This is a guest post by Bill Johnson. Johnson is the author of A Story is a Promise and The Spirit of Storytelling, a writing workbook. He is also the web master of storyispromise.com, a web site that explores principles of storytelling through reviews of popular movies, books and plays. Spirit is now available on Amazon Kindle.
As the office manager for a writers group with over 1,500 members, I’m often asked by newly published or self-published authors, what do I do to promote my book?
First, it’s easier to get an announcement about a talk into a local newspaper than a lone author doing a book signing. Many authors have some lifetime experience they can speak about at a local library. Some libraries also allow book sales for a nominal commission. Local community colleges also often rent rooms on weekends for a small fee, and such locations generally offer easy parking and access.
My most dependable resource for getting the word out about these kinds of events has been a local alternative weekly (most major cities have one). These weeklies generally have a bulletin board in their print editions that anyone can put notices in for .95+ cents a word. (Online bulletin boards are vastly cheaper, but you get what you pay for).
If you have an event, always keep fliers and have a few books in your car. Bookmarks and post cards are also good resources that you can distribute; Avery provides templates for creating them. There are online services that will print small quantities of inexpensive business cards that can include the cover of your book.
If you are near a community college, see if they have a continuing education program that offers non-credit classes. Such programs are frequently open to instructors with new class ideas. Teaching a workshop at a community college will help raise your newsworthy standing.
If an author is determined to do a book signing at a book store, I suggest they set up a signing with at least three other authors who write in a similar genre. I’ve also known authors who banded together to set up a signing at a table in a mall.
I advise new authors to think long and hard about putting down money for table space at another author’s book fair, unless money is not an issue. If you choose to be involved in a book fair, look for one that is part of a larger event that generates foot traffic.
If you do want to do a book release party, contact a local book store and see if they can accommodate you. Many book stores are set up to handle authors giving short presentations. This is where a well-designed media kit can make a great first impression.
If you are really determined to promote a book on the internet but have limited computer skills or internet access, I suggest a web site like authorsden.com. On this site an author can copy and paste info about their book, start a blog, post articles and news of events, all for $25 for three months.
This kind of site can be especially valuable to people self-publishing books of poetry, because poems can easily be posted on the author’s page and receive comments from other authors and visitors. Knowing you have readers is encouraging.
Prlog offers a free service for sending out PR announcements. I’ve never had great success with these kind of announcements for local authors getting picked up for distribution, however.
If you can’t get a response from a major newspaper in your area, contact someone at your local neighborhood paper. I’ve known a number of authors who have been interviewed and featured in smaller, community papers.
Does your town have a local public access radio station called Golden Hours? See if you can get interviewed about your book.
Whatever kind of event you set up, NEVER depend on anyone else (including book stores, loved ones, friends, or fellow authors) to send out your PR. Always do it yourself to be sure it gets out. And if you send out notices to local papers or magazines, make the effort to read their submission guidelines. A third of the PR notices I receive are deleted because the authors didn’t bother to find out my guidelines, like someone sending me a website link and telling me I can go there and write an announcement for them.
Ask your extended family if anyone has any media contacts or would be willing to do a book review and post it online. In general, the more relevant links you have on the web, the higher your search engine rating (some search engines discount links on link farms, where thousands of links are posted indiscriminately; that’s what you’re getting with some of the paid services).
Writing a book is a creative process, but marketing a book requires a different kind of mental focus, determination and planning. But if you put yourself out there in the world, you’ll come across avenues to promote your book you never knew existed.