Welcome back to Part 2 of our discussion on how to market your book. Last time we talked about using interviews, book signings, magazine articles, postcards, and the power of partnerships to help market your book. Today, let’s continue the conversation with in-person visits, speaking engagements, and online marketing.
1. In-person visits: If you write for children, in-person visits to schools or libraries where you read parts or perhaps all (if you write picture books) of your book to your target age range can’t be beat. First, you have a captive audience, and second, kids get real excited when they get to meet a genuine author and have that author share his or her book with them. This is nothing but a good thing for the author who is then being talked up by the kids to their parents and grandparents–the ones who need to be influenced the most!
Take advantage of these opportunities by making your reading as fun and interactive as possible so the kids will not forget their experience. Leave them with a token gift that has the name of your latest release on it, and send them home with a marketing sheet of that latest release along with a mention of other books you’ve written. If done properly, these visits will almost always translate into sales and into helping you gain a reputation with your audience. The most important key to these visits is to really connect with the kids and don’t be a phony or condescending. Both are a big-time turnoff for children.
If you don’t write for kids, you still may have an opportunity to do in-person visits, depending on the nature of your book and who your audience is. Think of all the places your audience may congregate, and try to set up a time there where you can share your book in an informal and personal way. Some authors have had success going to coffee shops and doing readings, if their book is of the poetic or literary type. Others may schedule a time at an organizational event where they make themselves available to discuss and answer questions about their book.
Like the children’s writers, you can also do library visits. Design some marketing materials such as fliers and posters, and work with the library to promote your visit. Be sure to indicate the nature of the book you will be discussing so you get the right audience to come see you. You could incorporate a book signing as well, but make sure that you spend most of your time in Q & A, reading, or discussing your book. The idea behind the in-person visit is much like a campaigning politician: you want to appear personable and in-touch with your audience. People will be more excited about your book if you can get them excited about you.
2. Speaking engagements: These are different from in-person visits in that they’re not meant to be quite as informal and personable. Of course, you still need to be personable, by taking questions after you speak, meeting with your audience, and so forth, but the main idea is to more formally address your audience on a topic related to your book, or perhaps the book itself. If your target audience isn’t part of a group that would naturally congregate (as in a trade industry, people that share a hobby or sport, or a religious denomination), check around your community for places where you could speak then advertise to bring your target audience to you. Certain civic groups are often in need of speakers, and if you can find familiar ground between their needs and what your book is about, you should be able to capture an audience using their resource channels. If your audience is such that they do form established organizations, find out if they have national or state chapters, if they hold regular events, and how they book speakers.
The frequency, regularity, and group size you speak to is a huge part of any author’s platform, both before the book contract and after. Once your book is released, speaking is an excellent way to promote it and capture a following as an expert in your field (even if that field happens to be writing novels).
3. Online marketing: This segment of the marketing mix for has become the largest for many writers for several reasons, not the least of which is that it’s free. And with all the advances in technology, this segment is continuously growing and changing to the writer’s advantage. Here are a few ways to capitalize on this form of marketing:
• Schedule a virtual tour for your book–many authors swear by these tours for generating interest and a following for their books. The way they work is that you contact other writers in your genre, organizations related to the topic of your book, book review sites, and any online source where you believe you might find your audience. Then schedule specific dates or time frames when these various places will showcase your book and perhaps an interview with you on their site or blog. Announce this schedule on your own website, blog, and other social media you use to let your followers know where you and your book will be–virtually speaking–and when.
It’s helpful to hold book giveaways or contests throughout your tour to keep people interested and checking in with you. And be sure to have something a little different on each site (talk about something unique in each interview, for example, or focus your discussion on a different aspect of your book) so people will want to follow your tour. At each stop on the tour, make sure to lead them back to your website to purchase your book.
• Announce your events: Use the likes of Facebook and Twitter to let your audience know what events (speaking engagements, book signings, etc.) you have coming up, as well as any reviews that have been written about your book (the good ones, of course!), or any articles it was mentioned in. This may not translate into direct sales, but it’s just one more way to promote.
• Video trailers: More and more, we see authors turning to video trailers to promote themselves and their book. Whether it’s formatted like a movie trailer with a built-in teaser, or if it’s a short clip of you speaking on your topic (or both), this can be a very effective way to get people’s attention about your latest release. You can simply post such trailers on your own site, or incorporate them on your virtual tour. These work well with pre-buy situations before your book ever hits the shelves to start creating pull-through interest for your book.
• Hanging out in forums: Going onto others’ blog sites or forums where your target audience may be lurking is a great way to give yourself some exposure. If you have a book on kite flying, and you begin commenting on posts (based on the expert advice given in your book) where kite-flying enthusiasts hang out, you now have a built-in, captive audience to which you can promote your book. Be careful not to use your posts strictly for publicity, however, or you will turn people off in a hurry. Take some time to set yourself up as an expert, include your website address on your posts, and just happen to mention that you wrote a book on the subject!
Being on these forums and blogs can also help you find potential places to speak on your topic as well as find some hidden places where your audience might be.
There are a couple of downsides to online marketing. One is that it can be extremely time consuming. It’s important to see which forms of this marketing work for you and stick with those. And, you must be disciplined about the time you spend marketing online or you will no longer have any time to write! The internet has a way of sucking us into its abyss. Another downside is that sales from online marketing cannot always be directly tracked. Sometimes you may get feedback from your buyers telling you how they discovered your book, but often this is not the case. But whenever you’re getting the word out about your latest release and promoting it directly to your target market, some good will come of it.
If you have an experience with any of the above when it comes to book promotion, or if you’ve done some other creative forms of marketing that haven’t been discussed, I’d love to hear from you. Us writers are always looking for great marketing ideas that work.