The best time to think about promoting your book is before you write it. Yes, I know a lot of you might disagree, but I’m the author of 12 books and I’ve sold more than 175,000 copies so I think I’m qualified to suggest this approach. By thinking before you write—or even as you write—you can build in natural audiences.
Venn Diagram Marketing Approach
You do this by finding that intersection between your reader and your characters. Think of this as a Venn Diagram. One circle would be all that comes to mind when you imagine your reader’s life and interests. Another circle is your character (or characters, but do this one at a time) and her/his unique interests and lifestyle. Where these two circles overlap, you have an arena of marketing potential. You need to keep this arena of marketing potential in your mind as you write. It’s a delicate balance. If you pander to that arena of marketing potential, your book will be a shill for products and organizations. If you ignore that arena of marketing potential, you’ll be without hooks for your manuscript.
Steps to Promotion
But let’s say you’ve already done that. Here are the promotional steps in nearly chronological order:
1. Start by getting a website. Today, a website tells people who you are and why they should buy your book. It tells folks you are for real, serious and in this for the long haul. You need to get one up and going before people can buy your book, because a lot of people will check out your website before deciding whether your work will be of interest to them. Some agents and editors will even look at your website to decide if you are going to do “what it takes” to create sell-through in the marketplace.
2. If you can’t get a website up and running (and trust me, this makes remodeling your house seem a snap), create a blog. You can do this very easily at blogspot.com At least you’ll have a presence on the web.
3. Join writers’ organizations. You can’t go it alone. If you don’t have time to go to meetings, join organizations with strong online communities. These communities will help you by offering you opportunities such as signings and contests and by answering your questions.
Work hard to meet people in your genre and to make contacts. Be a giver, not a taker. These people will help guide you, offer you opportunities, and perhaps blurb your book. But don’t count on any of that. Go with an open heart and an open mind. Years ago, I read a supermodel’s secret to success: “I steal with my eyes.” Great advice. Keep your eyes and ears open. You’ll learn a lot and save yourself a lot of heartache. (Believe me, I have. This is the best advice I ever read, bar none!)
4. Create a basic “kit” to promote your book: business card with your book and ISBN; bookmarks, and a media pack. Make it a goal to pass out tons of business cards. They don’t do you any good in your desk. Keep a copy of your media pack ready to mail out at all times. Yes, your media pack or kit can be files in your computer, but a hard copy is also a good idea.
5. Figure out what organizations might benefit from learning about your book. Let’s call these Allied Interest Groups or AIGs. This is where that Venn Diagram comes in handy. What special themes do you cover? Who is your main character? What is he/she involved in? What are your hobbies or your protagonist’s hobbies? Where is your book set geographically?
Think of these as links…as side roads that can lead a reader to your work. For example, my protagonist rescues a Great Dane. This provides the following organizational “links”:
Great Dane groups
Great Dane rescue organizations
Any dog rescue organization
Any dog lovers’ group
Once you figure out your AIG, think about creating a win-win situation. How can you help them? What can they offer you? (Notice the order of these questions.) Think of a win-win proposal you can offer. Here’s a chance to use your creativity.
6. Create your own media list. This would include:
Your local media
Any alumni publications
Any other affiliations you have—churchs and synagogues, clubs, associations, professional groups, neighborhood alliances, businesses you patronize, where you work, organizations your children are part of
7. Make connections with local booksellers. Don’t press yourself on them. You might even volunteer your time. Learn about their customer base. Your goal is to be an ambassador for your book, not to be a pest or to demand that your book be front and center. And never, ever demand a book signing or demand that they carry your book. Both are privileges.
If your book would be a fit, ask (do NOT demand) to do a signing or special event at the store. But you need to realize it will be up to you to market the event, so think this through.
You can also do stock signings.
Some booksellers will let you talk to their employees or post a message in their coffee-break room.
8. Read every book you can get your hands on about marketing, promoting and publicizing your book. Sign up for Murder Must Advertise (MurderMustAdvertise@yahoogroups.com), a wonderful service by Jeff Marks. You never know when you’ll stumble over a great idea.
Ideas will fall into two categories:
- Low-hanging fruit—It’s a business term, but one that’s perfect for the visual. These are easy opportunities that come your way. Like the parents’ book club at your child’s school. Or dropping a copy of your business card in the mail with all your bills or holiday cards.
- Top of the tree fruit—These take longer and include more risk. These are a stretch. You might have to work on these ideas for months before they pay off. They might include giving a workshop or being covered in the media.
Books to Help You Promote Your Book
1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer
Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman & Michael Larsen
Buzz Your Book by MJ Rose and Douglas Clegg
Take the Mystery Out of Promoting Your Book by p.m.terrell
Publicize Your Book by Jacqueline Deval
Bestselling Book Publicity by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman
Plug Your Book by Steve Weber
The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Intent to Sell by Jeffrey Marks
The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity by Lissa Warren
Websites and Blogs to Help You Promote Your Book
By the way, don’t worry that some of these seem to be for self-published authors if you aren’t. Remember: Self-published authors HAVE to do all their own promotion. So this is really good stuff.