Q: How do you promote your book?
As an author, writing your book and getting it published are just the beginning of the process. You also need to get your book into the hands of as many readers as possible. So, what things should you be doing to promote your work and sell as many book copies as possible?
Luckily, writers are a generous bunch, and many were willing to share their secrets, author-to-author. We chose the most useful, innovative, and doable marketing ideas that they revealed to us and we offer them below for your benefit. From press releases and podcast interviews to a few interesting ways of using Facebook and other online tools (plus so much more!), these authors tell you how to make your book known.
Whether you have a little help from your publisher or not, there’s so much you can do. Take a look at all the great ideas, and dedicate yourself to the promotion strategies that seem like a fit for you and your book. Have fun, and sell books!
1.Make news. The publication of a book isn’t news anymore. That’s why I suggest creating a buzz around the theme of your book and telling the press about it. For example, if your novel features a homeless couple, develop a program to help local homeless people. Serve sandwiches or a hot meal in the park every Sunday, for example. For a book on family budgeting, offer free classes through local churches for those who are struggling financially. Perhaps your children’s book focuses on personal hygiene for kids. Solicit local dentists to offer free exams for kids once a month and entertain kids who are waiting by reading your book to them. Contact local newspapers with your “breaking news” and be sure to mention your book in the interview.
2.When The Whole Package (Penguin-Berkley, 2011) hit the shelves, I knew the real work had just started. One of the most effective ways I got the word out was through Facebook. I wrote a brief letter to each one of my friends, asking them to post a link about the book on their wall. The response was overwhelming! Not only did people help spread the word, they asked people to buy it! I was stunned to watch The Whole Package shoot to the top of the online charts, thanks to a little—okay, a lot!—of help from my friends.
3.If you are a COSTCO member, e-mail their Connection magazine, sending a few paragraphs describing your book (topic, target audience, why it would interest or help people, what led you to write it). They often include these vignettes about what their members are doing on their “Member Connection” page. I did so for a book I wrote with my young daughter (The Braces Cookbook: Recipes You (and Your Orthodontist) Will Love). I sold more than three hundred copies in one month because of that article, even though COSTCO did not carry the book in its stores. It also made a great clipping (copied in color) to add to my article/review portfolio.
4.Turn one of the best excerpts from your book into a blog/website post. At the end of the post, provide a link where readers can order the book. This works wonders for me, especially when I can tie the excerpt to a news hook.
5.Author video on your home page moves you up dramatically in search engines. People get to “meet you” and discover “what your book can do for them.”
Blog, blog, blog—and comment on blogs. Create those backlinks with keywords to make your author site stand out on search engines. Walking on Sunshine appears on the second page of a key word search for “grief.”
Enter contests and awards. Having someone validate your book as above the curve with an award instills curiosity and interest. It also moves your book up on displays—front cover vs. spine.
6.Find podcasts who need guests. While you might not be able to get on Oprah, you can get on a wide variety of podcasts. And the good news is most podcasts are looking for interesting guests. So develop a guest pitch, make a list of podcasts you think might be interested in your story, and contact them about possibly being a guest. Give them a free copy of your book to read in e-book form; and if they like your book, they will basically sell it for you. Most of my sales have come from podcast interviews.
7.Don’t just go after the national or mainstream magazines, TV stations, or newspapers. (If you do, make sure you contact them at least six weeks before your book is published.) I would focus on the local angle by contacting, for TV, all of the local news channels—first in your town, then city, and then state. When you get a couple local appearances, then use those clips to pitch bigger outlets.
8.If you’ve previously only thought about Amazon.com as a 24/7 virtual bookstore, think again. Features such as “So You’d Like To...Guides” and “Listmania”—as well as regular participation in online discussion groups—will establish you as an expert in your field. Use “Inside the Book” as a teaser to reel in readers. And don’t forget that clubs and schools are always seeking guest speakers for meetings, special events, and “career day.” They’ll welcome the addition of your name—a local success story—on their rosters!
Too shy to talk? Let technology be your voice by sharing your views and building a network through social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, American Chronicle, Gather, The Red Room, and NovelSpot. Start a ripple, create some waves, and employ all the imagination and tenacity that you can to make your new book the splashing success it deserves to be.
9.Make the web your marketing tool. Dedicate one hour every day—seven days a week—to use blogs in your area of interest. Offer free samples for other bloggers to review. Offer to review their work. Offer to write a guest blog. Mention them on your blog. At holiday time, see if you can tie your book in with the holiday—if it’s a romance, hit hard before Valentine’s Day. If it’s got strong African-American content, hit hard for Martin Luther King’s birthday weekend. Read HARO and other sites seeking author info, and answer as many as you can to build up your web presence and recognition factor. Be a guest speaker on topics in your book on blog talk radio stations; then use that experience to get onto local stations. Offer yourself as a backup for a last minute fallout for a talk show.
-Francine L. Trevens
10.My “secret weapon” is Vistaprint. They can produce many great promotional marketing tools for your books, and many of them for FREE. For example, I get postcards, letterhead, notepads, notecards, t-shirts, magnets, you name it—in minute, small orders—all geared to my book, and most of them for FREE. My book is the world’s first beauty book for traveling women; and when I am at the airport, I personally hand out my postcards about my book to all of the flight attendants I come in contact with. Usually, promotional products companies require that you make huge purchases, and so Vistaprint is ideal for the author. I also use the letterhead, labels, etc. when I send out my book to the media. And all are custom designed by me with all of my personal images that I upload.
