Authors Unplugged: Smart Book Marketing Includes Going Offline

by | Mar 13, 2013

Most of us who sell our print books through CreateSpace or other print on demand vendors, and our ebooks through Kindle Direct Publishing or other ebook retailers and distributors, usually focus our marketing online.

This make sense. A lot of business and marketing happens online these days. Many of us are also bloggers with territory staked out in the digital world, and with lots of connections on social media.

In fact, social media marketing is often the beginning and end of authors’ marketing plans. From blog tours to Facebook contests to Pinterest pin parties to online press release distribution, we digital authors attempt to fully exploit the domain in which we operate.

But are you missing something?

Going Offline for Book Marketing

If all the marketing you’re doing is online, you may be missing out on lots of excellent opportunities to market your book.

Remember that our biggest effort in marketing is simply getting our books in front of enough people to give them a chance at success. You can’t get people talking about your book and, hopefully, referring it to other people in true word-of-mouth promotion, if they don’t know it exists and have never seen it. So awareness and exposure are really our biggest goals when we launch a new book.

But there are still lots of ways people get together, network, and learn about new things in the real world.

To help you think about this and get started, here’s a brief list of offline opportunities that might work for you. Even if you only use one of these suggestions, you’ll see results you couldn’t have gotten online.

8 Ideas for Offline Book Marketing for Indie Authors

  1. Print books vs. eBooks—While it’s difficult to sell ebooks at an event or book signing, many people will buy a print book if they see them stacked up in front of them. After all, a book is something you can pick up and handle, and that’s often a powerful buying incentive. Print books also act as mementos of the occasion, or a way to further explore a topic that has ignited your interest.
  2. Social media vs. in-person contact—I love social media and use it every day. But it’s really quite different to have a conversation with a colleague or a reader or a prospective client in person, where the centuries-old conventions of human interaction come into play and the levels of communication are much deeper. If your aim is building trust in your readers, interacting with them at events will be helpful and instructive at the same time. For instance, just recently a friend told me about something that needed to be fixed in one of my products. But I doubt she would have taken the time to write to me about it because messages like that usually seem like complaints. In person, she could deliver the message with exactly the right intonations, smiles, and gestures so the communication was nuanced and effective.
  3. Giving presentations to build your platform—If you become a subject-matter expert, you’ll start to get invitations to speak to groups within your industry or field of study. These are terrific platform-building opportunities. Not only do you get to meet people you may not have known about before, you also get the implicit endorsement of the group that’s putting on the program, as well as the positive expectations attendees at your event will bring with them. Combined with this is the name recognition and awareness you’ll get from the promotion for the event that will reach many more people than will actually attend. (Check out my own appearance schedule.)
  4. Back-of-the-room sales—Did I mention you can sell books at many of these in-person events? Well, you can, and these sales may be your most lucrative. In some cases, you can sell your books for the full retail price, so a $15 book might yield you $12 profit. In other cases, event organizers or bookstore hosts will want a 40-50% discount. But they will handle the sales transactions for you, and people at these events often buy books written by speakers as a way to remember the presentation or the overall experience they had at the event.
  5. Writing for print—Remember newspapers and magazines? They are still out there, and they still have an unending need for good quality content to fill up those pages. For many people, reading an article by you in a respected industry magazine may carry a lot more weight than reading the same story on your blog. Since you’re developing content, submitting story ideas to editors at local papers or trade magazines can only multiply your readers and your exposure.
  6. Offline review media—You undoubtedly included those local papers and trade magazines in your review program, right? You didn’t just rely on bloggers and online media for reviews because you know millions of people rely on these print media to make critical buying decisions and to learn about new trends in culture. Don’t overlook them.
  7. Repurposing your expertise—Some authors have found running live events to be highly profitable. You might write about a subject that lends itself to workshops, where you can teach the same ideas you’ve written about, or try out new ideas to see how they work in the real world. Fiction authors do this, too, leading trips abroad and organizing writing workshops in vacation destinations.
  8. Developing media contacts—Part of your job as an indie publisher is establishing media contacts, too. For fiction authors, this might involve the local papers, where you can expect to find some natural interest. For nonfiction authors there are niche publications or media outlets related to your topic, and if you write on their topic, they’re likely to be open to an approach.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned book launch parties or book signings, traditional events many authors include in their launch planning and which happen offline. But I knew you would think of those yourself.

Where would your offline marketing fit in to your book promotion plan? Or do you have some suggestions I haven’t included? Leave a note in the comments to share it with other authors.

Photo: This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on CreateSpace

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Alicia Young

    Joel, great list!

    It’s so easy to get focused on just our online efforts. A balance of on- and offline strategies makes a compelling combination.

    Speaking engagements are such golden opportunities on several levels. I’d encourage anyone to check out Toastmasters to help polish their public speaking skills; you get a years’ membership for less than one hour with a coach (and I don’t get any kickbacks for that endorsement!).

    I blogged about TM this week (below). It’s worth a glance if you think the club is full of stuffed shirts…!


    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Alicia. I’ve heard lots of good things about Toastmasters, especially from people who previously thought they could never speak in public.

