I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I will promote my books when they get into print. I have been fortunate enough to have seen the efforts of several masters of self-promotion. I’ve also seen several wannabes who fall short.
Let’s start with what won’t work, shall we?
First, never expect the publisher to handle all the promotion. As it turns out, unless you are already a multi-million selling author, chances are the publisher won’t have much in the way of promotional budget. That means you, the author, must handle the heavy lifting in the promotional area. Don’t get me wrong, the publisher can help you with this, just don’t expect them to do it all. More about this later.
Second, never limit yourself to one method of promotion. Don’t, for example, think that by going down to the public library to read from your book, you will get all the exposure you need. The reality is, different people get their information in different ways. Some might be at the library, but not the bookstore. Some might spend their lives on the Internet and never read a newspaper. Spread out the promotion.
Don’t assume that because your book is the finest ever written, people will come clamoring at your door. People need to discover your masterpiece and evangelise it before it becomes a success. Everything takes time.
Don’t expect every person you talk to about your book will be automatically willing to help you. This goes for reporters, book sellers, libraries, schools, etc. You have to “sell” yourself and your work. You have to cultivate relationships. In other words, get people interested enough that they want to help you.
Enough of the things that won’t work. Let’s look at some things that have worked.
Spend time getting to know your booksellers, librarians, reporters and teachers. These will be the people who can help you to influence others and generate interest in your book. If you do this, when the time comes you might get that flattering write-up in the newspaper or table at the bookstore for a signing or even a school visit.
Talk about your book to anyone who will listen. Having said that, don’t bore the people you are talking to. Have your elevator pitch and talk about the important aspects of your story. Your listener will let you know if they want to hear more. By doing this, you might drum up sales, stumble across people who know people who can help, or even better, come across a teacher, reporter, bookseller, etc.
Be creative in how you talk about your books. I know several authors who have Podcast their books, blogged about their books and even done stuff on YouTube. For some, this has gotten book deals, for others, it has boosted their sales by 1,000’s of copies. The gotcha here is, you have to promote the various mediums you are using. In other words, people won’t find your blog or Podcast unless you promote them first. I would recommend you start early if you plan to use this as a promotional venue.
Social Networking is important for the same reason you want to talk to everyone you meet about your book. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a score of others can all help you gain an audience.
Conventions. Go to any and all conventions that are relevant (and that you can afford). Once again, talk to people and get contacts. I have a friend who got a writing gig because of a convention. He promoted himself and his writing and got a job because of it.
The standard things… book signings, library readings, school visits and other mini-events. These don’t have to be expensive for you to do. The trick here is, make your events fun and interesting. Too many times have I walked past a book store where an author is sitting behind a table waiting for the masses to come to him or her. Oddly (or maybe not), people avoid these authors. If you are at the table, stand up, be active and engage people as they walk by.
The final word on the matter
At the end of the day, be creative. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Maybe you donate copies of your book to a charity, maybe you do sky-writing. It could be anything. You can be assured that some ideas will fail or be less successful. That’s alright (as long as you haven’t spent a fortune doing them). Write them off and move on to something else.
Don’t stop promoting. The more you do it, the better you will get and you can’t assume that once 1,000 people own your book it will take off. There’s still millions of readers who don’t know about it.
My work in progress is currently at 24,000 words. As I have come to expect, weekends are tough from a writing perspective. I do get some writing done, but I keep getting distracted with yard maintenance, family time, etc. The good news is, I’m in the home stretch. The end is in sight.
As for news from the publisher… I haven’t heard anything yet. Fingers are definitely crossed.