Once you’ve got a book contract in hand, the last thing on a lot of authors’ minds is self-promotion. The publisher is supposed to do that, right? Riggghhhtt… Actually, unless you’re a veteran author, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find yourself with a red carpet-like publicity campaign. Below I’ve highlighted a few things that authors can tackle to position themselves for success.
1. Local Booksellers – As we all know, having a bookseller who’ll hand-sell your book is as good as gold. Visit your local bookstore and offer to sign the copies of your book on the shelf. Also take along some of those handy “Autographed by Author” stickers. While you’re there, get to know the staff. That personal connection will help keep your book in the forefront of their minds, and it’s always a feather in their cap to know who the local published authors are. It’s a win/win situation.
2. Book Clubs/Readers Groups – Having your book spotlighted by a reader’s group is a wonderful way to harness that always seemingly intangible “word-of -mouth.” Big or small, these groups can have a lot of impact. I remember years ago hearing of one example, Anita Shreve’s RED TENT, which became a word-of-mouth bestseller as a result of reader recommendations and book groups, as well as support from independent bookstores. Before long the media caught up to what many already knew was a fantastic novel. One way you can find local book groups that might be interested in spotlighting your book is by visiting Meetup.com.
3. Author Websites – This is SO important. Authors need websites. If you don’t have one, start planning to make it happen now. Everyone is online, especially your readers. They want to hear from you personally, learn more about your books and see what they can expect next. The easiest and most efficient way to make that happen is via an author website. If you’re not ready to invest in a website just yet, then you do have an alternative. You can start a free blog on Blogger.com or WordPress.com. The way to drive traffic to your blog might be guest blogging on another more established author’s blog. Get your name out as someone who’s fun and engaging. Run contests on your blog, such as giving away ARCs (advanced reader copies) or items from your backlist (if you have any). Or prizes can run the gamut, from your favorite authors to a Starbucks card. Make your blog personable and encourage conversation by responding to people in the comments section. Share the highs and the lows of writing your novel, or even offer excerpts or free short stories that keep readers hooked between release dates.*
4. Virtual Book Tours – One of the best things about a virtual book tour is the ability to talk to people while wearing your pajama pants. There are a number of websites where you can guest blog. For romance writers, websites such as Singletitles.com, CoffeetimeRomance.com and FreshFiction.com are great venues to get the word out, whether through guest blogs, interviews or online book reviews. For science-fiction, SciFiDimensions.com or even the fabulous Magical Words blog. Whatever your genre, there are specific websites that target the reader group you are writing for. Also, one thing we do at The Knight Agency is offer monthly chats (insert shameless plug for an upcoming chat with bestselling author Tommy Newberry on Wednesday, January 28th @ 9pm ET) with our clients, their fans and fellow authors. It’s a great way to make a personal connection with readers across the globe.
5. Hiring a Publicist – So you really want to make a big impact, and you’ve manage to squirrel away some money to hire a publicist. There’s a lot of footwork involved in setting up book tours, pitching and scheduling media appearances and figuring out which online venues are the most impactful. A publicist will be able to handle all of those things for you. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line. If you’re not ready to take that step, there are a lot of things you can do on your own to get yourself primed for success. A few books that might help you along the way include 1001 WAYS TO MARKET YOUR BOOKS by John Kremer and THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BOOK PUBLICITY by Jodee Blanco. If you find that that hiring an outside publicist might be right for you, make sure to get recommendations from fellow authors. Be sure to get references and ask for examples of what successful campaigns the publicist has done in the past. Once they’ve passed the FBI background check (just kidding), make sure you both have a clear picture of what your goals are. How many media impressions will they generate with this campaign? How many reviewers will they pitch your book to? What is the budget? How much of the budget should you set aside for unforeseen expenses such as supplying prizes, traveling expenses, additional communications with the publicist that go beyond the initial budget (very important)?
Well, we’ve chipped a bit off the proverbial promo iceberg. Publicity can be a slippery little sucker. Sometimes certain campaigns take off while others falter, and even the seasoned PR manager can’t pinpoint why the time was right for one person and not someone else. But publicity, like writing, is something you have to keep moving forward on because there are sure to be plenty of bumps in the road. Stick with what works and cut out what doesn’t. Like everything, with time, you’ll learn what avenues work best to keep you and your books in the minds of readers and the media. And perhaps, eventually, you’ll find yourself walking that red carpet.
*Please consult your editor before releasing any excerpts or free short stories to the public.