You’ve spent months—maybe even years—writing, editing, and rewriting your manuscript. You’ve worked your way through the publishing process, whether you’ve published traditionally or self-published, going through copy editing and proofreading, getting a cover designed, seeking endorsements, and doing everything else that needs to be done throughout the entire production process. Your book is nearing publication. You’re about to be a published author. It’s everything you’ve been working for.
And it’s only the beginning.
Finally getting your book published is not the end of the journey. As exciting and rewarding as it can be to see your work in print, to see your name on the cover, to find your book in a bookstore and in the library, you’re by no means done. Publishing your book is just the beginning.
Publicity, marketing, sales … all of that is still to come. In fact, publicity and marketing efforts should begin well before your book actually comes off press. And then those efforts need to continue well after the book is published.
Authors need to fuel their own fires when it comes to marketing and promoting their books. They need to continually build a community of fans and followers who want to buy their books. They need to keep building their platforms. They need to keep building their reputations as subject-matter experts. That doesn’t stop once the book is published.
Many authors believe their publisher will take care of all the marketing, publicity, sales, and distribution. Sadly, most authors are disappointed with these efforts. If I had a dollar for every author who thought his publisher didn’t do enough to promote his book, I’d be rich. Filthy, stinking rich.
A good publisher will put into place a solid marketing plan, working their channels to promote, sell, and distribute the book through various outlets.
A good author also will put into place a solid marketing plan, working his connections to promote and sell the book through various outlets.
Some authors opt to hire marketing and publicity professionals who specialize in working with books and publishing. This can be an effective way to promote your book. It can be expensive, though, and it can be difficult to know whether those efforts actually pay off (i.e., it can be tough to determine the return on investment), but it can be useful. Professionals have connections and channels and opportunities that most individual authors do not. They know how to work those connections and channels and opportunities in ways most authors do not. And, they have the time and resources to work those connections and channels and opportunities.
That said, not all authors have the finances or inclination to hire a publicist. But that doesn’t mean those authors are off the hook—they still need to promote their book. The good news is that there are plenty of things individual authors can do—regardless of what their publisher might do and regardless of what a hired gun might do—to promote their book, to build their platform, and to further establish themselves as subject-matter experts.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Work All of Your Connections
Colleagues, sources, clients, friends, family—everyone! Don’t be shy about this.As soon as the book is available for purchase, send out a personal email and/or even hand-written notes to everyone you know. Let them know that you’ve just published your latest book. Tell them what it was like to research and write the book. Highlight one or two of your favorite stories connected with it. Let them know that you’re available for speaking/presentations/signings, etc. Thank them for their support in the past, and encourage them to buy your latest. Be sure to include a link to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a local bookstore and to your website.
Encourage your connections to review the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Those websites have bizarre algorithms that “push” books with 10 or more reviews more than they do for books with fewer reviews. That means that the more reviews a book gets, the more often it appears in searches. So, the more reviews, the merrier.
Also, look to connect/reconnect with any publications, including local/regional newspapers and magazines, that have written about you in the past or reviewed any of your books. Even if your publisher and/or publicist is working their media contacts, work yours as well. If you have any personal media contacts, send them a copy of the book, perhaps inscribed with a personal message. Follow-up with them to see if they might write an article about you or about the subject you’re covering or if they’ll review the book.
- Make the Most of the Interwebs
Post, tweet, and blog regularly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your website, and any other social media platform where you have accounts.Be sure your website is engaging, comprehensive, and up to date. Your website should be easy to navigate. It should include information about yourself and about your book. At minimum, your website should feature such things as the cover of the book; the table of contents and/or a sample chapter; links to articles, reviews, presentations, etc., about you and/or your book; and information about any events you’re attending so people know where they can catch you at upcoming gigs and also so they can see where else you’ve been.
In addition, create and/or update your author bios at sites like Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Authors Den, etc. Your readers want to learn not just about what you’re writing but also about you and what you’re doing. Remember that promoting your book is not just about your latest title; it’s also about building your brand and establishing yourself as a subject-matter expert. It’s about building your reputation as an author. Use the internet to your advantage, building a community, engaging your readers, and promoting your brand.
- Keep Getting Published
Writing your book is just the beginning. Keep writing, and keep getting your work published. National publications are great, but don’t forget local publications, too, whether that’s a community newspaper or a regional magazine. And look to both traditional and digital media—the format doesn’t matter.If your focus is nonfiction, write related articles and get them placed in various publications. If your focus is fiction, consider placing articles about writing and publishing. Publish short stories or flash fiction. No matter what your book is about, look also for opportunities to write guest blog posts on related websites and blogs. The trick is to keep publishing beyond your book. The more places readers can find you, the more your readership grows, and the more people you can sell your book to.
