by Patricia Fry
Book Promotion Basics
For The Bold and The Bashful
Writers are notoriously reclusive. Most of us work in solitary confinement
and we like it that way. When we become authors, we hope to see our books hit
the Best Seller list, but wed rather not get involved with making that
happen. What we want is to continue writing. Right?
Unfortunately, this concept is not very realistic. In order to sell your
book, you must promote it. And this is true whether you are self-published or
have a traditional publisher.
Most publishers today do little or nothing to promote your book. They rely
on the author to make sales. In fact, they often accept or reject a manuscript
based on the authors willingness and ability to market his own book. How
does the publisher know whether or not the author will do the marketing? By
studying his or her book proposal.
A book proposal is your guide to writing and marketing the book. An
effective book proposal helps you decide if have a book at all and whether
its marketable. A proposal consists of an overview of the book, a
comparison of competitive works, a market potential, a chapter outline, one or
two sample chapters and an author bio.
I recently asked Richard OConnor, acquisitions editor at Renaissance
Books, How important is the marketing portion of your book proposal when
presenting it to a publisher? He responded, Critical.
He went on to tell me about one book that his company may have rejected
except for the fact that the author had close ties with a large national
company that was interested in stocking the book and promoting it. Because of
this companys commitment and the authors active involvement in
marketing it, theyve sold 60,000 copies in just over two years.
Its Never Too Soon to Start Marketing
Many successful marketers start promoting their book even before its a
book. Here are some ideas:
- Keep a running list of the people who might be interested in buying your
bookfolks you interviewed for the book, those you spoke to about the
book-in-progress and anyone else who expressed an interest in your topic.
- Spend evenings pouring over telephone books. For example, if your topic is
healthy grieving, list funeral homes, family counselors, psychologists, doctors
and hospice groups that might want to have your book on hand for their clients.
Reference telephone directories from other counties and states at your public
library or use an Internet telephone directory.
- Create a mailing list of names from your Rolodex, Christmas card list,
address books and business files. Be sure to add family, friends, neighbors,
former neighbors, your childrens teachers, coworkers, your yoga
classmates, the folks you met on your last cruise and so forth.
- Send prepublication notices. While your book is at the printer, send
promotional flyers to your mailing list. I offered everyone on my mailing list
a 10% discount for the 1999 revision of my Ojai Valley history if they ordered
the book by a certain date. I collected nearly enough to pay my printing bill
before the book even arrived.
Your Promotional Schedule
Time is a major factor in book promotion If you cant give your book
your undivided attention, at least commit to a schedule. Vow to make three
contacts per day or spend one or two days every week pursuing marketing
When Debbie Puente came out with her book, Elegantly Easy Crème
Brulee, she spent a minimum of two hours every day, five days a week on the
phone or sending emails in an effort to drum up new business. She say, If
you make ten contacts a day everyday and get one good lead a day, thats
five good leads a week.
Here are some ideas for spending that time effectively:
- Contact specialty shops. Maybe you have a book of stories about vintage
airplanes. Rather than relying totally on bookstores, approach hobby shops, toy
stores and small airports about carrying your book. A book on planting an herb
garden might sell well in home and garden centers, nurseries, flower shops and
- Schedule book signings. Every author dreams of his/her first big book
signing. Keep in mind, however, that book signings, even in the large
bookstores, are as successful as you and the bookstore manager make them. To
draw more interest, plan a demonstration or presentation. Debbie Puente often
demonstrates how to makes crème brulee at her signings and they are well
Send press releases with a professional photo of yourself to all local
newspapers about two weeks before the event. Ask the bookstore manager to
display your book and a sign announcing the event during the week before. Send
notes or call all of your friends. Contact other authors that you know.
Authors, who have sat alone at a book signing, are notoriously supportive of
- Promote your book as a premium or incentive item. Approach local banks or
other businesses and offer a discount for quantities of your books as a
giveaway to customers. If you mention a product in your book, contact a company
that specializes in that product to see if they want to use your book as an
incentive or premium item.
- Find buyers on the Internet. The Internet is a virtual gold mine of
resources for selling books of every kind. Use search engines to locate sites
related to your book topic. Contact the site owner about reviewing your book
for their newsletter, creating a link to your site, allowing you to publish an
article on their site and/or tap into their message boards.
- Attend book fairs and shows. My colleagues and I have found book fairs and
shows to be exceedingly successful but only when the author is the one who is
touting his or her book. Dont waste your time or money sending your book
to an event with someone else. No one else knows your book like you do and no
one else cares about it as much as you do.
This is no time to become part of the background. Step forward and show people
your book. Talk about it. I know one woman who, when things show down at her
booth, she dons a sandwich board advertising her book and walks around talking
to people about it.
- Create a 30-second commercial. In other words, be prepared with a concise
description of your booksomething that you can relay in 30 seconds or
less. Recite this commercial when youre doing a book signing,
at a book fair or in a social environment.
When someone asks me what Ive been writing lately or what my newest
project is, I might say, I just published a wonderful little book
featuring over 75 no and low cost ideas for promoting your self-published and
traditionally published books. Its a guide for people who are publishing
their writing and who need help with marketing.
Use the foregoing to help you develop a personal marketing plan. Express
your creativity, assertiveness and persistence and you will surely be either
mildly or wildly successful in your endeavors to sell books.
Patricia Fry has been writing for publication for 27
years, having contributed articles to numerous magazines. She published her
first book in 1983 and now has 10 self-published and traditionally published
books to her credit including: A Writers Guide to Magazine Articles
for Book Promotion and Profit and Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting