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Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer

Queries, Pitches and Proposals

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The Inquiring Writer:
How to Promote Your Self-Published Book

by Dawn Copeman

We had a similar question from two different authors: one has self-published a book of poetry and the other, Stephen D. Rogers, has had a short story collection published by a small publisher. They both wanted to know what they should be doing to boost publicity for their books.

And boy, did you come up with some great ideas for them!

The first to reply was Leona Wisoker. She said: "How funny that you asked this particular question! I just posted a blog piece on the topic of 'networking at conventions,' which your questioning authors might find helpful; it's aimed at people attending sci-fi/fantasy conventions but can easily be turned to any type of convention:

"Besides that, however, I would suggest beginning with analysing the target audiences. The short stories, for example: are they mainstream fiction, fantasy, science-fiction, romance, mystery? Are the target readers teenagers, adults, retired folk? Is the setting in America? If so, which state? Which decade/century? Each of these questions offers another clue to opportunities.

"Mystery and history buffs as well as fantasy/sci-fi geeks frequently gather in numbers at events around the world, a perfect opportunity to meet people predisposed to interest in your writing.

"Social networking sites such as Facebook can connect the author with potential readers.

"Calling your local paper to see if they want to run an interview (local writer done good), or the local papers in the areas where the stories are set, can't hurt. There are also internet-based radio stations that love to run new author interviews, such as Artist First (

"Talk to your local colleges, high schools, and middle schools about offering a reading of your work; poetry may find favor with ongoing outreach programs at middle schools especially.

"Find bloggers who routinely review similar books, and offer them a free copy of your book (ask before sending it, though!); they will run an honest review, and if they like your book they'll often ask you for an interview on top of that.

"Build a web site and blog, talk about events you've attended, further explore the topics of your writing, the process of writing, self-publishing, small-press publishing, research, and so on. Offer web-only excerpts for readers to enjoy.

"Most important, keep a record of what you've tried, the dates, all contact information, and notes on what worked, what didn't, and as much of why as you understand why things did or didn't work. That record is more valuable than gold in the long run."

Thanks for the advice, Leona. That seems a pretty comprehensive list. But there were more suggestions too.

"There's quite a lot that writers can do to self-promote their books," wrote Margaret Fieland. She suggests:

  • Have a website (there are plenty of free sites) and promote your book there. Have a picture of your book cover, a bit about your book, and a link to where to buy it.

  • If you blog, that's another way to get your name known. Join Social Networks and promote your book there. Make a Facebook page just for your book.

  • Virtual Book Tours: This is a great way to 'tour' your book without leaving your home town.

  • Approach local bookstores, your local library, for readings and promotion.

  • Approach your local paper about doing an article.

  • Prepare a press kit for local media and send it around to local papers.

  • Approach local TV and radio stations about going on a show to talk about your book.

  • Approach some of the many internet radio shows who interview authors and do the same.

  • Promote your book at local writers groups and conferences.

  • Advertise in online newsletters.

  • Approach your local school about doing an author visit.

  • Carry a few copies of your book with you, ready for an opportunity to sell.

  • Prepare a business card with information about your book, ready to hand around. I find business cards are great to hand to anyone who asks for your phone number, address, or email address.

  • Finally I would recommend the authors buy Carolyn Howard-Johnson's book, 'The Frugal Book Promoter.' It has lots more ideas."

The Internet seems to keep cropping up in readers' advice for book promotion; in fact the advice "get a website" came up so many times that it would be boring and repetitive to list them all here.

Making use of the local media is another excellent suggestion, but there are other ways to promote sales too, as Joyce Frohn observes. She wrote: "No matter what you're doing on the Web, don't forget to use your feet. Check with local bookstores, local writer's groups and even try this unusual method of book promotion. One local author here in Oshkosh sells copies of local stories at the farmer's market and is making good sales."

Our last piece of advice on this topic comes from someone who has been in a similar position. Barb Demming is the writer of three books, two are short story collections and one is a memoir--all self-published.

"I have been selling the memoir for over five years so something is going right. However, I must admit that without a traditional publisher, it is a tough sell. Here are some of the things I have done to market:

  • Make sure you have your books and where to purchase them in your email signature line.

  • Blog: I have a blog where I write about writing, publishing, marketing, etc. I know I should have a website: I had one once but my host became seriously ill and had to give it up. I never researched another one. I have, however, recently signed on to FaceBook and have actually sold two books to 'friends of friends.'

  • Speaking Engagements: I search for, and schedule every place I can to give a talk on writing, on my book(s) or on women writing. This isn't easy and takes a great deal of phone and personal work to schedule.

  • Keep an email list of everyone you know, have met, talked to etc.: drop them a line now and then about your book, where you're going to be, etc.

  • I mailed out postcards on each book. I sent out press releases all across the country. For two of the books I went into Senior Centers, retirement homes, etc. And I gave readings for the price of selling books. At a women's club, I baked cookies mentioned in one of the stories of 'The Quilt Maker' and I always cover the table with a quilt.

  • Join local writers groups, attend conferences to promote, and sign-up for any book fairs you can afford."

I hope that helps all of you who are looking for ways to promote your books!

Copyright © 2010 by Dawn Copeman

This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Dawn Copeman is a UK-based freelance writer and educator who has published over 300 articles on the topics of travel, cookery, history, health and writing. An experienced commercial freelancer, Dawn contributed several chapters on commercial writing to Moira Allen's Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer (2nd Edition).

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