by Carol Costello
I met Carol at a talk I gave on self-publishing at the Mechanics Institute Library. Carol learned book promotion from the ground up last year when she published her first novel, Chasing Grace—even though she was a master sales coach and had made her living as a freelance writer for 40 years. She’ll be sharing what she learned at her next class, “Promote Your Book the Easy, Natural Way” on Oct. 27 at the Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco. I asked her for her tips on how authors can “take the anxiety out of book promotion and replace it with a simple, authentic conversation between you and the people who most want to read your book.” Here’s her response.
“I would rather have a root canal than promote my book,” my client Barbara said. “There are a million things to do, I don’t know how to do most of them, I’m not very techie, and I don’t even know where to start learning. It makes my stomach hurt. Besides, I’m a writer, not a promoter!”
The truth we all come to know, sooner or later, is that we have to promote our own books—whether we publish traditionally or as indies.
Thousands of wonderful books go by the wayside because book promotion is haunted by the Ghost of Selling Past. These nightmare scenarios involve Girl Scout cookies, school raffle tickets, magazine subscriptions—and even chocolate bars!
The #1 reason people don’t promote their books, or don’t promote them successfully, is that they equate promoting the book they love with these selling horror stories. They dread doing it, aren’t sure where to begin, don’t want to look foolish—and often, they can’t even bring themselves to start.
I have stepped into all of these potholes. I spent a year wandering in the wilderness of neophyte book promotion and returned with a simple, anyone-can-do-it way to promote your book that is both enriching and fun—for you and for the people you contact.
Is there really such a thing as pain-free book promotion? Yes, if you follow 5 simple strategies:
- Take a deep breath. Especially if you self-publish, you don’t have to do everything right away. You can go at your own pace, be yourself, and discover the marketing activities that you like (and therefore, will actually do). You can learn a lot from marketing blogs, newsletters, webinars, and programs—but it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to do it all. Collect information, and do what resonates with you.
- Remember that promotion is just a conversation between you and people who are genuinely drawn to your book. It’s not blasting out hype to everyone in cyberspace; it’s speaking with people about something you love and they want. To make that happen, you need to do two things:
- Define your readers (demographics, wants and needs) and discover where they hang out, especially online.
- Develop a way to talk with them and listen to them consistently.
- Create a virtual “back yard fence” where this conversation can occur. You don’t need to do everything the experts mention, but you do need a few basic tools:
- Website: Your site is “you” online, a place where you are always present, where you can meet and greet people even when you are asleep. It can include pages for your blog, book(s), events, speaking, programs, “About You,” and an incentive to sign up for your email list. (After much trial and error, I realized that I wanted to create and manage my own site, and found that the best way for non-techie me to do this was through SiteSetupKit.)
- Email list, usually through services like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or AWeber. This is crucial, because it gives you a way to start conversations with your people. Offer a gift to folks who sign up: a white paper, ebook, or some other freebie.
- Outreach. Meet new friends and readers through social media, special interest sites and groups, offline events and speaking, and wherever else your people go.
- You have a way to speak directly to the specific people who have demonstrated an interest in you and your book. You can notify them of blog posts, events, news, and whatever else you think will further inform, entertain, and inspire them.
- They can communicate back to you through comments on your site.
- As you learn more about them, you can speak to them more and more effectively and develop a deeper and more trusting relationship. They become what people call “your tribe,” and this tribe grows organically as you reach out to more people and they reach out to their friends on your behalf.
BONUS TIP #1: Use common sense. You don’t have to be a marketing expert to promote your book successfully. Just think about the result you want, and use common sense to get there.
My first sales job was selling seats in a seminar. I had no idea how to reach out to people—so I sat at a desk with a phone and opened up my address book. Two years later, I had enrolled 3,500 in that seminar! Your original marketing ideas are the ones that will work best.
BONUS TIP #2: Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. At one point, I got completely caught up in reading blogs, going to webinars, and attending marketing classes. I realized that I’d forgotten to do the obvious: send a copy of my novel, Chasing Grace, to the local paper in Elmhurst, Illinois, where much of it is set.
BONUS TIP #3: Stick to the basics. Really, it’s just us chickens. Who are your people? Where are they? Where will you send them once you find them? (Hint: your website) What do you want them to do once they get there? (Hint: opt in to your email list) Now what? Nurture them, keep giving to them, and create a community that’s looking forward to your next project.
There is no right way to promote your book. One method might work for one person, but not for another. Put the basics in place, be creative, find marketing activities that you like to do, and keep thinking outside the box and trying new things.
Most importantly, remember to be yourself—a person with something wonderful to offer people, who just wants to engage in a conversation that benefits everyone.
Carol Costello has been an investigative reporter, acquisitions and developmental editor, book doctor, and ghostwriter of 30 books, including 2 bestsellers. Her blogs are: WRITE IN THE ZONE and THE SOUL OF SELLING. She is the author of Chasing Grace: A Novel of Odd Redemption; Creativity on Demand: Write in the Zone; Sell Yourself Without Feeling Pushy, Creepy, or WEIRD!; and The Soul of Selling. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.