Free Publicity for Your Bookby Patrika Vaughn
The Internet Writing Journal, February 2001
Since even the big publishers figure they make money on only three out of ten of their new titles, you can see that it's easy for a book to fail to make a profit. There are, however, specific things you can do -- or neglect to do -- that are guaranteed to kill a book. The most important of these is to fail to consider all the steps necessary for your book's success and to then fail to take those step at the proper time and in the proper order.
THE ELEMENTS OF SELF-PUBLISHING
The crucial elements you must pay attention to are:Since this is primarily a book on writing and not a manual on self-publishing, it is not possible to go into each of these in exhaustive detail. Your public library contains books that will fully explain each of the above elements of self-publishing, and you will find that many vendors, such as printers, are willing to show you the ropes.
- Cover design (including spine and back cover)
- Interior design
- Promotion (press releases,articles, interviews and features)
- Bar Codes
- Dust jackets (on hardbound books)
Let's spend a little time talking about Promotion and Marketing. This does not have to be expensive since, if you know how, you can get a lot of free publicity for your book. In order to take advantage of this, you have to plan ahead.
Two to four months before publication:
Promotion should begin several months before publication with press releases, announcements to local stores, radio and TV stations, newspaper reviewers, etc. (See Self-Promotion).
Pre-publication offers can be made before publication (see Self-Promotion), with ordering coupons. If you plan to offer an electronic version of your book, you may do that once the manuscript is completed and formatted. Electronic publishing and/or disk versions are good ways to generate income to cover the high expenses of print publication. Now is the time to get the word out about your electronic book over as many computer bulletin boards as possible. It is also time to get your on-line book reviews. Electronic publications come and go rapidly, as do their featured offerings. Surf the net for publications currently offering on-line book reviews.
Near publication date:SELF-PROMOTION
- Send individualized letters to special interest groups, explaining why your book will appeal to the group (see Self-Promotion).
- - Send mailings which include:
- 1) news release
- 2) book jacket or dust cover
- 3) any advance endorsements, reviews or publicity the book has received (this could be included in the news release)
- Leave book covers with local bookstores. Ask for book signings and author events.
- Send out review copies (see Self-Promotion).
- Put news of your hard-copy book on as many computer bulletin boards as possible (see Self-Promotion).
- When you travel, call leading bookstores at your destination and arrange book signings.
Although your mind tells you that you are an author and not a publicity agent, the reality is that yours is only one among many of hundreds of books being offered just this season! You are competing for limited bookshelf space in bookstores. Also keep in mind that bookstores are not the only places to sell books. Only 15% of all books, in fact, are sold in stores created to do this job. This is partly due to the short shelf life books are given in commercial bookstores. Bookstore research shows that the average book stays on sale for only three to six months before being bumped from the shelves by a newer hopeful.
So how are the other 85% of books sold? In a variety of ways, all of which depend on getting out the word. Here are some proven tactics for successful self-promoting. Remember, the key is to obtain as much FREE publicity as possible through interviews, news mentions and book reviews. Be sure to note the correct timing for each of these efforts.
Create a short, snappy press release along the lines of "Local Writer to Publish New Book." Include basic data such as publisher, price, date of publication and give a phone number for further information.
About two months before publication mail the announcement to local stores, radio and TV stations, newspaper reviewers -- anyone who might order and/or want to read the book. Chain stores and book distributors (listed under "Independent Distributors in the Yellow Pages) should be high on that list.
At publication time follow up with actual copies of the book and an updated release. Make yourself available for interviews, book signings and calls for further information.
Pre-publication Offer: Make up a flier about your book, including a picture. The flier doesn't have to be fancy; it can be in black-and-white (though you could dress it up by printing on colored paper.)
