Published: July 1, 2005
|Top 10 marketing tips for book authors|
You have to sell your own book if it is going to succeed. Most new authors are as ignorant of this fact as I was when my first novel, Dunnottar, arrived on the scene.
While you don't have to lug boxes of your book from store to store (although you can certainly do that), there is so much more involved to selling in this modern, high-tech publishing world.
The following 10 tips for marketing your book are certainly not all-inclusive, but they will provide you with a good starting point. I guarantee that if you apply all 10 of these simple steps, you will see marked improvements in your book sales. No, your book might not make it to The New York Times bestseller list, but chances are it will appear on some smaller ones. And each step up gets you closer to the top.
1. Always have two books handy. It's easy," some men insist, "for a woman who can haul around a beach bag for a purse. But what do I do? It isn't always easy for me to lug stuff around when I'm doing my normal daily tasks."
I don't remember where I read it, but several months ago I saw a statistic that I wrote down. According to a study, women are 72 percent more apt to trust a man who is carrying a briefcase than one who isn't. So, men, take a few dollars and invest in your future. You can easily carry two copies of your book in there.
Why not just carry one copy of your book? You have one to show and one to sell. As soon as you sell one, replace it with another copy so again you have one to show and one to sell.
2. Keep your book in sight whenever possible. When you go out to a restaurant to eat, if there is an empty place at the table, set your book there. When the server sees it, he might ask about it. If he doesn't, ask him boldly, "Have you seen my new book yet?" Servers do not want to be rude; that's part of their training. So, he will politely look at it. If you have done a good job on your back-cover blurb, before they set it down they will be "hooked." That is when you can take a bookmark out of your purse or pocket. Make some simple comment like "This will help you remember the name when you get to the bookstore." Make sure you sign it. If they feel that you have "personalized" it for them, they are not apt to toss it in the kitchen garbage can.
When you go into a grocery store or a bank and are asked for a picture ID, take your book out and turn it to your picture on the back cover or inside--wherever it is. Jokingly say something like "Here. It has my ISBN number on it." They are bound to ask questions--and be impressed.
I'm sure you can come up with many more applications for this.
3. Strive to get your book into bookstores. This is one of the biggest headaches I have heard from fellow authors. This applies not only to new authors or print-on-demand authors, but to many established writers as well. Thousands of new book titles are released every year. A lot of this is due to the new print-on-demand industry, but it is also because with more of an impact in that realm, the old standby "traditional" publishers have to fight harder to compete.
So how do you beat those odds? Stop and make a list of all the people you know. Your Christmas card list is a good place to start. Send each of them a postcard or e-mail announcing the publication of your book. Ask them to order it through their local bookstore. Also, ask them if they would be willing to ask the clerk to get in a couple of extra copies "in case I want to recommend it to their friends." In this way, before you know it, you have set up a domino effect. The best way to publicize anything is still by word-of-mouth.
4. Map your course (geographically). Stop and take an inventory. Where is your book set? What venue does it involve? The best way I know of to demonstrate this is to take you on a trip with one of my Patrick and Grace Mysteries. The first book in the series, In St. Patrick's Custody, takes place at a homeless shelter in New York City. That's two strikes against it: Homeless people don't have money and New York City is huge. So, let's move on to Recipe for Murder. This book follows a minor character from the first book to his home of Albany, Neb. Now, Albany is a fictional town. So how can you market a place that doesn't even exist? It states in the book that it is "just a hop, skip and a jump from Norfolk." So, you contact all the bookstores, newspapers, radio stations, etc. in the Norfolk area. In fact, you contact all sorts of these places in the entire state. Fortunately, there are not a lot of books set in Nebraska, which makes it very appealing to the populace of the state. You might remember that when you select a location for your next book.
5. Utilize the Internet. This is the day of cyberville. If you are not already a cyber junkie, it's time to change that. Search engines are wonderful tools for finding related topics. For Dunnottar, I searched for "Scottish castles." Every site I found in that category, I hit the "contact me" button and sent them an e-mail about the book, giving a very brief description of the book, and asked them if they would post it on their Web site.
I also did a search for "independent bookstores," asking them to either list the book on their Web sites or stock it on their shelves.
What were the results of these efforts? In less than a month from the date it was published, Dunnottar was listed as the No. 1 bestseller of more than 8,000 titles on Scotland on Amazon.com, a position it held for nearly three months. And, I had a built-in audience for the sequels.
It is also important that people know you, not just your books. One of the best ways to do this is to join some writers e-groups. You can find a number of them at yahoogroups.com. Just scroll down to "Entertainment and Arts," then click on "Books" and search for "writers groups." This is a wonderful way of not only promoting your books, but also of getting feedback and some wonderful sharing advice on writing and marketing tips.
6. Don't argue the merits of your publisher. Most readers couldn't care less who published your book. The only place this is not true is (perhaps) at the bookstores you are trying to get to stock your books. However, they are more apt to want to know if it is available from the two major book distributors, Ingram and Baker & Taylor. Don't apologize by saying "Well, it is published by a POD press, but …" or "Of course it is just a small press, so …" Most "normal" people don't have a clue what you are talking about. You have written a book and they can buy it. Bottom line!
