It’s done. You have your book released, and copies are either waiting for customers to order (if an e-book or a print-on-demand title) or you might even have a few thousand of them in boxes stacked to the ceiling in your spare bedroom. The goal now is to get readers to notice your book then buy it so that you get some compensation for all of the work you did publishing it — not to mention the writing.
Its called “promotion” or “marketing,” but what you will be doing is “advertising.”
You want to reach a large number of people and suggest your book for purchase. There are very effective methods that are expensive, involving buying television or radio commercials, or pages of magazines and newspapers or a few billboards. There are considerably less expensive methods at the other end of the spectrum – beyond doing no promotion at all – such as going door-to-door in your neighborhood or apartment building. What you’ll learn from this blog entry is that there is a large spectrum of promotion opportunities in-between.
Book signings and author events
Many regional and local bookstores (and even some national chains) welcome local authors to schedule an appearance in their store to sign copies of their books. The bookstore gets an event to attract customers into the store and the author gets an opportunity to spread the word about their book as well as to get their ego stroked at the same time. Talk with the managers at each bookstore in your vicinity and ask if they will do this with you. If your book is not already available at the bookstore in question, you’ll need to arrange to bring copies yourself and have the store cashiers ring up the purchases for each customer. Some bookstores hold periodic “author days” where multiple authors are scheduled simultaneously in the store. These author days allow little-known local authors to participate in an event that should draw a larger and more diverse crowd to the store than an individual unknown author could. Again, check your local bookstore managers to determine if any have an author day scheduled, and if not, suggest their store hold one and perhaps offer to round up a few local published authors to participate. By being an organizer, you gain a reputation as an impresario, which will make booking future events for yourself much simpler.
People like free stuff. One extremely effective item for authors is a promotional bookmark. For a relatively small cost, authors can order custom-printed bookmarks from a number of outlets in their region or online, although artwork must ready before ordering the bookmarks. The standard size for a bookmark is 5cm by 15cm (2″ by 6″), but the artwork has to be a bit larger, and should be high resolution – 300 or more dots per inch. Graphic artists can quickly produce a design for a small fee. Some authors create double-sided bookmarks with one side promoting a current book and the reverse side promoting an upcoming title, allowing them to use one design for two book releases. Authors give out the bookmarks to libraries and local book clubs. Some give out their bookmarks at book signings as a thank-you for buying the book in the hopes that the bookmark will encourage future sales. Let people know in online forums that your bookmarks are available – even let strangers get the bookmark by sending you a stamped and self-addressed envelope.
Cable television providers have so-called “local access” programming – think back to the movie and SNL sketches for “Wayne’s World” – which is frequently friendly to local authors trying to get the word out about their book. Contact the local cable provider to find out if they have a program that welcomes authors. If such programming is not offered, an author can purchase commercials to be shown on local cable for less than buying broadcast ads on regional or national TV.
Newspapers and regional magazines will often do a feature article on a local author. Contact the newspapers and other publishers in your area and ask for the book section editor or features editor to inquire about getting a story about you and your book in the paper or magazine. Send a complimentary copy of your book to the book editor at the newspaper, and this may result in your book being reviewed in the paper. If you are in college or are a college graduate, your school likely publishes a periodical or magazine for alumni and faculty. Send a review copy of your book and the press release about the book to your college periodical book editor, for potential mention in an upcoming issue.
You might find a friendly local radio host willing to interview you for a few minutes about your book, but with so few people listening to radio these days, that may not be time well spent.
Print up small handbills, essentially business-card-sized ads for your book, and give them out to people you meet. Introduce yourself, mention you are an author with a new release, then proffer your handbill. I always suggest that the handbill have a photo or artwork of the book cover, large lettering with the book name and author name, a brief hook like “a new thriller” or “the steamy romance” or “a delightful childrens book”, and finally a mention of who sells it: “available at Zonkles and bookstores everywhere.” Obviously if the book is available from a particular website, the URL is important.
Off the beaten path
Some promotion ideas are very unusual. You could hire a plane to tow a banner above a football game, parade or beach, or get an ad inserted in clips shown at cinemas before the main feature. Depending on local regulations, you could put an magnetic ad on the side of your car or in your car windows. You can wear clothing such as a T-shirt or cap with an ad for your book printed or embroidered on it. You can offer clothing custom printed with your book’s name for others to buy at websites such as CafePress, although translating popularity of the name printed on a tank top into book sales may not be trivial.
The explosion of social media allows additional outlets for authors to promote themselves and their books. Authors should mention their books on their own social media pages and feeds, and if possible get a separate “celebrity” account so that promotion and fan participation is not intermixed with info to and from family and acquaintances.
Start a blog. Tell the world about your ideas and your writing. Let them know what you are currently writing. Mention any websites you may operate.
The only caveat is that authors should be careful to not be obnoxious – because people that dislike you won’t buy your book. Avoid over-saturating a webpage or feed with a hard-sell. Mention your book once every two weeks, but every so often mention your upcoming appearances at signings or in broadcast media instead(the website BookTour is excellent for this). Mention any good press or reviews you or your book received.
Word of mouth
Finally, be sure that your relatives and everyone you know is aware of your book. Urge them to spread the word, particularly if they enjoyed the book themselves. Offer to sign books with a personal message and your signature for gifts if your relatives and acquaintances bring the books to you before wrapping them. I’m sure you can think of ways you can encourage people to get your book for themselves or others. In short, keep your imagination active when thinking about ways to promote your book and yourself.
Well…that wraps up my advice about getting a book released on your own. There is a lot more that I didn’t say, but with this push in the right direction you will have an easier time uncovering the wealth of information available to you. I hope this little series has helped a potential author or two. We now return you to my usual boring blog entries.