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Published Article
by Patricia Fry

Start Marketing Your Book
Before It's a Book

March 2001, National Association of Women Writers, NAWW WEEKLY,

Do you have an idea or two that you’d like to develop into articles? Would you like to promote your book through magazine articles? Here’s how:

They say that everyone has a book in them. Until recently, however, relatively few people ever put their book on paper. Major advances in publishing technology and easy access to this technology has changed all of that. Now, more and more people worldwide are producing books in all genres. As a savvy author, you've probably read books about the publishing trade and you're visiting related web sites. By now you know that, in order to sell your book, you must promote it. And this is true whether you're self-published or have a traditional publisher. But did you know that the time to start marketing your book is before it's published. Here's how:

  • Write a book proposal.
    This is your guide to writing and marketing the book. An effective book proposal includes a market analysis (your competition) and promotional ideas. The market analysis is particularly important in determining whether there is a market for your book. Check and visit your closest mega-bookstore to find out how many different books there are on your topic. How are they selling? An honest and thorough study might alter the scope and focus of your book before you write it. Maybe you planned to write a book featuring the various incidents of school violence in America during the last decade. Through research, however, you may discover a lack of books and, seemingly, a greater need for a book on how to build self-esteem in children as a way to stop the violence. To research potential markets for this book, you might contact school officials, family counselors, members of the clergy and grief experts, for example. Ask them if they would purchase this book. Why? And why not?
  • Make your book salable.
    A client once came to me complaining that he couldn't sell his wonderful book. One look and I could see a huge problem. The book was not suitable for sale through most bookstores because it didn't have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or a barcode. Neither did he fill out the Advance Book Information sheet for RR. Bowker, so his book was not listed in Books In Print. Before producing a book today, do your homework. Find out what is necessary in order to sell your book in certain markets. Most bookstores require the book have an ISBN and a barcode. They reference Books in Print for ordering information on books they don't stock. If you expect to tap into the library market, you'll want to order a Publisher's Cataloguing-in-Publication information from Quality Books.
  • Choose an appropriate binding.
    Libraries and bookstores prefer to stock books with spines, for example. Some systems won't accept spiral bound or saddle-stitched books.
  • Talk about your book everywhere you go.
    Even before it's a book, start promoting it to friends, coworkers and people you meet in passing. I recommend that authors come up with a 30- second commercial-that is a 30-second spiel describing your book.
  • Line up experts to give testimonials.
    Whether you're writing a book featuring rescue dog stories, kitchen recipes for facial treatments or 101 summer activities for kids, find a couple of experts in the field to review your manuscript. Use his or her testimonial on your back cover and in your promotional materials.
  • Involve a lot of people and organizations in your book.
    When I wrote my local history book, "The Ojai Valley, An Illustrated History," I interviewed dozens of people and used the archives of several organizations. I listed all of these people and agencies in my book. This effort resulted in numerous additional sales. Everyone likes to see his or her name in print.
  • Create a mailing list with 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. Keep adding to this list as you continue to meet new people. Send pre- publication flyers to this list, offering a discount for orders received by a certain date. I paid over half of my printing bill for the 2nd edition of "The Ojai Valley, An Illustrated History" with pre-publication orders.
  • Spend evenings pouring over telephone books gathering names for your mailing list.
    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.
  • Contact specialty store owners or professionals who might make up your niche market.
    Tell them about your book idea and ask for their input. For the book on rescue dogs, contact pet store owners, veterinarians, pet groomers and animal trainers.
  • Create a web site to promote your book and include this address on the cover of your book, your business cards, your letterhead and as a "signature" in all of your emails.

Patricia Fry is the author of A Writer’s Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit (Matilija Press, 2000).

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