7. Learn to 'use' telemarketers. This one might throw you for a loop. You know how you hate to be interrupted, just as you sit down to dinner, by one of these pesky people. Well, they are trying to earn a living too, remember? No, I am not suggesting that you go out and sign a contract with a telemarketing company to advertise your book. In the first place, you probably can't afford it. In the second place, you don't want to inflict this bother on your friends--or even your enemies.
What I am suggesting is that the next time a telemarketer calls, sit and patiently listen to their spiel instead of hanging up on them. When they are done, politely ask them, "Now will you listen to some exciting news I have?" They can hardly refuse, when you have been so patient with them. Then tell them about your new book and invite them to go to Amazon.com (or wherever you choose) so they can read the reviews--and hopefully order it.
At this point, I always tell them that if they contact me (and I direct them to my Web site) once they have the book, I will be glad to send them an autographed bookplate.
Does this really work? I started doing this about a year ago and have sold hundreds of my books this way. And chances are, they are so excited about talking to somebody "famous" when they hang up that they have forgotten the fact that you didn't buy anything from them. Instead of one of you being disappointed and the other one angry, chances are you will both end up laughing.
8. Become visible in your home arena. Do you have any idea how many civic groups there are in your hometown or surrounding area? Just imagine, for a moment, that you are the program chairman for a group. How can you come up with new ideas for interesting speakers? Some of these groups meet monthly, while others actually gather on a weekly basis--making it an even bigger challenge. Now, in your new role, picture the phone ringing and some enthusiastic person saying, "I was wondering if you ever have need of someone to speak to your group. I am a local author, and my brand new book is out. Would you be interested in having me speak to your group about my book?" Pause here for effect, then laugh a bit and say, "I won't even charge you for my services. All you have to do is let me bring some books along in case any of your members want to buy a copy."
I can tell you that you have just made one gigantic friend! This is one of the best ways you can find to sell books locally. For one thing, you have a very captive audience. Also, these club members are often fiercely competitive. If so-and-so buys one, you can rest assured that somebody else will follow suit--even if they can't stand the genre you write and never read the book!
Another place to seek out is to your public library. Does it have a readers group? Offer your book at a discount to all of the readers, and then offer to meet with them on the day they discuss it.
The library in many cities also has a support group called Friends of the Library. They usually hold regular meetings, and you can't get bigger book advocates than these people. You can get the name of the head of this group from the library.
Use your ingenuity. What about religious groups? Make sure you put a copy of your book in both the public library and your church or synagogue library. It might not help with sales of your current book, but it will when your next one comes out. And it is great for getting reviews posted on Amazon.com, etc. These people not only know your book, they know you.
One final spot to hit is the schools, if your book is appropriate. If it is for children or young adults, you can go to the primary schools. If it is for a higher level, you can aim for the high schools and even colleges. After speaking to one college history class, Dunnottar has become required reading. That is great for sales!
9. Create an online presence. We have already touched on e-groups for writers. It is imperative for an author today to have a Web site. You don't have to hire somebody for hundreds or thousands of dollars to set this up for you. Again, go to your favorite search engine and look for "free Web site hosts." There are a lot of them. Then, once you have your site set up, make sure you get it registered on the search engines. The easiest way to do this is to use a search engine marketer such as ineedhits.com, which will submit your site to hundreds of search engines. If you check for Janet Elaine Smith on Google.com, you will find that I have more than 1,800 entries. Not bad for somebody who didn't even own a computer three years ago!
One other thing you can do is to hunt for chats for writers and readers. Again, you can find these on your search engine. Go to these chats, and before long it won't be just you who is talking about your book, but dozens and dozens of other people will be praising it, too.
10. Learn to overcome shyness (if applicable). When my daughter was in fourth grade, she was extremely bashful. She has overcome that trait--big time--by teaching herself ventriloquism. One day she surprised all of us by taking her dummy, Danny O'Day, to school with her. She went and showed him to Mr. Dodge, her teacher. He was quite impressed with her abilities and asked her to entertain the class. To everyone's surprise she did, and while she would never dare say such things to the other children, Danny O'Day was anything but shy!
This won't work in every situation, but if you are going to present an actual speech, go in character. I often do this when I am talking about my historicals. It not only lets you be someone else (who usually has no problem with shyness!), but it also creates much more interest than a normal "Joe Blow" standing up in front of them saying the same old rhetoric they've heard before.
Now, as I so often say (in the voice of Dale Evans), "Happy sales to you …"
--Posted July 1, 2005
Janet Elaine Smith
Janet Elaine Smith is a freelance writer and author of 10 published novels. She also has an online business site, http://sosforauthors.tripod.com, where she conducts marketing and writing workshops and offers a number of "helps" for authors. To learn more about Smith, visit her Web site at www.janetelainesmith.com.