My recent blog post—A Holistic Approach to Book Marketing—attracted a great deal of attention from members of a LinkedIn group, who have very kindly shared some of their innovative book promotions, which I’ve summarized below. As a contribution to this generous thread, please leave a comment below to let us know what has been your most successful publicity stint.
Remember, if what you’re doing in terms of book marketing is not working for you, see it not as failure but as feedback—try something else and keep experimenting until you find a promotional tactic that suits your type of book, personality, and interests to deliver the outcome you want.
Heidi Angell’s innovative approach is economical too since she utilizes the time and effort working with Scouts as a den mother to also market her book. When she talks to other dens and packs about achievements, she shows her children’s book as an example of a personal accomplishment; she gives all of the boys a book mark that lists her age-appropriate books and the parents get book marks that have links to her website. Heidi says parents often buy a signed copy there and then.
Steve Wright, an author from the UK, suggests a spot on the local radio show. He writes about local history, so he intends investigating personal appearances at local history groups, libraries and places that are featured in his book (like the oldest pub in Birmingham).
Whenever she can, Pamela Bitterman writes freelance journalistic and opinion articles that feature her bio and a link to her Web site.
Memoirist Celia Hayes takes a table at craft shows, especially at Christmas; her philosophy is that when people are shopping for gifts they’re committed to spending money, so it’s a win-win.
Janet Spurr suggests Googling something about your book. Her book, Beach Chair Diaries, Summer Tales from Maine to Maui, is about summer and the beach; since August is National Beach Month, she approached bookstores in advance to find out if they would put out a display to celebrate the occasion. A client of hers who had written a book about a cat offered special promotions during National Cat Month. If you’re launching a novel, she says, consider booking events that coincide with the birthday of a famous author, for instance.
Roy Alonzo: If you are going to do a bookstore signing, write a PR release with name, time, date, your pitch, and a sentence or two about you. Send it to the bookstore’s local newspaper at least couple of weeks in advance of the date. And (very important) when you first contact the bookstore, tell them you will send the PR release to the newspaper. They’ll appreciate the free advertising and may give your book better shelving.
James Osborne, a former journalist, favors a PR approach to book signings by linking them to charities, thus giving them a percentage of the sales. And if a charity has the support of a local celebrity, you could try and get an appearance, which will be a great incentive to the book store to try and get a good news peg. Speaking like a true PR man, he suggests to:
- address the press release to specific person in the book stores and in the media;
- send two press releases to the media, a week or two apart, for extra attention and exposure;
- make a phone call to your media contact in addition to the second release;
Christie Kraemer’s novel, Shattered Tomorrows, is loosely based on an actual mass shooting that occurred in Salem, Oregon in 1981, long before Columbine and other instances. She had her book signing in a small, local tavern and sold out in less than two hours. She says because of the far reach of the shooting, everyone had a story to tell about that night. Using a locale where you’ve placed part of the action of a book will inevitably bring it closer to the reader.
LinDee Rochelle’s favorite tip is to target trade shows that relate to the themes of a book, fiction or nonfiction. She edited a historical fiction based on the Civil War era—The Gettysburg Conspiracy—and the author sold many books at action-figure shows, mini-soldier shows, and at Civil War re-enactment events.
Jim Dwyer is a freelance writer. He started marketing his novel while he was writing it, one or two polished sentences at a time. His protagonist is a vocabulary freak, so Jim created a blog site where he takes a “word of the day” and applies it to the novel, introducing characters and places.
Ruth Walker launched her book, Living Underground, at a local bookstore with 100+ people in attendance. Because her book has many music references, especially opera, the event included a live performance by the store owner’s friend. She sold over 100 copies that one afternoon and the store continues to stock it. Ruth intends contacting music bookstores and opera house gift shops.
Stephen Davenport uses his novel, Saving Miss Oliver’s: A Novel of Loyalty, Leadership and Change, in leadership workshops for leaders of independent schools. The novel is set in an all-girls boarding school, so he brings the characters and political environment into play as case studies; having to read the book first, participants come to the workshops having had a vicarious experience of leadership and having developed empathy with the characters. He says the workshops have been very well received, and they sell books. His suggestion is to distill concepts from the story that can applied to workshops.
