These days, marketing budgets even for the Big Five publishers have dwindled to the point that today’s question is one of the most popular topics at publishing conferences around the globe. Unless you’re among the elite of best-selling authors, you’ll find that promotions like publisher-paid launch events and author tours are nostalgic memories of an earlier era. In fact, even if you land a contract with an imprint under the Big Five, your book may be represented only by an in-house assistant who has a month or so to email potential media outlets—then will move on to the next assignment.
So my message this week is: Take heart! And, take action! The latest issue of Publishers Weekly magazine reports that, once again, books sales continue to rise year after year. And, print books remain very popular, along with digital and audio books. Americans’ fundamental love of books is solid.
But, as an author today, if you’re serious about sustained marketing of your work, you’re likely to find yourself hiring an outside public-relations rep—or managing the marketing yourself. In previous blog posts, I’ve described using social media and Goodreads to help get your book news out, but what else can an author do to bring attention to their new neonate?
First and foremost, keep an eye on your book’s listings in online bookstores. Schedule a look at both Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com at least weekly—starting with a very basic check on whether your book is still available. As David Crumm described recently, Front Edge Publishing has tools that monitor this for our authors. However your book has been published, you’re a part of this process, as well. Checking your online listings should be your No. 1 priority. Make sure that your book pages are current and reflect your book in its best light.
Use your local press. Regional newspapers always look for local-interest stories and the fact that a local resident has published a new book is certainly newsworthy, especially if you present it in a professional and intriguing way. The first question a newspaper editor is likely to ask is: “Why is your book timely?” Consider your answer, which can be the difference between a short local news item and a major feature story. Once again, this is part of the assistance a professional can provide. Or, you can learn more about this through online sources. Here’s a very helpful overview of the process from Dave Chesson. And that tip about timeliness I just offered? In his column, Dave puts it in bold-face! “To write a successful press release you have to be newsworthy.” He also stresses the quality of your work: Don’t make it “spammy or crummy.”
(Note: Care to see an example of a Front Edge Publishing press release? Here’s a recent piece I wrote for the release of Rabbi Riemer’s new book.)
Local radio and television shows also are looking for newsworthy interviewees—including authors who will help them engage their audience. Make sure you let local media professionals—including radio and TV—know why you’d be a great interview.
Talk to local libraries—all of them! Your local library may welcome your inquiries as an author. Offer to do a book reading in exchange for the opportunity to sell and sign copies of your book to patrons—but don’t be surprised if your offer is turned down. In early 2018, we are hearing from our authors that libraries vary widely in their policies on local authors. In some cases, librarians seem to be besieged by local authors, have tight budgets for hosting events and are rejecting nearly all offers. In other cases, persistent authors are finding open arms in some libraries and are signing up for these local opportunities. That’s why it’s crucial to keep visiting libraries, even if you don’t succeed in your first stop—or your first few stops. Another idea for such settings is to produce 4” x 6” postcards from online vendors like Vista Print and distribute them in welcoming venues. Some libraries regularly schedule gatherings for local writers, where passing out postcards can make new allies.
Consider schools. Is your book appropriate material for school aged children or adult ed? Contact your local school system and find out if any teachers might be interested in having a local author make a presentation, either to the students themselves or to fellow educators who might help influence book purchasing by the school district. Again, take media with you like a flyer or postcard. Remember: Like library inquiries, some calls and emails may be rejected—but keep at it. You may find a welcoming host.
Book clubs or small groups based in local congregations are terrific venues. To find book clubs in your area do some searches on Facebook, ask local librarians, check with local congregations, or just ask on your social media. Offer to appear at a meeting of the group or club. Make sure you have a short presentation ready, 5 to 15 minutes, and then open the floor to questions. I recently attended a meeting at my local historical society, where the group was pleased to host a local author who wrote a book about the Native Americans who once lived in the region. He brought his book and also some visual aids. His presentation was brief and engaging.
Think about advertising. Finally, look for advertising opportunities that make sense for your book. One that we have used at Front Edge Publishing is the Library Market e-blast that the Independent Book Publishers Association produces in cooperation with the Library Resource Group (LibraryWorks) quarterly for librarians. IBPA sends dedicated eBlasts containing only 15 member titles to a select group of 5,000 librarians who are targeted based on their market criteria. It’s a great way to get your book in front of targeted buyers who are the most likely to purchase your book.
Marketing your book is an ongoing process. It should start almost as soon as you fingers first touch the keyboard to tap out that first chapter. It doesn’t end when your book is published—and it isn’t over after a few weeks, or even a year later. If your goal is to sell books, you will be marketing forever.