Everyone says, “Some day I’m going to write a book,” but few actually do. So congratulations on a noteworthy achievement! Now that you’re holding your book in your hands, after years of research, writing, editing, and rewriting, the last words you’ll want to hear are, “That was the easy part.” Well, unfortunately, that was the easy part.
Unless you don’t mind your only fans being family and close friends, or unless you’re already a celebrity with a big publishing house behind you, your new challenge will be letting the world know about your book so someone will actually read (a.k.a. buy) what you’ve so laboriously created. And the hard reality is that, in the madness of today’s publishing environment, the onus for successful book promotion lies almost exclusively with the author.
Whether you fought your way through to a mainstream channel or decided to self-publish—whether you’ve written a self-help tool or a novel—odds are good that a publicist won’t be calling you tomorrow morning with a jam-packed itinerary of book signings and television interviews. Some of you may have a little help if you’re mainstream, but all of you will carry the lion’s share. So where do you begin?
First of all, your book is no longer “your baby,” but a business—and as with any business, you must have a Marketing Plan. Number One in your plan should be creating a Web site that will help facilitate everything else we’ll cover in this article. If you already have a Web site (business or otherwise), add a banner headline on your Home page announcing the publication of your book. If you don’t have a Web site and/or don’t know how to create one, Google how to create a website, and plenty of user-friendly links will come up. The point is that your Web site should showcase your book as the feature, and you should offer the book for sale right there. Sign up for a PayPal account, if you don’t already have one (www.paypal.com). This is an easy, affordable way for you to offer buyers a means to pay with a credit card, and that feature alone will help drive more books out the door.
Next you’ll need to develop a Sell Sheet consisting of: a) a summary of your book in fifty words or less; b) an author biography in one paragraph; and c) your field of expertise, a.k.a “platform,” and how that relates to your book. Even if you write fiction, you will need to have a platform. (See http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/03/fiction-platform.html for some ideas on this subject.)
Then identify your Target Audience—the “who” you had in mind while you were writing. If you’ve written a novel, will interested readers be male or female, young, middle-aged or seniors, action or romance devotees? If your book is non-fiction, are you targeting a certain business or profession? Do you already have a client or seminar base that will be a built-in market? If you don’t have a built-in base, what media outlets (radio, television, print) will help you build one, and which will be relevant and feasible? How do you get to Book Reviewers? (Reviews are golden, even if they’re not glowing—and reviews are mandatory for success. Without them, you don’t get interviews, and the good ones become marketing tools.) Each category and media market, by the way, can be easily researched via the Internet, and each will have to receive a Review Copy of your book.
Once your target audience is clear, identify your book’s Position with a single sentence that explains why someone would want to buy your book over others in the same category. This is an extremely important element because, with every Review Copy you send out, you’ll have between five and fifteen seconds to catch someone’s attention. Finally (and you’ve probably figured this out already), you need to decide how much money you’re able and willing to spend on your book promotion. For example, guess who buys all those Review Copies that need to be sent out? You’ll also need business cards (focused solely on your book), bookmarks, “Just Published” posters, announcement post cards, travel expenses, and so forth.
But before you order a supply of oxygen, this new challenge isn’t as daunting as you may think, because the majority of bestselling authors begin their successes locally. Your first contact won’t be to the New York Times, but rather your local newspaper. Send a copy of your Press Release (similar to your Sell Sheet but a more familiar format to the media). If you Google how to write a press release, you’ll find a wealth of tutorials.
Then use a “local author” angle to approach the Manager or Event Coordinator in nearby book stores (small independent booksellers and big chains like Barnes & Noble), first about scheduling a book signing, and second about stocking your book on their shelves. (The former will be easier than the latter.) Check each store’s Event Calendar and attend several book signings to see how they’re done. When you have a signing scheduled, send invitations! Include everyone you’ve ever known, if you can afford the stamps. Although you’ll want to do a broadcast email to announce your book’s publication, signing events require old-fashioned invitations to bolster turnout. The book store(s) will also do a little advertising (usually very little, i.e., a flyer by the cash register), but your best hope for a large crowd resides in the people you already know and the people they know.
Use your successes with local papers and book stores to secure interviews with other media outlets. Use Google to seek out venues in your area such as noon television news broadcasts and radio talk shows that are willing to feature new authors. Remember, every contact you make—through media, book stores, book reviewers, libraries, everyone—will need to receive a Review Copy of your book. Be sure to write REVIEW COPY in big, black magic marker letters on the inside front cover to minimize bootleg sales of all the books you’re sending out. Distribute widely and generously all of your other promotional materials, as well (your Sell Sheets, Press Releases, Business Cards …), and never travel without two copies of your book. Take a handful on your vacation. You just never know when a future fan will be standing in front of you.
This local focus will not only build success from the inside out, but will also help minimize cash outlays for airfare and hotels in the beginning. At the same time, however, expand your base by listing your book for sale on sites like Amazon and eBay (both sites have links that walk you through the process), and by entering your book in contests (have four or five on-going at any given time). Google again for those contests germane to your book, but research the sponsoring organization(s) before entering. Some are less reputable than others. Contests offer tremendous publicity potential, though, and many judges return valuable comments whether you win anything or not.
Lastly, set up an automatically inserted tag line promoting your book at the bottom of every email you generate. That’s free advertising that could circle the globe.
Obviously, the how-to’s of book promotion could fill volumes—but the short version begins and ends with you. If you believe with a passion that your book can be a bestseller, then others will believe, too. Just keep in mind that, as with any project or craft, the devil is in the details. Orchestrating a book promotion can be a little like managing a goat rodeo, if all the basics aren’t in place. Make your plan, have your props, and then start calling on your local segment of the world. Every success will breed another, and the boundaries of “local” will continue to expand as far as you wish to push them.
Of course, none of this happens overnight, and wisdom suggests putting your plans in motion while the book is still in the production cycle. Then allow yourself a few captivating moments when you first hold the “real thing” in your hands. Celebrate and feel that well-deserved pride.
Okay. Time’s up.
The window of marketing opportunity is the first six to twelve months after publication, which doesn’t leave room for many wasted days. Even though writing your book was the easy part, selling your book is the fruitful part—and nothing compares to the sound of someone saying, “I bought your book, loved it, and recommended it to my friends.”
May those words ring familiar time and again along your personal path to your own bestseller!
Causes Cheri Laser Supports
Literacy Volunteers of America, Interreligious Fellowship for the Homeless, Gift-of-Life, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation