by Patricia Fry
Your Book Promotion Plan
As you enter into the world of publishing, you may ask experienced authors, “How do you promote a book?” or “What’s the best way to promote a book?” When someone asks me that question, I typically answer, “It depends on the book and it depends on you.” Anyone who responds differently could be leading you astray.
When someone asks me how I promote my books, I explain that I use different tactics for my different books. I promote my regional history books through local bookstores and gift shops at museums, hotels and spas. I make back-of-the-room sales after speaking on local history at various venues throughout the region. And I donate books locally where I’m guaranteed good exposure.
I promote my writing/publishing-related books through my Web site and my blog. I present writing and publishing workshops at writers’ conferences nationwide. I write articles for writing/publishing sites and publications. And I sell these books from the SPAWN booth at book festivals. (SPAWN is Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network.)
When I was promoting my book, The Mainland Luau, How to Capture the Flavor of Hawaii in Your Own Backyard, I solicited book reviews in every food and cooking magazine I could locate. I sent press releases to the foods section of newspapers in every state. I also did a lot of book signings and I even put on a full-blown luau in order to get some major publicity in a county newspaper.
The point is that every promotional method does not necessarily work for every book. In fact, it might take an author several weeks or months of experimentation to develop a plan that’s appropriate for his or her title. Of course, a shortcut to this scenario would be to develop a book proposal before writing the book. The research necessary for fleshing out the marketing section should put the author on an appropriate promotional course.
But what if you didn’t write a book proposal? Or what if your original promotional plan isn’t going so well? This doesn’t mean that your book is a failure. On the contrary, it means it’s time to adopt a new strategy—one that relates specifically to you and your book. How? Start by responding to the following:
• The primary audience for my book consists of ________________?
• A secondary audience for my book might be __________________?
• What depicts the lifestyle, habits, behaviors and traits of my target audience?
• What sort of lifestyle do they pursue?
• What are their hobbies or interests?
• What do they care about?
• Where do they live?
• Where do they shop?
• What Web sites do they visit?
• What publications do they read?
• Do they attend lectures, seminars, conferences, workshops, church, etc?
• What type of work do they do?
• Do they attend school, college?
• Do they travel? Where?
• What gives meaning to their lives?
• What do they struggle with in life?
Next, note your personal attributes with regard to book promotion and your potential commitment level:
• How much time can you devote to book promotion each week?
• What personal skills, talents and abilities can you draw from?
• What activities and processes do you enjoy most?
• What other activities and process will you pursue for the sake of your book?
• How many books do you need (or would you like) to sell this year?
List 5 specific promotional activities appropriate for your particular book and within your skill/interest level. Depending on the subject/genre of your book, these might include:
For any book
• Get book reviews in dozens of appropriate publications and Web sites.
• Create an informative and/or entertaining newsletter and send it to your large and ever-growing mailing list.
• Write a spin-off book or booklet to enhance sales of the primary book.
• Make news. For example, start a charity related to the theme of your book and then send press releases to newspapers throughout the U.S.
• Offer your historical novel or nonfiction book to corporations as a premium item.
• Sell books at book festivals.
• Develop a workshop and seek appropriate venues nationwide where you can present it. This might be in corporate offices, during scheduled conferences, etc.
• Establish a monthly column for an appropriate and wide-spread magazine.
• Write articles for magazines.
• Build a Web site and keep adding pertinent information and resources.
• Promote to libraries throughout the world.
• Create a workbook or CD to accompany your book.
• Submit some of your unpublished stories and/or excerpts from your book to magazines and Web sites.
• Arrange book signings and radio/TV interviews in the city where your story is based.
• Promote to hobbyists and others with an interest in something you’ve featured in your novel—women motorcycle enthusiasts, horse owners, parents of triplets, grandparents raising grandchildren or former child prodigies, for example.
• Promote through organizations you’ve mentioned in your novel, such as the American Diabetes Association, the Brain Injury Association of America or the Autism Research Institute.
List 5 promotional activities that you can commit to. These might include:
• Writing copy, articles, blog, press releases, a newsletter and other promo material.
• Public speaking.
• Networking via the Internet.
• Arranging for interviews and other presentations.
• Researching to find promotional opportunities and venues.
• Traveling to do book signings and make other appearances.
• Schmoozing with key people who can arrange for promotional events.
Log how much time each week you can devote to your promotional plan.
This might be two hours in the early morning before you go to work. Maybe you have your weekends free for promotional planning. Ideally, you have as much time as you want to spend promoting and you’re well organized. In this case, I suggest choosing a new promotional activity to pursue with vigor every week or two weeks. Or you might function more effectively if you spend part of each day on one activity and then switch to another.
Promoting a book can be all-consuming. For authors who promote fulltime, I suggest varying your activities. Do computer research for a few hours and then go out and network face-to-face for a while. Alter between creative forms of promotion and those involving concentration.
If you want to experience success as an author, remember this: when it comes to book promotion, there is no such thing as one-size fits all. Use this guide to develop your personal promotions plan, implement it and you will move in the direction of successful authorship.
Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.