Authors who don’t blog can get book-related blogs to publish an interview about their book or writing experience. Shannon Howell invites YA/Adult fiction writers to contact her at FindStuff2Read_content@gmx.com. She suggests asking fellow authors/bloggers to review an ARC of your book, as well as applying a picture of your book jacket anywhere you can get people to look, like T-shirts.
To blog or not to blog continues to be an interesting debate and I’ve recently seen it veer toward the sentiment of ‘too many blogs = information overload.’ Keep in mind that bloggers are dependent on subscribers who participate via informative comments, which is an alternative way of gaining and sustaining a social media presence – we certainly don’t all have to be bloggers, or leaders for that matter – followers are equally important and you can use your participation to create, convey, and promote your profile / business / books. Choose a number of blogs that offer valuable information or content you can relate to, subscribe to make sure you stay on top of the blogger’s activities, become a loyal participant by regularly leaving comments and following the thread of conversation (just like we’re doing here); then, when the right opportunity presents itself (all in good taste), you can share information about yourself, or you can invite the blogger and his/her followers to connect with you on other social media platforms and that way build your network.
Sid Stebel proffers a reminder to write more and worry less about promotion. He says as a ‘Mad Man’ Ad & PR principal he has this idea of standing near the on/off ramp of the Sunset Blvd on L.A.’s Westside with a huge sign promoting his book, “The Collaborator.” Sid does not favor giveaways.
Brad Ashton’s book, The Job Of A Laughtime, is a correspondence course covering all forms of comedy writing from gags right through to sitcoms. He offers free Master Classes in comedy writing (he lives in London), and usually sells about 20 copies each time. He sends a summary report of each Master Class to potential students who can’t make the journey to London along with reviews of the book and a list of retailers.
One of John Rosengren’s innovative marketing approaches was posting flyers with a photo of himself and the book cover of Blades of Glory at neighborhood stores and on telephone poles and bulletin boards to promote a reading he was giving at a local bookstore. He says people who recognized him from the photos would stop him in the street to discuss the book, so the buzz of the promotion went well beyond the reading.
Hope I. Marston, author of Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey: The War of 1812, appealed to local stores and now Kinney Drugs sells her book in nine of its branches.
This is what Mike McKendree did: he Googled Indie bookseller associations (SIBA, MPIBA, TBA) and contacted a few hundred Indie stores from their lists. So far, over 120, mainly in the South and Southwest and mostly on consignment (a 60/40 split), have accepted his two novels. They’ve sold over 700 books in the last sixteen months. Unfortunately, one chain that sold about 650 books has now decided to no longer accept consignments from ‘out of town’ authors who are unable to visit each store monthly for review and restocking. Mike, whose books are set in U.S. Civil War era, also works gun/military shows, Civil War reenactments, fairs, festivals, etc., displaying some original period weapons. These venues have yielded over 400 sales in two and a half years. He has also opted into the KDP Select (free Kindle promotion) with good follow-up sales success.
Betsy Ashton reminded us to thank our readers for buying our books. She says when her book comes out in March, she’ll follow the approach of a successful author whose main market was book clubs—she would offer to call or Skype into their meetings; the same author also made sure to call every library that purchased her book and offered to phone into groups of library patrons (as well as sending signed book plates to the libraries).
Donna S Highfill kicked off with giveaways and she got Linkedin business groups to discuss the main topic of her book, asking responders to comment on Amazon.com and hit “like.” She asked people to take a picture of themselves reading her book in unique places and has received photos from one person in front of the Eiffel Tower, The Singh War museum, etc.
Michael Fitterling believes in identifying and targeting niche audiences. When he started Road Dog Publications for motorcycling books he participated in an antique bike ride and offered a copy of the first release to participants who came from all over the country, including some national motorcycling magazine editors and staff. Also, the author of that book, a motorcycle instructor, gave a talk to a group of law enforcement officers and sold books to them after the talk. His other imprint, Lost Classics Book Company, is composed of republished children’s educational books from the late 1800s and early 1900s; while the main market is homeschoolers, Michael also cross-advertises these books in magazines dedicated to American Western history.
