Equipping Writers for Success
The Writing Life
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by Patricia Fry
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Someone who is pitching a book on how to grow herbs would naturally give talks and demonstrations at nurseries, garden centers and health food and herb stores. Natural venues for promoting a historical novel might include museums, bookstores, schools, libraries and civic clubs in the state where the story takes place. You could expect to sell a book of cat stories through pet stores, veterinarians' offices and gift shops.
Okay, so you've visited all of the natural venues for your particular book. You've also built a Web site, done dozens of book signings, solicited a few reviews and sent out mailings. What comes next? Where do you go to find new customers-- to create fresh interest in your book? I suggest that you seek alternative venues. For example,
Speak at civic organization and other club meetings. Program chairpersons everywhere are eager to book interesting, enlightening, educational and entertaining presentations. Think about it, clubs that meet once a week need 52 programs. And clubs and organizations, even in small communities, can number in the dozens.
Locate lists of local clubs through your Chamber of Commerce. Or look in the front pages of your phone book. This information might also be posted on the city's/county's Web site.
Next, develop a couple of generic presentations related to your book and begin contacting program chairpersons for local Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, Optimist and professional clubs as well as the Board of Realtors, garden club, Friends of the Library, historic society and so forth.
Certainly, there are people in every audience who would be interested in knowing more about herbs. But instead of pursuing the gardening angle, this author might create an interesting talk featuring the history of herbal remedies or she might reveal how to use herbs in cooking. The author could spice up her talk by sharing recipes enjoyed by celebrities or focusing on people in history who used herbal remedies for various ailments.
The author of the historical novel must concentrate on bringing the story to life for his audience. He should practice doing this without revealing too much of the story. He might tell a parallel story, for example.
The author of the cat story book could tell a few of the stories. Not everyone in the group will be interested in cats, so this author might want to warm up the audience to cats. He might start by telling jokes about the differences between dogs and cats. He might share a story about a dog person who made room in his heart for a cat when one saved his life. Everyone loves happy endings. And everyone knows someone who adores cats.
Generally, you'll be given the opportunity to do back-of-the-room sales after a presentation. Not everyone will buy a book on the spot, so make sure they all leave with one of your brochures.
Here are a dozen additional alternative venues to consider for promoting your book:
1: Get involved in community events. Keep apprised of upcoming events sponsored by the city or local clubs and organizations. How? Read the calendar section of your newspaper, subscribe to organization newsletters and periodically check their Web sites. Find a way to get exposure for your book during the event. Donate copies for a silent or live auction. Maybe you could arrange to speak, sign your book as a guest at one of the booths or include your brochure in their packet of handouts. Of course, if you volunteer in some capacity, chances for promotional opportunities are markedly greater.
I've promoted my local history books during our Ojai Day celebration through presentations and while working in the City Historic Preservation Commission booth. I often donate copies of my books for auctions and door prizes at charity events. It's fun to see my books viewed and handled many times over throughout the day. And I take every opportunity to chat with folks who express an interest.
2: Spend time at senior centers. How many senior centers and assisted living facilities are there in your county? Probably more than you think. Contact them and offer to present a program for their residents. Offer signed copies at a discount to residents and the facility librarian.
3: Go to church. Many churches spawn groups and clubs that meet separate from Sunday services. Arrange to share your presentation with them. Give members an added incentive to buy your book NOW by donating a percentage of each book sold that evening to the church.
4: Join in with Elder Hostel groups. Many communities host Elder Hostel groups. Visit the Elder Hostel Web site at http://www.elderhostel.org for information about Elder Hostel hosts in your county. Contact the hosts and ask to be put on their program agenda for the coming year.
I give tours for Elder Hostel groups and always sell copies of my local history books. I presented a program for visiting grandparents a few years ago and almost everyone bought a copy of my grandparenting book. In order to maintain a sense of intimacy with the visitors, I designed a fun presentation that required everyone's participation. I'm convinced that someone who might not otherwise buy a book, may do so if they feel a sense of camaraderie with the author.