At the bottom of your flier, print a tear-off order coupon which offers a free reading or review copy, and quantities at a discount. Mail it to your list of potential buyers, including:
- Special interest individuals, organizations, associations, corporations, museums, specialized stores, etc. (See below)
- Bookstores, especially those specializing in your subject
- The major chains
- Libraries (the second largest book buyers in the U.S., spending more than a billion dollars a year on books)
- Catalog companies (There are nearly 10,000. Choose the logical ones from a source such as Catalog of Catalogs at your public library.)
- Premium buyers (Books are given away with everything from cereals to automobiles. Wouldn't it be nice if someone bought a million copies of yours for such a purpose? Look at magazines such as Incentive Marketing, Potentials in Marketing and Premium Incentive. They'll teach you how to pursue this market.)
- Special Interest Groups: Will your book hold special appeal for photographers, parents, residents of Alaska, college students, dog breeders, pilots? List clubs, social organizations and other groups where likely customers are hiding. Starting with the general press release you've already written, create individualized letters that explain why your book will appeal to the group you're approaching. Mail these when the publication date nears so that the book will be available in the stores when readers go to find it.
Display: Those extra book jackets or cover flats you had printed in advance of publication can be used for many promotional efforts:
- include one in mailings along with your news release
- call on bookstores in your area. Leave a book cover if the store will display it, and offer yourself for a book signing session if the store is interested. Aggressive bookstores in your area are likely to say yes if you propose a book's signing and author introduction. Just ask. They know how to do it. But don't become a nuisance. If a manager doesn't seem interested, don't press. The object is to become known as an author, not as a pest.
- and if you're traveling, call the leading booksellers at your destination and see if they would like to do the same.
More than 40,000 books are published every year in the United States. Fewer than 10% of them are reviewed. You will have to be timely, persistent and willing to make an investment in this endeavor if you are to succeed.
As far in advance of publication as possible, mail copies of your new book to trade magazine, large newspapers, local newspapers and other reviewers. Send out as many as you can afford. Ideally, this should be done several months before your publication date because reviewers and columnists need reading time. Get these copies directly from your printer. Reviews often contain words of praise for your book that can then be included in your further publicizing efforts. Short quotes from several reviews look especially good on the back of your book's dust jacket, serving as endorsements.
Computerized Promotions: Hundreds of thousands of modem users subscribe to bulletin board systems (BBSs), which post all kinds of messages. Get news of your book on as many bulletin boards as possible-- anything from a basic news item to a provocative statement meant to attract debate and rebuttal. All BBSs count the number of times your item has been logged onto, so you'll know what works and what doesn't.
There are thousands of boards to choose from. Computer Shopper and other magazines list BBS numbers by area code. To reach really large groups of readers with a single call, sign up with one of the commercial online services. These offer a combination of electronic mail, databases of various types, special interest groups, bulletin boards and online conferencing. Uploading (sending information into a network) is free if you are a member.
All you have to do is surf the net (browse the various bulletin boards in your subject area), then upload appropriate messages on each bulletin board that reaches probably buyers of your book. It helps to create your own website (your personal internet address) so that anyone who reads your bulletin board message and wants to know more can go directly, through the internet, to a source of information. You can put whatever you want on a home page: biographical information, photos, graphics, further information about your book and information on how to order it. You can even become a credit card vendor, so that people can place orders directly over the net and pay for them with their credit cards. To find out more about this option, call your bank. You will be referred to the appropriate contact. Or have a book packager such as Advocate House set up your website and ordering services for you.
There are specific procedures for selling to bookstores through wholesalers; selling to libraries; selling to non-traditional book markets such as premium buyers and selling through mail order. You'll find that information in the next chapter of this book.
**Patrika Vaughn is the world's leading Author's Advocate. Over the past 25 years she has served as a professional writer, ghostwriter, editor, publisher, literary agent and teacher of creative writing. She is also a marketing and public relations consultant, serving business, industry, non-profit corporations and individual authors. Her works have appeared in more than 100 national publications and she is listed in The International Authors and Writer's Who's Who. The above article is an excerpt from her book, Everything You Need to Know to Write Publish & Market Your Book.