Book Marketing Basics – Part 2

My last post gave some reasons why it is advisable for authors, especially self-published ones, to play an active part in marketing their own books. For this post I have drawn on my own recent experience to suggest a selection of methods which may work for you, even if you have a limited budget or you feel uncomfortable with self-promotion.

Internet marketing is potentially a powerful tool, but personal contact and old-fashioned ‘word of mouth’ are still important and it is advisable to make use of both methods.

You will obviously want to tell your family and friends about your book, and this can often be done by email. However, beware  of ‘spamming’ people whom you do not really know even though their address has found its way into your contact list. You can also write to relevant societies and organisations, preferably on an individual basis.

The message is best kept fairly short and factual, and should not come across as ‘pushy’. Include links to further information such as a web page describing the book’s content, a free sample chapter, even a YouTube video or an audio clip. Remember to say where to buy it. Finish with a request to forward the message on to others who might be interested. If you belong to networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, post the information there too.

Arrange a launch event soon after publication. This could be held in a local library or bookshop; at a venue appropriate to the subject of the book, for example at a sports club or in a healthcare setting; even in your own home. Send personal invitations to selected people, distribute some printed or electronic flyers, and ask for RSVPs so that you have some idea of numbers for catering purposes. Copies of the book, and perhaps any previous ones you have published, should obviously be on sale at the event and most buyers will want you to sign them with a brief personal message. A suitable timetable might include half an hour of light refreshments while the guests are assembling, half an hour for you to give a talk about the book and read some extracts from it, then half an hour for questions, discussion, more refreshments and of course selling and signing books.

There may be ongoing opportunities for talks and presentations, at meetings of local societies or at larger conferences. For example I have spoken about my own recent book Focus on Healing at various events attended by natural therapists, and at gatherings for members of a breast cancer charity.

Printed cards, fliers or bookmarks can be distributed through libraries and other suitable settings, or given to people you meet. You can be creative with the design but it is best to relate it to the appearance of the book, probably using the same image as that on the cover so that people will recognise it.

Write to relevant journals, magazines, newspapers and websites to ask if they would like to review the book or publish a feature about it. You may decide to send out unsolicited review copies anyway, but this takes time and money, and does not guarantee a response. If you do get a review it may well take a long time to appear, and will not necessarily be positive – though it is said there is no such thing as bad publicity, and a really damning review sometimes stimulates people to read the book out of curiosity.

‘Special offers’ may be worthwhile, for example you could suggest combining your book with another product for a limited period, or posting out gift-wrapped copies for Christmas.

Writing articles or giving interviews for websites, blogs or paper publications will help to get your name known, without necessarily promoting the book directly.

This is not a complete list of marketing techniques but I hope it provides some ideas for those starting to explore the world of self-publishing.

Book Marketing Basics – Part 1

Like most authors I would rather focus on writing books than on selling them. I tend to write for my own interest and enjoyment, not for a particular market niche. This is one reason that the fiction books I wrote in my younger days were rejected – unless manuscripts have outstanding merit, publishers require them to fit into a recognized genre and mine did not. I was luckier with my medical books, written while I was working in hospital and university settings. These had a ready-made readership and the very first one was adopted as a course text without any effort on my part. Other aspects of marketing were handled by my publishers with minimal input from me.

All this changed after I moved from the UK to New Zealand in 2000 and became self-employed. I no longer had a reputation in professional circles. I wanted to write about new fields in which I had no special expertise. At the same time, sales of printed books were starting to decline. Although I did succeed in having a few other books published in the traditional way over this period, self-publishing now seems to me the most promising route for the future.

Self-publishing has become a viable and respectable option. The technology is advancing rapidly and already offers many different methods for producing an e-book (electronic) and / or a p-book (printed) at reasonable price. So anybody can now publish their work without having to compete with other writers and suffer a long stream of rejection slips. But the element of competition has shifted to a later stage in the process – with so many books available, how do you persuade readers to buy your own? If you want to spread your book’s message, and to make any profit at all, you will have to play an active part in marketing.

One option is to employ a professional agency to do it for you, but this can be quite costly and there is no guarantee of success. Similarly, advertisements are expensive and often have disappointing results. Though I am by no means a natural sales-person nor an expert in marketing, I have learned a few low-cost techniques and will write about these in my next post.