-Debbi Karpowicz Kickham
11.If you plan on speaking within your industry field due to your book, you need to begin the process in advance. If your book will be published in August, let’s say, you should have already put together a list of potential targets for speaking at conventions, bookstores, etc. for the upcoming year. Plan your own book tour, and your publicity and sales will be much better than just sending out a press release. I booked my own book tour, which included visiting more than fifty cities and over thirty speaking engagements; and each provided a publicity opportunity to promote the book and book signings.
12.There’s always discussion amongst authors about ways to promote their books. People get caught up in blogs, Facebook author pages, Twitter posts, forums, etc., etc. and forget about press releases.
Only you can determine who should get your press release, depending on your demographic, subject matter, location, etc. Make sure you send these e-mails individually and not in a group blast.
Today’s press really wants short and sweet press releases. They want the information to the point—no more than a few paragraphs. And attach your cover art in a small jpg. Don’t clog their in-boxes. Many newspapers and media outlets are short-staffed. If your release is too long, they won’t take the time to read it. A lot of section editors will just paraphrase your release into a few short sentences and put it in the “Notes” section. Press is press—be happy.
-K. S. Brooks
14.Set up Google alerts at www.google.com/alerts (your book’s name, your name, your topic) to track success and find others talking about your topic, so you can approach them with an article pitch or write on their blog. Be the first to comment on a major news blog. NOTE: THIS IS ALSO A GREAT WAY TO GET REVIEWERS! Sometimes the article author’s e-mail or website is there, and you can write them, “I noticed your article about...Perhaps you’d like to review my new book on that topic.” Don't hesitate to spend money by mailing out books for review—this is the cheapest advertising you will ever find!
-Susan Schenck, Lac
15.Nothing sells a book better than an author. My number one tip, as the author of the new book California Girl Chronicles, is to line up a book tour of genre-specific literary festivals and fairs and do direct outreach with readers. Make sure you have bookmarks made to give away to at least brand your book with those who don’t buy it on the spot. A book tour right to the readers gives authors a chance to talk to their audience, sign books (readers love signed copies), and find out reactions to the cover and how to best sell the book. You will sell way more books through direct outreach with your audience than by simple reviews or advertisements.
16.Encourage readers to take photographs of themselves with your book and to e-mail the pictures to you or share them on Facebook and other social sites. Then share the pictures on your website, blog, Facebook page, Google Plus account, and/or Twitter account. Link to the submitters’ sites or mention their social media handles. It gives them some visibility and recognition, and you get a fabulous collection of reader-submitted photos of your book that look cool on your website and social media pages and engage your fans. Inevitably, someone will send in a funny picture (e.g., a cat reading your book). Funny pictures increase the odds that others will share the image, too—further spreading the word about your book.
17.The best thing I did was committing a portion of all proceeds to charity, but I was not specific to which one. This way, I have been able to partner with different organizations to raise money for them, while they raised my profile for me—a win-win!
18.Participate in Goodreads! Notice I said participate, not just join. Goodreads is an interactive and reciprocal tool for building real relationships with readers—readers who like to share their thoughts in reviews. Just look at how many reviews of a single title, say Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler, there are on Goodreads. Now check to see how many there are on Amazon. Surprising, isn’t it?
Many of my new readers tell me they bought my book based on what certain reviewers said because they have come to trust those reviewers’ opinions. How can you get to know these readers/reviewers better? Be a participant first, a bookseller last, and follow these simple steps:
- follow readers’ reviews
- join and participate in communities
- list books you’ve read and are reading
- have an RSS feed of your blog on your author page
- thank readers if they add your book to their TBR pile
-Heidi Ruby Miller
19.Look for inexpensive ways to advertise in print. For example, I write about eating and weight; and for $25, I took out an ad in a booklet that was going to the audience of a show about eating disorders that was running for several nights.
Sign up for HARO and ReporterConnection, and seek out interviews on your topic or ones looking for authors.
One simple way to promote yourself is simply to say you’re an author when you meet people. I’m a psychotherapist and an author, and I often lead with the latter rather than the former. After all, the natural question for an author is, “What did you write?” Answer that, and you’re often and running.
-Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed.
20.Many authors make a big splash in the first few weeks after their book comes out, then taper off. To be successful, keep up the glam. Marketing takes dedication. Customers may need to see information about your book multiple times before they will buy. So, don’t stop after a month. Keep releasing new marketing tactics, even after the “honeymoon.” Give them steady teasers and hints until they are so intrigued they must buy the book. Mix it up. After a few months, assess what is working and what isn’t. Prune out poor tactics, and put more effort into tactics that are generating sales. Remember that selling books is a business. Approach your efforts with a business mind-set, determination, and flair.
-Candice M. Hughes, PhD
Authors, take these tips and use them! Active promotion is key to selling books, and now you have options to promote your book in all kinds of ways. Create some buzz, and sell your books. Here’s to your success!
MARCIA PETERSON is a columnist for WOW! Women on Writing and the editor of WOW!’s blog, The Muffin. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children.
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