This post is part of my goal to document how I got to where I am today as a self-published author. I’m always learning in this self-publishing journey. I’ll share successes and failures, in hopes that it inspires others who are in the midst of similar journeys or starting one. I don’t claim to have all the answers, or to even be right. I’m simply sharing my experiences in an effort to show that success isn’t instant, it’s being willing to try something, to learn from it, and having the guts to try again. It’s about adjustment and growth, and a willingness to fall flat on your face, but to get back up again.
Marketing and promotion isn’t always about advertising and budgets. Away from algorithms and in front of people I’ve had some major wins. Sometimes thinking outside the box (in some cases the box is the computer) is exactly what you need to do. Now, I totally get it. Reaching out for opportunities online is way easier than reaching for opportunities offline. The computer is a safety net. You only have to worry about an e-mail or 140 characters, or whatever. Offline you have to see people face-to-face and risk rejection. You have to call them – most often a cold call where they don’t know you from the next bloke down the street. You might even have to talk aloud about yourself and your books for a long time. Don’t panic. It’s worth the risk. Trust me.
Here are a few things I’ve done that have really helped me in my writing career, and what I call marketing wins. Not every author will have these under their tool belt, so if you can snag them, you’re that much more ahead of the game.
- Local Paper: I’ve been listed in local paper for new book releases. This is probably the easiest of the ones to attempt to do because you can generally reach the right person at the newspaper without having to make that phone call or see them face-to-face. The power of e-mail! Be sure to have your press release handy with as much information as possible. You basically want to give them everything they could need at the tip of their fingers.
- Local and Out-of-State Book Signings: Author readings and book signings are a great way to get word out about your book and sell a few copies while you’re at it. One hour of reading, holding a Q&A, and signing books (maybe add half an hour more for the signing), plus an hour set-up/tear-down, is well worth it. I generally make enough sales to cover my time and costs. Even if it didn’t, I’d still do book readings because the exposure is fantastic and you can reuse it on the web by filming your sessions. The best part of book signings? I get to take part in the joy of sharing my books with interested and interesting readers and fans. I love meeting kids who are fans of the series. They are adorable and absolutely make my day with their comments and questions. You can check out videos from my book signings here.
- Local Television Shows: I’ve been interviewed on a local television show several times. You can see the videos here. This was a unique opportunity that I got to do because I was talking to a local librarian and he had recently been interviewed by the show for an event the library was doing. This is the power of your network! I made a cold call and sent an e-mail. I got a spot on the show and they had me back twice more. How wonderful is that?
- Book Business Cards: I’ve purchased book business cards for each novel. I use them when people say something, “You write books? About what?” I whip out a card or set of them (one for each book) and say back, something like, “I write an upper middle grade fantasy series set in modern-day Norway featuring a biracial heroine who’s adopted. Also lots of trolls.” I’m a chatty Kathy and if you sit by me on a plane, train, bus or at the theater, local playhouse, or restaurant, I’ll gladly talk to you about my books. I give extras to my mom and friends so they can leave them around town or pass them along to others they might bump into.
- Book Blog Tours: I coordinate a series of reviews and guest posts with the release of my books. Gaining reviews is the toughest aspect. Like the newspaper and any other offline pitch, you should never approach a blogger without knowing their name. It’s common courtesy. Now, I won’t say online pitching is easy. It’s extremely difficult. I’ve pitched over 400 times and my response rate is pretty low, which I totally get. Don’t take it personally if they can’t read your book, just say thanks for considering me, and move on. I used to book blog 24/7 and it takes a huge amount of dedication, effort, and love to read and review books. With that in mind, each blogger who takes a chance on me and my books is priceless and worth their weight in gold. I use quotes from their reviews in the front matter of my books. I try to repay them for their kindnesses with exposure, by doing my best to keep up with what they do across multiple social networks, liking, sharing, and commenting on their posts. To find new bloggers, I ask the ones who took a chance on me if there’s anyone they know who might like my books. I also keep track of everyone I’ve written, so I don’t swamp a blogger unintentionally and become a spammer to them. Book blog tours are all about relationship-building. It takes time and patience.
Authors – what have been some of your book marketing successes? Any tips you’d like to share to help others follow in your footsteps?