So you’ve written a great book. It’s piled up in boxes in your garage. You know it’s great and if you’re lucky your family is supportive and your friends are excited about your enthusiasm for your own work.
Family and friends, however, can only get you so far in the book sales stakes.
How do you let the world know about your fabulous book?
You start with your local community – and expand from there.
But before we go on, a warning:
if you’re not willing to stand tall and true with your book
and give it a public face, then hopefully you’re reading this
before you forked out those big bickies for the printer.
Because the stark reality is this: regardless of how fantastic and awesome your book is, unless you plan on holding out for high-hope lotto-like stakes that a) a mainstream publisher is going to stumble across your work and b) love it so much they’ll open the marketing coffers on your behalf – you must be prepared to devote every spare waking and sleeping moment you possess to promoting your book.
You will spend an awful lot of time wondering about how to approach the book industry itself and I would simply advise this: unless you have contacts who are serious players in the industry, you’ll feel like you’re firing pebbles with your little slingshot over the castle wall . . . without ever knowing where they land.
So all that’s left to do is – do it yourself!
And this, friends, is how you do it, starting from the top:
1. Local book stores
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a distributor to take you on (personally I don’t quibble about losing nearly 70% to distributors and retailers – I consider them my ‘team’ and am deeply grateful to them for the work they do on my behalf) – but if you don’t want or can’t find a distributor, you’ll find many local book stores have a ‘local author’ section and will happily stock your book on consignment.
They’ll guide you through invoicing and consignment notices etc etc etc (in praise of distributors).
Yes. You launch your book. You invest in your product and you show the world how much you love it. You hire a room, you put on nice food, you theme the room, you send out invitations to people you know and don’t know (making sure you invite the good folk from the nearest writers’ centre).
You find someone ‘important’ who is willing to launch it (be cheeky!) and – and this is very, very important – you write a speech and tell the world something they didn’t know about you and your work.
And then you invite the local media****(more on this later).
3. Book signings
Plan your signings around calendar events that involve the public buying large quantities of gifts, such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc.
Call your local stores and tell them you’re available. You’ll be surprised how friendly and supportive they are! Make a list of bookshops in large towns and CBDs in your district, lend yourself to a wide geographical area – then hit the road with your little tour.
Make sure your signing table looks great –and always bring along everything you need (don’t assume the shop is going to provide you with anything more than a table). Include a nice tablecloth, book stands, a tray of wrapped chocolates (great icebreaker – in case you haven’t noticed, women love chocolate . . . and women buy books). Also, bring along extra stock in case the store only has limited numbers (and besides, the more books you have on the table, the more you’ll sell, so pile ‘em up!) AND, finally, a great big well-made, professionally designed sign (this is seriously worth the additional outlay).
As well, while we’re on the subject of promotional materials, the only paper flyers I worry about these days are bookmarks. Have bookmarks printed when you print the books – the printer can use the cover cut-offs, which would otherwise be scrap, and reduce costs. Print both sides of the bookmark and hand them out – they’re a wonderful way of introducing yourself to potential readers, because you are offering them something.
4. Local markets
Put that book signing stall to work on the weekends and hold a market stall with your books. This is seriously worth your while because a) it’s extremely cheap public promotion, b) people love to meet authors and c) you will learn how to approach a wide range of people and talk to them about your book in wide ranging ways.
5. Local media
This is where the 4 stars come in ****.
This is the difference between 100 sales and 2000 sales.
This is the difference between recognition and oblivion.
Why? Because media coverage is free.
And because media coverage is free it comes with credibility you can’t buy.
So, wherever you go, from here on until you’ve sold every single copy of your book, every holiday, every visit to a friend – regardless of where you’re going, you contact the local bookshop and tell them you’re a (location)-based author who is coming to town and you’d like to organise a book signing. Rural areas in particular will welcome you with open arms, because the arts are metropolitan-focused industries and people rarely take the time to go to isolated areas.
And while you’re there, think about turning your book writing and/or publishing experience into a talk, workshop or seminar – they’ll love you out there even more, and this also creates sales opportunities.
Then you write a media release.
I’ll keep this short:
• the story is not about you and it is not about your book
• the story is not about you and it’s not about your book
• the story is not about you and it’s not about your book.
Are you sure you’ve got it?
Because this little fact is the singlemost important factor in your success with local media. Indeed, understand this fact and you are a long long way down the road to having journalists choose you, over the thousand other media releases they received today, for an interview.
You are offering them a story idea. So if it’s not about you, what is it about?
Local media is a news organisation. News = what’s new. If you want publicity then they’ll send you down to the advertising department where you can pay for it (and rightly so).
News = what’s new.
What is new about your work – what is its message, what is it saying that hasn’t been said before, what is new (and this is where organising a talk or workshop is very handy, because what’s new is that local people have the opportunity to learn something from you AND if you make it free chances are HIGH local media will be more than happy to reward your generosity with an interview).
Imagine you are bursting with excitement about something relevant to your work. You race home to tell your friend or partner, you burst in the door – what is the first thing you tell them?
This is your lead.
This is the point of your media release.
This is your story.
So, briefly, here’s how to write a media release:
1. date and headline (remember, it’s not about you)
2. 6 short sentences with a space between each sentence explaining ‘what’s new’ and why it would make a great story for their readers or listeners
3. your contact details, including mobile phone number (check, check and double check you have these details correct, including spelling).
A final note of caution: it’s not about you. The story is not yours to control. If you don’t like the story they tell about you, try this on for size: 1) they know their readers and listeners better than you, 2) you probably did say what they said you said and 3) weigh up minor factual errors against the value of the media real estate (space) you’ve just been assigned. I promise you, it’s worth every sale.
And finally – good luck.
Stay focussed. Believe in your work. Have fun.
And remember this: no-one owes you anything.