This can be easier said than done. If you’re having trouble placing articles or stories, use your own website to post those pieces. Post your work on your own blog. Offer your work as guest posts on other blogs.
The goal is to keep publishing and keep getting your name out there and keep engaging your readers.
- Think Local; Act Local; Promote Local
Authors often dream of being reviewed in The New York Times or Publishers Weekly. They imagine being interviewed on “The Today Show” or sitting around the table with Charlie Rose. And of course that would be fabulous. What author wouldn’t love that? But don’t dream just about national or even international exposure: Dream local!Thinking big is great, but thinking small is great, too. Local media, local organizations, local institutions, local bookstores—all of these can offer great opportunities to promote your book and yourself. There are myriad ways to do this:
—Connect with your local library and offer to do a presentation/workshop/session. Community libraries are always looking for programming, and they love to do author events, especially if authors will do it for free or cheap. Reach out not just to the library in your town, but in neighboring towns as well.
—Connect with local associations, organizations, museums, societies, etc. These outlets also offer programming and are always looking for new ideas. For example, if you’re a business author, suggest a presentation to your local chamber of commerce. If you’re a historian, suggest a presentation to your local historical society. If you’re a self-help author, suggest a workshop for your local park district. If you’re a novelist, suggest a presentation to a local writers group.
—Same goes for community colleges. Community colleges are often looking for one-day or half-day lectures. They often have bookstores and/or libraries. Some courses will feature guest speakers or presenters. These can be good opportunities to promote the book and to further brand yourself as a subject-matter expert.
—Connect with local writers groups, book clubs, publishing circles, and the like, whether in the town where you live or in the nearest big city. These can offer good networking opportunities as well as opportunities to discuss your work, promote the book, do readings, etc. Fellow authors often are more than willing to help support the work of other writers. Tap into those networks.
—Connect with local bookstores and offer to do signings/readings/Q&A sessions. Hand-sell the book to them by meeting with the owner, manager, and/or senior bookseller and telling them about yourself, your work, and your book. Offer to sign copies of the book, which they then can sell as an “autographed edition.”
—Connect with local public media (i.e., public television, public radio) and local public access channels. Send a copy of the book to them and offer to go on a broadcast to discuss the book and your work. Look to broadcast media in your town and in your major metropolitan area.
—Some local high schools or even middle schools might be interested in hosting you as a guest speaker, too. An English or Rhetoric teacher might host you to show her students what the writing profession is like. A History teacher might love it if you presented on World War II. An Economics teacher might invite you to share a business lesson.
- Look to the Past
Connect with any colleges or universities you earned degrees from, took classes at, got any certificates, etc. Colleges and universities love to tout how great their alumni are doing. Their own publicity departments might do an article about you and your book for their alumni newsletter/magazine, they might review the book, they might issue a related press release, or they might invite you to make a presentation to students.Send an inscribed copy of the book to former professors or teachers who helped you, who inspired you, who made a difference in your life. Tell them how much you have valued their support in the past. Let them know that they work they have done influenced you and meant something special to you. Thank them with a copy of the book.
Reconnect with any religious or spiritual institutions or groups you’ve belonged to. If a pastor or rabbi has meant a great deal to you, share a copy of the book. Many churches or temples have bookstores, gift shops, or libraries that might carry your book.
Same goes for clubs and organizations you’ve been a member of. The local YMCA. A local scouting organization. Rotary Club. Lion’s Club. Reconnect with members and leadership and let them know about your book. Offer to host a workshop or sit on a panel at their next meeting.
- Get Yourself Institutionalized
Professional associations, community clubs, museums, conferences—there are myriad opportunities to offer yourself and your book as material for a presentation or a workshop or at which you can exhibit your work. Submit a paper. Be a speaker. Tutor a workshop. Local historical societies, service clubs, and chambers of commerce can provide opportunities to get yourself out there. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, organizations aplenty are always looking for speakers and exhibitors. Smaller and local organizations often go overlooked, and so make for interesting venues to tap into.
I could go on and on here. The thing is to open your mind and be creative. Marketing and publicity efforts must go beyond getting interviews and book reviews. Look for ways to promote not just your book but yourself. Begin these efforts several months before your book publishes, and plan on continuing for many months after your book is published. You’re never really done building your brand and your reputation; it’s a constant item on your to-do list. Because publishing your book is just the beginning of your journey as an author.
January 16, 2017