Matilija Press
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Published Article
by Patricia Fry

Book Promotion Basics
For The Bold and The Bashful

Writers are notoriously reclusive. Most of us work in solitary confinement and we like it that way. When we become authors, we hope to see our books hit the Best Seller list, but we’d rather not get involved with making that happen. What we want is to continue writing. Right?

Unfortunately, this concept is not very realistic. In order to sell your book, you must promote it. And this is true whether you are self-published or have a traditional publisher.

Most publishers today do little or nothing to promote your book. They rely on the author to make sales. In fact, they often accept or reject a manuscript based on the author’s willingness and ability to market his own book. How does the publisher know whether or not the author will do the marketing? By studying his or her book proposal.

A book proposal is your guide to writing and marketing the book. An effective book proposal helps you decide if have a book at all and whether it’s marketable. A proposal consists of an overview of the book, a comparison of competitive works, a market potential, a chapter outline, one or two sample chapters and an author bio.

I recently asked Richard O’Connor, acquisitions editor at Renaissance Books, “How important is the marketing portion of your book proposal when presenting it to a publisher?” He responded, “Critical.”

He went on to tell me about one book that his company may have rejected except for the fact that the author had close ties with a large national company that was interested in stocking the book and promoting it. Because of this company’s commitment and the author’s active involvement in marketing it, they’ve sold 60,000 copies in just over two years.

It’s Never Too Soon to Start Marketing

Many successful marketers start promoting their book even before it’s a book. Here are some ideas:

  • Keep a running list of the people who might be interested in buying your book—folks you interviewed for the book, those you spoke to about the book-in-progress and anyone else who expressed an interest in your topic.
  • Spend evenings pouring over telephone books. For example, if your topic is healthy grieving, list funeral homes, family counselors, psychologists, doctors and hospice groups that might want to have your book on hand for their clients. Reference telephone directories from other counties and states at your public library or use an Internet telephone directory.
  • Create a mailing list of names from your Rolodex, Christmas card list, address books and business files. Be sure to add family, friends, neighbors, former neighbors, your children’s teachers, coworkers, your yoga classmates, the folks you met on your last cruise and so forth.
  • Send prepublication notices. While your book is at the printer, send promotional flyers to your mailing list. I offered everyone on my mailing list a 10% discount for the 1999 revision of my Ojai Valley history if they ordered the book by a certain date. I collected nearly enough to pay my printing bill before the book even arrived.

Your Promotional Schedule

Time is a major factor in book promotion If you can’t give your book your undivided attention, at least commit to a schedule. Vow to make three contacts per day or spend one or two days every week pursuing marketing efforts.

When Debbie Puente came out with her book, Elegantly Easy Crème Brulee, she spent a minimum of two hours every day, five days a week on the phone or sending emails in an effort to drum up new business. She say, “If you make ten contacts a day everyday and get one good lead a day, that’s five good leads a week.”

Here are some ideas for spending that time effectively:

  1. Contact specialty shops. Maybe you have a book of stories about vintage airplanes. Rather than relying totally on bookstores, approach hobby shops, toy stores and small airports about carrying your book. A book on planting an herb garden might sell well in home and garden centers, nurseries, flower shops and gift shops.
  2. Schedule book signings. Every author dreams of his/her first big book signing. Keep in mind, however, that book signings, even in the large bookstores, are as successful as you and the bookstore manager make them. To draw more interest, plan a demonstration or presentation. Debbie Puente often demonstrates how to makes crème brulee at her signings and they are well attended.
    Send press releases with a professional photo of yourself to all local newspapers about two weeks before the event. Ask the bookstore manager to display your book and a sign announcing the event during the week before. Send notes or call all of your friends. Contact other authors that you know. Authors, who have sat alone at a book signing, are notoriously supportive of other authors.
  3. Promote your book as a premium or incentive item. Approach local banks or other businesses and offer a discount for quantities of your books as a giveaway to customers. If you mention a product in your book, contact a company that specializes in that product to see if they want to use your book as an incentive or premium item.
  4. Find buyers on the Internet. The Internet is a virtual gold mine of resources for selling books of every kind. Use search engines to locate sites related to your book topic. Contact the site owner about reviewing your book for their newsletter, creating a link to your site, allowing you to publish an article on their site and/or tap into their message boards.
  5. Attend book fairs and shows. My colleagues and I have found book fairs and shows to be exceedingly successful but only when the author is the one who is touting his or her book. Don’t waste your time or money sending your book to an event with someone else. No one else knows your book like you do and no one else cares about it as much as you do.
    This is no time to become part of the background. Step forward and show people your book. Talk about it. I know one woman who, when things show down at her booth, she dons a sandwich board advertising her book and walks around talking to people about it.
  6. Create a 30-second commercial. In other words, be prepared with a concise description of your book—something that you can relay in 30 seconds or less. Recite this “commercial” when you’re doing a book signing, at a book fair or in a social environment.

When someone asks me what I’ve been writing lately or what my newest project is, I might say, “I just published a wonderful little book featuring over 75 no and low cost ideas for promoting your self-published and traditionally published books. It’s a guide for people who are publishing their writing and who need help with marketing.”

Use the foregoing to help you develop a personal marketing plan. Express your creativity, assertiveness and persistence and you will surely be either mildly or wildly successful in your endeavors to sell books.

Patricia Fry has been writing for publication for 27 years, having contributed articles to numerous magazines. She published her first book in 1983 and now has 10 self-published and traditionally published books to her credit including: “A Writer’s Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit” and “Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book.”

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