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Creative Book Promotion Ideas for the Overwhelmed Author

By Patricia L. Fry 

How many books did you sell last year? Was yours one of the ten titles that sold more than a million copies or one of the 76 percent (948,000 titles) that sold fewer than 100 copies? If your book is in this whopping majority, it's not necessarily because it's poorly written or because it lacks an audience. It's probably because you quit promoting.  

Either you've given up on promotion too soon or you just don't have the ideas, resources, tools, and/or impetus to run a marketing campaign. Of course, you realize that promotion is ongoing. When promotion stops, book sales drop. What is an overwhelmed, inexperienced author to do? Let's get creative. Start here: 

bulletResearch the process of book promotion. Find out everything you can about book promotion and then focus on those promotional activities that seem to sell books like yours. For example, novel sales typically respond to book reviews, and speaking engagements sell nonfiction books.

Note: You can learn about book promotion by reading my book, The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book (Matilija Press) and 1001 Ways to Promote Your Books by John Kremer (Open Horizons). Subscribe to Book Promotion Newsletter (www.bookpromotionnewsletter.com). Join SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) www.spawn.org and read the monthly SPAWN Market Update.  

bulletAdopt a marketing mindset. Vow to actively promote your book. Determine your promotional comfort zone and stretch at least a little beyond those boundaries. Let's say that you enjoy pursuing online promotional opportunities, you're willing to write and send press releases and you can maintain your website. You might add to this repertoire a book review and article-writing campaign.
bulletPut yourself on a schedule. Commit to so many hours each week devoted to book promotion or a certain number of promotional contacts each day.
bulletSet marketing or sales goals and keep raising the bar.

Following are eight creative promotional ideas to help you achieve success with your great book. 

1: E-mail Press Releases to Newspaper Column Editors. Find newspapers listed online at www.newspapers.com or www.newspaperlinks.com. Locate the appropriate editor for your category: cooking and foods, outdoor living, seniors, fitness and health, the arts, family or spiritual, for example. Write a brief press release about your book and include your phone number so the editor can call you for a copy of your book and/or an interview.

If yours is a historical novel, a romance or horror story, locate newspapers in the appropriate geographic area, contact the book review editor and/or search for a local or national hook to use when making the contact. Maybe your novel or your children's book features a character with a specific ailment. If that ailment has been in the news, lately, this might be a good time to promote your book to newspapers nationwide.

2: Make News. Go out and do something newsworthy. If your book is on dog training, offer to teach volunteers at a local animal shelter to work with the dogs that are waiting for adoption. If your novel features the homeless community, spearhead a program for the homeless. And be sure to tell the press about it. 

3: Publish an Online Newsletter and/or a Blog. If you have several books in the same genre, a business or advocacy group related to your book and/or an endless supply of information on the topic, consider publishing an online newsletter or start a blog. Most online newsletters are free and many of them have subscribers numbering into the thousands. Karen Stevens advertises her book, All for Animals, in her monthly newsletter, which is designed to educate and inform readers on cruelty-free living for animals. I also know novelists who circulate newsletters related to their book characters. 

Once you establish your newsletter or blog, don't be shy about spreading the word via the Internet, through your business cards, by word of mouth, at your website, in online forums related to your topic and so forth. 

4: Talk About Your Book Everywhere You Go. I've sold books at the baseball field, in line at the grocery store, at my class reunion, while waiting at the doctor's office, and even in church. It's not necessary to make a pest of yourself. Just be prepared to talk about your book should the opportunity arise-- and keep books handy. Last December, while at my hairdresser's, I asked if anyone needed autographed copies of my local history book for Christmas gifts this year. I sold four. Contact http://www.toastmasters.org for information about honing your communication skills. 

5: Give Incentives to Buy. Offer a free chapter or two on your website or nicely bound as a handout. Give away advertising bookmarks. Package your book with an interactive CD or some other item. I've thought about packaging my Hawaiian luau book with a lei-making kit or uli-ulis (feather gourds). I could include a journal and a pen with my journaling book.

6: Give Seminars, Workshops and Demonstrations. Teddy Colbert, the author of The Living Wreath, often demonstrates how to make wreaths from live plants. Debbie Puente is the author of Elegantly Easy Crème Brulee and Other Custard Desserts. She frequently gives demonstrations in how to make crème brulee. Do these authors sell books through these events? Absolutely. For a book of poetry, offer a fun interactive demonstration whereby the audience gets to practice writing a haiku, for example. 

7: Seek Exposure in Even the Less Obvious Places. Have you looked into getting your novel reviewed at www.allreaders.com, www.complete-review.com, https://dannyreviews.com or www.mostlyfiction.com? Here are a few additional book review sites: www.romantictimes.com, www.yesmagazine.com www.spikemagazine.com. Also research magazines and newsletters that run book reviews. There are many, including, Iconclast, Bibliophilos, Today's Christian Woman, January Magazine, Mothering Magazine and InnerSelf Magazine, to name a few. 

8: Market By the Season. You probably intensify your promotional efforts during the Christmas/Hanukah holidays. But do you give any thought to the other seasons? Push gardening and travel books for summer reading and novels during winter when people like to curl up with a good book. I market my Hawaiian luau book for Father's Day in June and my grandparenting book for Grandparent's Day in September. For more seasonal marketing ideas go to: http://www.brownielocks.com

Are you at the end of your promotional patience and know-how? Have your book sales dipped as a result? Revive your book by applying some of the ideas above and just watch your book sales soar. 

Patricia Fry is the author of 25 books including The Right Way to Write, Promote and Sell Your Book, www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html. Enjoy her publishing blog at www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.

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