Monday, 14 June 2010
Marketing and promoting a book
At its most basic level, book marketing consists of the following:
1) Identifying and reaching the target audience
2) Telling them that your book is available
3) Persuading them to read it
As this article is following on from my earlier article about self-publishing, it’s aimed mainly at people marketing books they’ve published independently. However, I hear time and time again how important it is even for authors/illustrators who’ve published through traditional routes to market and promote their book. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a publisher who’s dedicated to promoting your book… there’s still plenty you can do yourself as the author or illustrator to make the book as successful as possible.
The three most common venues in which most self-published authors sell their books are through local book retailers, online booksellers, and independent booksellers.
There’s a really great article here about submitting your book to wholesalers, and getting it stocked by Waterstones, Amazon etc.
It’s fairly easy to get your book sold through Amazon. Amazon is massive… it gets a huge amount of traffic and your book may crop up alongside those published by big publishing houses in their ‘similar books’ lists or in readers’ lists. Amazon also allow readers to rate books so you might get some audience feedback, and they have a bestseller list that is updated every hour. There’s a good article here on getting your book onto Amazon specifically.
Web marketing can be really effective… a good website which discusses online promotion is http://www.redlemonclub.com/
You should also create a site specifically for your book and include any news, reviews, information about personal appearances that you might be making etc. If your book is for young children, write a section aimed at parents to explain why children love your book and how it benefits them.
You can even go on a virtual ‘blog tour’ promoting your book… try to get featured on as many children’s book blogs and websites as possible. Elizabeth Craig (writing on this website) has some good tips for keeping your online promotion fresh and interesting: “Try a variety of different approaches on your blog tour: interview your character, throw a contest, post on the writing craft, and do a straight-forward interview. Try to mix it up online if you’re going to lots of different sites.”
Sue Collier has written a great article here about how to maximise the effectiveness of your online book marketing. She makes the important point that you should begin promoting your book well before the publication or launch date… creating a buzz around the book before it’s out can make the launch a lot more exciting and perhaps capture the interest of reviewers.
She has another really great piece here about how important it is to get your book reviewed… some bookshops won’t consider stocking your book unless they know there’s a review coming. It’s incredibly difficult to get a review of your book in the national media, (especially if it’s a self-published book,) but local papers and local radio are open to new writers, especially if you can emphasize the local link or if your book has some topical relevance. Approaching newspapers or magazines is also a good idea… submit press releases to editors but also look out for sub-editors who might have a particular interest in your subject-matter. (There are some tips here for writing a press release.)
In fact in general emphasizing a ‘local’ angle can be useful, especially if your local area has arty or literary associations. As an example… I know a lovely shop/cafe in my area that has a section supporting local author/illustrators. I haven’t tried stocking any of my books there, and I wouldn’t expect to sell a lot of copies that way… but then again I know I’ve bought other people’s books there because I’ve been interested in the ‘local illustrator’ angle!
Having an official book launch can be a very good idea. It can kick-start your sales, and give you the opportunity to make your book available to reviewers ahead of the official launch date. Reviewers want to review books that are coming out soon, not books that have been out for a while.
Getting into libraries: I recommend this blog post by Abigail Goben about how you can get your book taken up by libraries.
If the book you’re promoting is a children’s book, it can be a good idea to get involved with school visits or talks in libraries. You can consider doing talks on writing or illustrating in general which might feature readings from your book. Or organising workshops with children based on themes from your book, leading drawing workshops, or readings with activities and games thrown in. Here’s a friend of mine (the lovely illustrator El Ashfield) taking part in a reading for children at the launch of the book 'Ralph is Not a Superhero' in Waterstones. (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/video/video.php?v=513930030652)
I also once wrote up a Brighton Illustrators Group talk I attended with Tony de Saulles, illustrator of Scholastic's fantastic Horrible Science series, where he talked about how much he enjoyed these kind of school visits. He talked about teaching children how to do some of the cartooning techniques that he uses in his Horrible Science books.
You can see Tony's website here: http://www.tonydesaulles.co.uk/ and El's here: http://www.ralphisnotasuperhero.co.uk/ ...both really good examples of how to promote your books well online as well as in person!
Barbara Cohen (writing on the wonderful ‘Purple Crayon’ website) notes that bookshops also sometimes have children’s story hours where they may welcome an author/illustrator doing readings and signing books… although she suggests that these events are less common than they used to be. She also makes the point that big city bookshops which are used to hosting ‘big names’ are unlikely to be interested in a new or unknown author/illustrator.
If you think you can generate enough interest, you can also consider book-signings. Bookshops love to have promotional events and signings are an easy way for them to create excitement in the shop. You can ask if your book signing can be promoted through their internal mailing list, or if the bookshop is a small one, you could even offer to create the publicity material for them in exchange for them paying for postage. They’re likely to be more interested in you if you make it clear that you’re going to be promoting the event well yourself.
Book fairs are ideal situations for promoting your book, although they can be expensive to take part in. If you have a publisher, they may be willing to pay the fee… if not you may be able to share a stand with other authors/illustrators to lower the cost. Fairs are great for selling copies of your book, making contacts, meeting other authors/illustrators, and possibly making future bookings with teachers or bookshop people for promotional events for your book. Appearances in person will often lead to more opportunities to do similar appearances elsewhere.
You can also enter book awards or competitions… if you win something it’s a great selling point you can add to your marketing blurb, and you’re likely to be given a sticker you can add to the cover of your book which will really make it stand out.
So these are the main points that I’ve gathered… I’ll be embarking on promoting my own handmade book project very soon now, so look out for updates here!