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.

Happy Labor Day!!

I wanted to post today about ideas that can work for us when it comes to promoting our writing. Not all these ideas will work for every single person, and some may work better than others, depending on the type of writing you do. If you write for kids, you may have better success with personal visits than if you write adult nonfiction. But I believe there are tips and ideas in here that every writer can use with success at some point or another. Because there are quite a few, I will break this post into two separate articles, the second of which will be posted next week.

1. Interviews: Whether you’re able to get a radio, TV, or print spot on your behalf, interviews can be an excellent way to not only promote your work, but also to promote yourself as an author. People are more likely to buy from you when they feel they know a little about you. As you allow your personality to shine through and make a genuine effort to connect with your audience, that can go a long way toward book sales. An added benefit is when the interview is connected to, and points the audience to, an event that is soon to take place with your book, like a book signing or a speaking event.

2. Book signings: Books signings have met with varying degrees of success for most authors. Popular authors can always generate a crowd, so they can set up national tours and have lines of people waiting for them when they get to the bookstore. But for most of us “average” or beginner authors, we need more help to draw the crowds in. As mentioned above, if you can arrange an interview ahead of a book signing, that will boost your book-signing audience.

Also, realize that it is going to be up to you to promote your signing, and don’t wait for the bookstore to do it for you. If you can start promoting 2-3 weeks ahead of your signing with fliers, Facebook/Twitter announcements, postcards, word-of-mouth, etc. you will see much bigger crowds than if you left it up to the bookstore promoters.

3. Magazine articles: It’s amazing to me how many authors neglect this very rich soil of book promotion. If you wisely target magazines that are relevant to the book you’re promoting, you will have a built-in, captive audience to which you can market your book. Some magazine publishers will offer to let you promote your book in your closing bio instead of paying you for writing the article; some will let you promote and pay you too! If someone is interested enough in your topic to read your article, there’s a good chance they’ll also be interested in your book.

Also, you can use the magazine space to publish an excerpt of your actual book. In this case, you’re not doing any extra work, so if you don’t get paid, it won’t be a huge deal. And the benefit is that the readers are now getting a firsthand glimpse of part of your book, which should entice them even more to buy it. When you consider how large certain magazine readerships are (and you should target the largest ones you can), this is really a big bang for your buck (especially since it’s not costing you anything).

For those who write for children, consider writing articles for industry magazines, or trade magazines that target issues your children’s book may deal with. You can also write for newsletters that different children’s organizations or even writers’ conferences may publish.

4. Postcards: Postcards can come in two forms–direct mail postcards that show up in a person’s physical mail box, and e-postcards that show up in an email inbox. The downside of the first type, is, of course, the expense. It will cost to get them printed and delivered, although you can print them yourself with the right software templates and graphics packages. But there is still an expense involved. The upside is that is can make more of an impact when someone actually holds the card in their hand instead of it being viewed on the computer and being only a click away from being deleted.

Postcards work best when they are sent out as part of a marketing mix and not just by themselves. They can be used as a follow-up, for example, to a larger internet push you did a couple of weeks back. Or they can be used as a reminder of a speaking event you are holding in conjunction with your book promotion. You can also give them away at book signings in hopes that people will pass them on to others, or as a reminder of an event that is to be held at a future date after the signing.

Postcards can be more useful to people and therefore, stand a higher chance of not being tossed, if you put something worth keeping on the back side (a calendar of your events; an activity that may tie in to your book, like a recipe or a kids’ game, etc.)

5. Establishing partnerships: This works best for nonfiction books, but I’ve known some fiction writers who have gotten very creative and come up with organizational partnerships for their novels, too. Find nonprofits or various organizations that provide a natural tie-in for the topic covered in your book, and approach them about working with you to help promote the book as a resource. Many writers have hit the jackpot with partnership promotions as the organizations will make the book available on their website, advertise it in their publications, and take it with them to sell along with their own resources when they travel to industry events.

Partnerships are worth investing some research time into, as they can pay off with huge dividends if you find partners who are willing to work on your behalf.

Come back next week when I’ll discuss speaking engagements and online marketing! In the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments about what marketing efforts have and haven’t worked for you.

I’m gearing up to teach at the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference in early March. Doing so made me think that a lot of writers are also getting ready for the busy writing conference season ahead and are preparing to put their best foot forward when they meet with editors and publishers.

With that in mind, I’d like to address one aspect of preparation: the one-sheet proposal. The one sheet is just that–one sheet geared to a specific book idea. This is obviously quite different than a full proposal, which can be upwards of fifty pages or so.

The idea behind the one sheet is to present your idea, not your actual writing. One sheets are great for conferences or anytime you only have a few minutes to present your book idea to a prospective buyer. Most publishers discourage bringing an entire proposal to a conference because (1) it’s rather cumbersome to carry everywhere; and (2) they won’t have adequate time to read it anyway.

An effective one sheet, however, can serve the purpose of getting an editor interested enough in your idea that he or she requests a proposal from you. So let’s take a look at what a one sheet looks like…

Add the working title of your book front and center toward the top of the page, just below your contact info. Keep in mind that eventually your title will more than likely get changed by the publisher, so don’t get too attached to it!

Next, write two or three sentences maximum for your book’s concept. What you write could also be referred to as your “elevator speech”: What would you say to an editor if you met one in an elevator and wanted to pitch your book idea? If you can’t summarize your book in two or three sentences, it probably isn’t clear enough in your own mind yet.

You’ll also want to include a brief (one paragraph) synopsis of your book. Here, you’ll expound on your concept and offer specifics on what your book is about and what purpose you intend for it to have: How will it affect your audience? Why is it important? If you’re writing a novel, give a basic overview of your plot line, the main characters, and the book’s theme.

Your next section will be market potential, where you define your target audience, offer statistics and research on the size of your market and why your book is important to this market, and how you plan on reaching your audience. You can also include your platform in this section–what will you do to help market your book? If you have an extensive platform that you know will be a huge selling point for you, you’ll want to create a separate section just for that.

After market potential, add a section on comparative titles or the marketing edge your book has over other similar books on the market already. Do your homework and list a few titles that are like yours, yet give specifics on how your book will differ from what’s already out there.

Final sections include a short bio of your writing experience, especially as it relates to your book, along with any other relevant experience you may have; the proposed length of the book; and the completed time frame of when you can finish writing the book if you were offered a contract (most publishers would expect the book to be completed in 6-9 months).

This seems like a lot to fit on one page, but it can be done. Make sure every word counts and that you’re only including information that is absolutely necessary to help sell your book idea. A well-written one sheet should be very readable so that it can be quickly scanned by an editor, with all the important aspects easy to find.

I realize this was a quick overview of a lengthy topic, so if you have any questions on constructing a one sheet, please share your comment!