Whether your book is traditionally produced or self-published, your marketing goal should be to get it in front of as many potential readers as possible. Unfortunately, they’re probably not going to come to you. You’re going to have to find them.
Having an effective online presence is no longer optional. It’s one of the key factors traditional publishers consider when they decide whether to offer you a contact. They want to know how many followers you have on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. If you have a blog – and you should - they want to know how many readers you have and the size of your email list. What they are really trying to determine is whether you have an engaged audience and an effective way to reach them. As important as this is in the traditional publishing world, it’s even more critical for self-publishers.
If you have not built an audience for your book yet, don’t despair. Developing your author platform is not as daunting as it sounds. Start with the basics.
You need a website. In our next post we’re going to talk about an easy, inexpensive way to get a beautiful website up and running in no time. It will be a site you can update yourself whenever you like. No programmers, engineers or designers.
You need an email list associated with your website. This post describes how to set one up for free. It’s mind-bogglingly easy.
You also need a social presence. Start with Facebook. Create a page for yourself as an author or for your book that is separate from your personal profile. It’s free. Here’s a post that will help you get set up.
When your website and Facebook page are ready, the next step is to attract interested followers also known as potential customers. You do that by regularly posting fresh and relevant content.
For your website that could mean adding images or writing short articles or blog posts. For Facebook it means posting pictures, sharing interesting posts from other pages and passing along announcements of events that might interest your audience. Here’s a post about finding topics for Facebook. It was written with promoting history programs in mind, but you’ll still find a number of practical and easy suggestions.
Questions can work well on social media. But they have to be interesting not pointless queries like what’s your favorite color. Write questions related to your topic. Ask if anyone knows who lived in the penthouse of the Grand Hotel during the big storm of 1913. Find out whether your readers can identify a vintage photo of a mystery building or person. Give them a reason to share your material with their friends and family and to keep an eye on your posts.
Pay attention to how your audience reacts to various types of content. You’ll quickly get a feel for what they like. Give them more of that.
Tours and Events
If you do tours, bring books to each session and offer them to the participants. Many of them will gladly purchase a copy as a souvenir.
If you don’t offer tours, but there is someone who does and you think your book compliments their itinerary or theme, ask them if they’d be interested in selling your book. Use the wholesaler pricing model we discussed in the last post.
If you do sit-down events or presentations, offer your books at the end of your program. This is known as selling from the back of the room and can be quite lucrative.
If you aren’t already doing presentations, I encourage you to develop a few short programs around your book topic. I developed a series of PowerPoint presentations called The Time Machine to promote my two books on the history of Marietta, Ohio. I created a slide show of interesting vintage pictures of local sites and people. I didn’t actually have to say that much. I just showed the old photos, described them and let people ask questions or make comments. I had several programs and I did the presentations for service clubs, civic organizations, at retirement centers and churches. I always sold several books at the end of the event. For more on how to put something like this together, read this post.
Try to place your books in newsstands, museums and museum shops. Don't overlook hotels, gift shops, antique stores and souvenir stands. Other not so obvious possibilities include real estate companies, chambers of commerce and visitors’ bureaus. Refer to our previous post for an explanation of how to price your books as a wholesaler.
At a typical bookstore signing, the author sits at a table with a stack of books and waits for people to approach. It’s passive and boring for both the author and potential readers. This sort of event rarely leads to many sales.
Think beyond the traditional bookstore model. How about holding a signing in a clothing boutique or a kitchen shop? Could you hold your event in a restaurant, bar, historic house or a museum? How about outdoors in a park?
Rather than sitting and waiting for people to come forward, find a way to reach out and engage them. Create a special slide show of your most intriguing pictures as described above. Tell a few ghost stories or share the antics of the most colorful characters in your book.
Whatever you decide to cover, keep your program short and make it as entertaining as you can. It’s not an educational lecture. It’s not force feeding readers what you think they ought to hear. It’s marketing. Your goal is to sell books. And you do that by convincing your soon-to-be customers that your book is worth their precious time and money.