cost effective manner. I live by the phrase “Honor Your Strengths and Outsource Your Weaknesses”. I encourage publishers to understand their strengths and then figure out who will handle the items that are weaknesses.

How can you help wholesalers generate stronger sales?
We need to understand that wholesalers are ‘order takers’ and do not for the most part have reps out in the field. They list and often stock your book, but YOU the author/publisher need to be getting visibility out among bookstores, librarians or other retail that your book exists and what you are doing related to the media. I urge publishers to utilize their flyer programs (list of customers that purchase from them are sent flyers with new product releases). I also encourage publishers to find/develop lists of bookstores and libraries in the geographic area of the topic, the author, and where media is hitting. All flyers need to list the wholesaler’s that carry the book. DO NOT list Amazon. Of critical importance is making sure you know your sales contact at the wholesaler and keep them updated on what media and marketing programs are happening so that they have stock to meet demand.

What is the value of awards?
These can be of great value but selective submission is key. Look to the book award or your topic industry with great care. You can spend lots of time, energy and dollars for little results. Having one national award can allow you to then change your promotional info and website to say National Award-Winning author/publisher/book. A sticker on the book/flyer/back of the book for the next print run can help differentiate your book. Purchasers might not know what the award is, but saying it is a national award winning book and seeing a sticker captures attention. Getting awards also gives you yet another social media opportunity. So exercise care in selection, then promote heavily that you have received the award. Without these two elements, you can spend more time and money than its value.


Since 1984, Sharon Castlen has shared her expertise and mentored clients, authors and publishers through workshops, keynote addresses, webinars, and ‘ask-the-expert sessions during national and regional publisher and author gatherings. She speaks each year at Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Publishing University and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Fall Trade Show in addition to more regional author/publisher groups in the northeast. She focuses on non-fiction titles…for adults and for children. She works in both the secular and Christian communities in all aspects of her book marketing and publishing services. She is on the board of APSS and a member of IBPA and PNBA.



The PTA team shines with contagious enthusiasm. They advised and reassured our authors through excellent media training and advice. It was refreshing to work with a team that consistently communicated with us throughout the entire media campaign.
— JOANNE JESSEN, Director of Publications, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)