1. Make a Plan
Parson’s Porch Books, as a relatively new publisher, is probably more aggressive than most at marketing its authors’ books. But as almost any author will tell you, today, when the book business is in worldwide disarray, the most effective marketing is usually done by the authors themselves. Therefore it is imperative, even before your book comes out, to sit down and draft a plan for how you yourself can most effectively present it to the public. Write down every idea you have, however farfetched or preposterous it may at first appear. Don’t worry about the order of your thoughts; you can always arrange them later. The most important thing is to give them free flow, so that you allow your imagination to do its best to tell you the things you can do to bring your book to everyone’s attention.
2. Have a clear idea of who needs your book and why.
You may have had this in mind when you wrote your book, but it is important to rethink everything as the book is on its way to being published. Who will be best served by what you have to say and what exactly do you have to tell them? Pin this down at the top of your planning sheet. Say something like: "I am trying to reach an audience of over-dieters––people who try so many strange diets that they have ended by abusing their bodies––so that I can tell them to get a good plan and stay with it, lest they cause serious damage to their long-term health."
3. Make three lists, one of all the people you know who might be interested in your book, one for PR possibilities close at hand, and another for things you might do if you had a lot of money to invest in publicizing your book and didn’t mind risking it.
The first list, of all the people you know who might care about your book, will include the names of friends, relatives, and public personalities. Don’t skimp. The more names at this point, the merrier.
Your second list should include such entries as local and regional newspapers that might review or write a story about your book, area radio and TV stations that might interview you, nearby bookstores that might carry your book, libraries and clubs where you might get a chance to talk about your book, and all those priceless contacts you have on your e-mail list or in your Rollodex file. In other words, this list should be about all the simple things you can do to promote your book to those nearest to you where you live. If you are a pastor or church member, you can consider how to let your friends in the church know about your book. Ministers who have pastored other churches might want to let them know about their new books. This is the surest, most direct way to bring out your book and introduce it to those most likely to be interested in it because they know you and would want to read what you’ve written.
Your third list should know no limits. It can include writing to radio and TV personalities such as Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Joy Behar; sending your book to prominent newspapers and journals in the hope that they will publish a review; getting it to national leaders who might have an interest in it; contacting companies or industries that might want to buy large quantities of your book to give to their employees; hiring a high-powered PR agency or blogger to promote your book via the Internet and other media; and almost any other publicity gambit that might lead to your book title’s gaining household recognition. (You should be aware of these simple warnings before you become too highly enamored of some of your ideas on this list:First, celebrities such as Oprah are constantly bombarded by requests to interview authors; so any query you send them must be succinct [one page or less] and attention-grabbing. Second, while there are numerous agencies anxious to have you as a client they will promise to promote, most are very expensive and some of them are little more than scam operations, so do not invest heavily in any person or agency you do not know first-hand or through a trusted friend.)
4. Using your lists, now write down a step-by-step plan you believe would make a practical and effective way of promoting your book.
If you want to be really practical, turn your list into an actual schedule of the things you intend to do to get your book before the public. It may look something like this: (1) by July 1, contact area bookstores about carrying my book; (2) by July 10, talk to newspaper editors and radio and TV people in my area about my book and see if they will use reviews or interviews to help others know about it; (3) as soon as possible, prepare an attractive notice of my book’s coming publication to send to all my e-mail and snail-mail friends and relatives, letting them know when and where they can order it; (4) by July 20, draft an interesting description of my book for such celebrities and personalities as might be interested in it, offering to send them a review copy if they are interested; (5) a month before the book appears, plan a publication-day party for my church or neighborhood; and (6) between now and the publication date, send notifications of the book’s appearance to alumni magazines, newspapers in communities where I formerly lived, and any other publications that might be helpful.
5. Avail yourself of friends and shops who have the potential to create attractive notices or brochures about your book.
Even if you don’t have the savvy to produce your own colorful notices and brochures, you probably have a friend who is adept at the computer and can do it for you. Design your promotional pieces and run them by your publisher for any additional suggestions. Be sure to list addresses and phone numbers where the book can be ordered. Use a four-color picture of your book’s cover (you can probably get this on e-mail from your publisher well in advance of the publication date) and, if you want to have your own photo as well, be sure it is a flattering one. Don’t over-describe your work; simply arrive at a terse, easily understandable statement about its contents. If you can get testimonial statements from people who have read your book in manuscript or galley form, especially if they are recognizable personalities, you might want to include two or three of these, for they help others to decide if they might like your book. You can easily mail dozens or even hundreds of these to people who might be most interested in purchasing your book.
6. Start a Web page, if you don’t have one.
The importance of a Web page is that if you can develop one with your name in its title (e.g.,www.JaneQAuthor.com) it will enable people who have heard about you or your book to look you up quickly and read something about your book. It will also mean that when someone Googles your name or your book’s title, your Web page will pop up as a possibility for them to visit. And if what you’ve written about your book contains the name of something people look up on one of the search engines such as Google or Yahoo––say, prayer, love, going to war, or doing dishes––it will pop up for them too. There are companies that specialize in creating Web pages, but chances are you can do it yourself or have a friend or relative who will gladly create one for you.
7. Consider developing a blog.
A blog is simply a posting on the Internet where you can record your thoughts and ideas as they occur to you. Some authors, especially new ones, believe that having a blog is essential to stimulating the kind of on-going conversation with unmet friends that will popularize their books. Look at some other people’s blogs before starting your own, and be sure, if you do develop a blog, to try to keep it both current and interesting. Tend it the way you would tend a pot of flowers on your deck––carefully and consistently.
8. Don’t be shy about asking friends to help you promote your book.
You don’t want to bully your friends into doing something they don’t want to do, but if you can write a book you can surely suggest to them in gentle and persuasive ways that you would really appreciate their help in making your book known to as wide an audience as possible. You might mention the "six degrees of separation theory"––the idea that each person has six contacts that are the starting point for a world-wide network of connections––and say that you want to give that factor a chance to work in your favor!
9. If you have some great ideas that might involve your publisher, don’t be shy about broaching them to someone in the company.
Sometimes an author will come up with a brilliant plan for reaching a segment of readers he or she can’t appeal to without the publisher’s help. Maybe it involves offering a substantial discount on the book for some large group of readers, such as the attendees at a conference or the members of a church jurisdiction. It never hurts to query the publisher about such an idea, for your publisher is easily as anxious as you are to see that your book is well promoted.
10. Finally, don’t be too disappointed if your book doesn’t become a best seller.
There are half a million books published every year; of these fewer than 5% will sell more than 250 copies and fewer than 10% will even recover the publishers’ investments in them. Thomas Gray, the English poet, wrote, "Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,/ And waste its sweetness on the desert air." This is as true of books as it is of people. Yet authors will continue to write and hope, and, here and there, one in 10,000 will be destined to win an exceptional readership. You could be that one. But do not despair if you aren’t, for whether a single book makes it or doesn’t is not a judgment on your talent or marketing ability. Some books sell and others don’t.; it’s as simple as that. So be prepared to find consolation in the fact that you have published a book, which most of your friends and relatives have not. And start writing your next book as soon as possible!