Kelli Cooper lives in a rural area so she’s dependent on online marketing to target her niche market: marriage and family therapists; she has made connections with over 500 LMFTs on LinkedIn alone, reaching out to them via individual e-mails.
Kendall Bell had the bank print just above the signature line on his checks “See my books at http://www.kendallbell.com,” so every time he writes a check, he’s promoting his books.
Louise Ann Barton checks in on her book at the local libraries, taking if from the shelf and placing it in one of the book display stands to attract attention. She has also printed T-shirts and tote bags with gold lettering: I’m an author—ask me about my books.
Apart from advertising on T-shirts, Kat Kirst’s husband, who is a pilot, drops postcards touting both her books at his stopping places.
Pamela Eglinski holds readings at home and has sold quite a few books at her annual Christmas Open House. She also suggests postcards, business cards, and car magnets (printed by Vistaprint.com). Soft magnet bookmarks with the author’s contact information seems to be a popular promotional tactic—remember to include a QR code.
Earlier on, I mentioned that Sid Stebel does not favor giveaways, and Wendy Kyman also seems concerned that her blog readers might not purchase her book once it has been published because they’re used to reading her writings for free. In response to that Betsy Ashton suggests offering loyal readers an autographed copy of the book—if they get Amazon to deliver books to her house, she signs it and sends it on.
Click on Robin Leigh Morgan’s name to go to her blog post about offline marketing.
Randy Attwood donates $1 from every sale of Crazy About You—set in an insane asylum—to a community mental health center in his area because those folk work the suicide prevention hotline for his area.
Rohn Federbush says his local Ann Arbor University Women (AAUW) lets him set up a table at each of their meetings, and he has also sold some books to friends at the Ann Arbor City Club’s craft show.
Donna Brown is thinking: gift shops, airport news stands, historical sites (her books are historical fiction) and flower shops, as well as giving commissions to anyone who is willing to help sell her books. She has contacted a local high school teacher who teaches marketing, so she intends submitting “my publishing company” to a group of high school students next year, challenging them to develop a marketing plan for her books.
Dennis Fleming has decided to opt into the post chain: The Next Big Thing. The objective is to drive interested readers to your blog to share information about your work-in-progress via 10 questions that you answer. Then you tag 5 others writers, challenging them to do the same.
Yves Johnson is a Christian book author; he was invited to have a book signing after a church service.
Sharon Love Cook has written a mystery title A Nose for Hanky Panky. When she recently Googled the title, an underwear company came up called Hanky Panky Lingerie, so she sent them one of her promo postcards suggesting a co-promotions of mystery and undies.
For David Beshears the real purpose of promoting his books is to drive royalties, proceeds and donations to his real cause: the creation of a community center for people with disabilities which he started after his son was severely injured in Afghanistan. He was recently asked to offer a workshop at the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Conference in the Great Northwest, where he hopes to provide some inspiration to attendees while generating interest and support for his project.
As for marketing befitting the title or theme of a story, Jerome Segundo’s promo gets full marks. He says to be forewarned before clicking on the link, though, as it’s not for the prudish or the squeamish: Condoms and Beer.
Randy, snarly elves are the speciality of M.K. Theodoratus—check out her works-in progress and suggest book promos that you think might suit her fast-paced Half-Elven stories.
As we become more experienced publicists, so we’ll give more strategic marketing thought to our works-in-progress from the outset.
I know blog activity has become ‘basic’ and can hardly be considered ‘innovative,’ but you can be playful or adventurous with pay-it-forward incentives that not only generate accumulative back clicks to your own blog but are considered community-oriented in that they also help your followers to discover other bloggers/writers and their books and services. Do it with this blog post—feel free to share it to your social media platforms OR copy and paste it to your own blogs and get your followers to contribute their ideas too. Remember, you can promote your own cause by helping others achieve their goals too.