5: Visit schools and colleges. Whether you have a book related to history, herbs, motorcycles or cats, you can create a program to take into the schools. If your book isn't conducive to a history, English, math or geography lesson, for example, talk about what it's like to write a book, demonstrate how a book is produced or teach a writing segment. Send the students home with your brochure and, if appropriate, donate a few copies of your book for the classroom or school library.
If yours is a children's book, visit classrooms throughout your state. You should also submit your book at the district level for inclusion in the school system. If your book teaches a character lesson, apply to have it included in the reading list for the Character Counts program (http://www.charactercounts.org).
6: Sit in at writing group meetings. Writers are generally voracious readers. So it follows that you could make some sales by visiting writers' groups throughout your state. Locate writers' groups by doing a Google search using the keywords, writers and a city-- writers Fresno or writers group Miami. Or contact that city's arts council or librarian for information about writers' organizations. Ask the group leader if you can come and speak on an appropriate issue. Maybe you had an unusual experience while producing your book, learned a valuable publishing or marketing lesson or gained some special insight. This may be worth sharing with budding or even experienced writers.
There are additional benefits to visiting writers groups-- there's much to be learned from other writers and authors. Involvement with a writers group can keep you updated about promotional opportunities, workshops, book festivals and so forth.
7: Enter the corporate environment. Some large corporations have after-hours gatherings. A local company might welcome entertainment during the lunch hour or while staff is working out in the gym. Call some of the larger companies in your area and offer to give a presentation to their employees or maybe a group of visiting dignitaries.
8: Attend shows, fairs and festivals. Nearly all books are conducive to book festivals. But some of books are also appropriate for special events such as gift shows, renaissance fairs, arts and crafts fairs or shows related to kids, music, food, cars or sports, for example. Rent a booth, share a booth and/or audition to be a presenter.
9: Join online discussions, bulletin boards and blogs. Few authors consider entering into discussions via the Internet. Yet, the opportunities for free exposure are vast. Did you know that you can even participate in most blogs? I have my own blog and I'm involved in about dozen writing/publishing-related bulletin boards and discussion groups. I enjoy responding to writers' questions, giving my two-cents worth on important issues and so forth. While I'm at it, I also mention my latest book either in my response (if applicable) or in my carefully worded signature.
To locate discussion groups, bulletin boards and blogs in the topic of your book, do a Google search. Use the keywords bulletin board and your topic or blog and your topic. For example, bulletin board gardening (or herbs), forum Georgia history, blog parenting.
10: Throw home parties. Although this may sound kind of primitive and even a little hokey, home parties can be an enjoyable and even profitable way to promote your book. Finagle an invitation to a friend's, relative's, colleague's, neighbor's or acquaintance's home and ask them to invite a dozen or more friends in. Plan something special for the evening. Ask guests to solve a mystery based on your book or help you with a demonstration. Bring costumes and have them participate in a play. Make the evening fun and entertaining. But also make it clear that the books you brought to share are for sale.
11: Go on the radio. You're probably aware of services designed to get you on talk radio. Most of them are pretty costly, so why not do the legwork yourself? Research radio and even television stations through Literary Market Place, Gales Directory of Publishing and Broadcast Media or The Business Phone Book USA. (Available in the reference section at your local public library.) Locate free radio talk show directories by doing a Google search.
Before going on the radio, be prepared for incoming orders. Make sure that your book is listed in Books in Print, have an 800 phone number and/or sign up for a merchant account or PayPal account so you can take orders through your Web site.
12: Talk about your book everywhere you go. In other words, the world is your stage. Carry your book with you. You never know when the opportunity will arise to tell someone about it. And you never know when that someone might be the program director for the local TV station, the organizer of an upcoming book festival, a book publicist who is looking for excellent books to represent or just an ordinary being who appreciates a good read.
As I wrote in my book, Over 75 Good Ideas for Promoting Your Book, "There's nothing really hard about selling books, it's finding customers that takes thought, time and effort. Let these alternative ideas inspire and motivate you. Good luck and good marketing.
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This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.
Patricia L. Fry has been writing for publication for over 30 years, having contributed hundreds of articles to about 250 different magazines and e-zines. She is the author of 25 books including A Writer's Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit and The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book (Matilija Press). For more inspiration, information and resources from Patricia Fry, follow her blog at http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog/.