Many of the publishers I write for have requested their authors provide them a list of their marketing strategy. In the good old days, way before I was writing, mind you, authors wrote the books, the publisher promoted the work. Not anymore.
Ever go to the book store and see the tons of books yours are up against? It's cataclysmic. My mother has been to book stores millions of times over her lifetime, but when my books ended up in them, it put a different perspective on the situation. No longer was it, I want the store to have every book I ever want to read here, now, so I can have a choice, but, Ohmigod, look at all your competition!!!
Yep, all that competition.
So we need a marketing strategy. I remember reading about an author who had written a Jewish children's book--niche marketing works well here. Sales weren't all that great. She waited for the publisher to promote it more. But they didn't in the beginning and they weren't about to bother with it later on. Then they discontinued the book and offered for her to buy the remaining copies. She was frantic. But there were so many places she could sell the book! Lots of places she could drum up business! Nope, the publisher told her. It's too late. The thing of it was, it was a big publisher, not a small press. Sooo, she finally got a small press to pick up the book and she marketed the devil out of it. Sales did really well. The moral of the story--don't wait until the book is out of print. Market it. Pre-market it. It's your baby. No one will love it as much as you do. :)
So how do we go about marketing it?
Some more not to dos first---some swear by expensive advertising, magazines--have you seen the cost? Sending cheap forms of promotion, and not so cheap, to conferences, book fairs, anywhere to get your name out there--pens, key rings, packages of candy or tea with the author's name and books on it.
First, magazines, yes, maybe a sale or two will occur. Does it make up for the cost? How much do we get per book? Not very much. Will you ever make up for the cost of the advertising? I'd spend my money on better advertising. Or better yet, get it free. How? Send articles, and advertise for free. I have written for the genealogy MacNeill Galley and since I'd written Winning the Highlander's Heart and the hero is a MacNeill, plus I make Celtic Clan bears, I was able to advertise both for free in the Galley. Free advertising is the best. :)
The best "free" giveaway I've found is the book mark. Book cover on the book mark, professionally done. I went cheap one time and what a disaster. But if they're done professionally, it shows. Invariably when I'm talking to someone, I mention I'm an author. "Oh, what do you write?" I can go into a synopsis, or pull out a book mark. Much more succinct, has the ISBN on it, my website. They sell books. It's an easy reminder for the one you're talking to, they slip it in their purse, and check it out the next time they're in a book store. The other "free" giveaways? Ever pick them up at the conferences? Ever really remember who gave them out? Ever eat the package of M&Ms and toss the author's card, never knowing who sent it? Ever use the author's free pen for the millionth time and never know who gave it out?
I'm not outgoing, so let me mention that first. It takes a lot for me to promote to people I don't know. But offering a book mark helps to break the ice for me. And when it's person to person, instead of piled high on a freebie table, it means a lot more to the receiver.
Book signings. *sigh* Not the best way to sell, but on the other hand, even if you sell to one or two people, you've usually made a connection, and a new fan. They've actually met the person who wrote the book! That's the connection. But also, one of the customers was a teacher at a college in another city and took a whole bunch of the book marks for one of the books to give to her students! After selling nine of three different books at a B&N and learning that because it was the last day of the county fair the sales were slow, I signed two more of each of the books and the book manager set them on the shelves, intending to keep the rest for a future signing when they scheduled it. I went in to see them on the shelves a couple of days later and all had sold! If the books are not on the shelves, they can't sell. So I signed the remaining stock and they put them all out. Sign books, invest in some gold autographed stickers and leave book marks in the books. A gift to the person who buys them. :) A great way to promote locally. Plus it helps your book stand out a little more, gold autographed sticker, book mark sticking out of the top. Yep, catch the reader's attention when they're staring at all those other books and might not know your name, or be looking for your work at all. Another note, one author says book signings are a waste of time. But for him schmoozing with the book managers at the store helps to hand sell his books when he's not even there. And I agree. Give the book manager promo items, make a friend of them, and you'll sell more that way.
I work at a library now, so before The Vampire...In My Dreams came out, I jumped on the band wagon for Stephanie Meyer YA vampire fans, and have been putting my book mark in her library books. Does it help sell my book? Maybe. Fans of hers won't even know my YA vampire book exists. And all the ones I had at B&N have already sold. Mine finally came into the library and has several hold requests. But it wouldn't have, I don't believe, if I hadn't put the word out. :) Now, I have the honor of putting my book marks in my book, too. :) But will it help to sell my book? Maybe. The word is already spreading around the schools out here. Also, since Hastings can't carry The Vampire...In My Dreams on their shelves, can only have them for the signing, I put my vampire book marks on the shelf next to Stephanie Meyers' books so if anyone wants the book, they can ask and they'll pull them from the back. :)
Oh, and B&N aired my signing on the radio and in the newspaper. Free advertising.
I have to finish teaching some online classes this morning---another way to promote your work, give snippets of your books, new releases, etc, and I have to go to work where I'll slip some more book marks in books. So tomorrow or the next day or so, I'll write some more about FREE ways to promote. :)
Heart of the Wolf, Don't Cry Wolf (coming Mar 1), Winning the Highlander's Heart, The Vampire...In My Dreams