  2. Fiona C McAndrew

    Great post Joey. I love the old fashioned sales pitch of just get out there and do it. You can’t beat it. Wow for ebook cards. Defo one for when I finish my book. Ladies shopping in Asda here I come. : )

  3. Cheryl Colwell

    Another fact-packed post. Thank you for the passion you have for the indie market. :D

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Cheryl, much appreciated. And thanks for being a reader.

  4. Rosie McGee

    Another great article and good advice.

    Since my ‘photographic memoir’ is currently only an ebook (POD coming later this year), I’ve found ways to get around the lack of a print book to sell and/or sign. I do author readings in cafes and other places (bookstores won’t welcome me yet), showing photos from my book as I read excerpts. Then I do Q&A with the audience.

    Since I don’t have physical books to sell at my readings, I instead sell mounted & signed photos from the book after my presentation. I also give away 5×7 postcards that show the cover photo from my book, the URL for my website and a QR code that goes to my website. (After one of my presentations, a man in the audience told me he’d used the QR code with his smart phone and had downloaded the book while I was speaking! Yay.) The postcards also give me something to sign for people – I designed it with a space for that and in black and white to save money.)

    I carry those postcards (or a 4×6 version without QR) with me everywhere and give them away like business cards.

    Even if you have print books to sell, you might offer other merchandise related to your expertise or skill, and of course, people love freebies.

    BTW, I’m loving getting out there and meeting people, especially if they’ve taken the time to attend my reading. Nothing beats the one-on-one interaction!

    • Joel Friedlander

      Rosie, thanks for the comment. You might want to check into the new “ebook cards” that I’ve seen around. You buy them and each has a unique identifier under a scratch-off strip. This allows you to sell the cards, then the buyer downloads the book. I’ll have an aritcle on these very soon.

      • Rosie McGee

        I’ll look for that article, especially if the cards can be pegged to a specific book, unlike a generic amazon gift card that can be used for anything on amazon.

      • Athena Chan

        sounds cool–I haven’t heard of ebook cards yet, but they sounds worth checking out

  5. Shelley Sturgeon

    Great post, Joel. I think we tend to forget about the importance of good old fashioned face-to-face promotion when selling our books.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Shelley. Because I’ve been doing a lot of speaking events this past year, I can attest to the power of “face-to-face” marketing.

  6. Athena Chan

    Thanks for a nice article once more!

    Sometimes doing giveaways can help advertise your book. is a good place to get reviews from giveaways.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Great tip, Athena. Of course, since Goodreads is an online site, it didn’t come up in this article.

  7. Ernie Zelinski

    Great advice.

    I will first share two of my techniques — one that is somewhat unique and one that is not-so unique.

    The first one: A few years ago there was a major national Human Resources Conference happening in my home town. I was not registered for the conference but I headed down to the convention center anyway. I parked my car right in front.

    I couldn’t attend any of the sessions because I wasn’t a registered delegate and didn’t have a name tag. Nevertheless, I was able to enter the trade area where many businesses had set up displays.

    In my attache case, I had 4 copies of my recently released “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”. I spent the next 3 hours talking to delegates and at some point telling them about my new book.

    It didn’t take long before the first 4 copies were sold at $15 each. Then I headed back to the car to fill up my attache case. Over the course of the 3 hours, I sold around 20 copies of “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”. I walked away with about $260 in profits, given that the book cost me less than $2 a copy to print. Not bad while having a great time talking to people. Of course, by selling the book to human resource professionals, I have no way of knowing how many more copies were sold after that due to the world-of-mouth that these human professionals may have created for the book.

    The second technique — give a lot of copies of your book away!

    (This is excerpted from my book “Career Success Without a Real Job: The Career Book for People Too Smart to Work in Corporations.”)

    All things considered, word of mouth is still the most important means of marketing any product or service, including a book. Word of mouth is created by getting your book in the hands of people who will appreciate it and will talk to friends and associates about it. The best way to get people talking is to give your book to key individuals — talk-show hosts, columnists, seminar presenters, celebrities, and chat-line addicts — who are going to mention it to many people, who will mention it to even more people.

    With the right book, the more you give away, the more you end up selling. I have now spent approximately $40,000 giving away over 13,000 copies of my books. But let me not dwell on my own case because I have one that is much better.

    A few years ago, Marlo Morgan self-published a book called “Mutant Message Down Under.” Three years later, Morgan had sold 270,000 copies. This is a remarkable figure for any self-published book, but the most extraordinary fact was Morgan had given away over 90,000 copies of her book in three years. She donated the copies to prisons, women’s shelters, and other institutions.

    Giving away almost one hundred copies each day for three years straight is not something even major publishers would consider, but it paid off for Morgan. Her impressive sales were a result of the word-of-mouth advertising generated from the copies she gave away.

    Better still, when the book finally came to the attention of HarperCollins, the publisher paid Morgan a $1.7 million advance to take over publication of “Mutant Message Down Under”.

    Needless to say, the two methods I mentioned only work if you have a great book and you know the market for your book.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Joel Friedlander

      Ernie, nice to know you still have that subversive streak, thanks for the story. And I completely agree about giving books away, one of the self-publisher’s secret weapons that’s not used nearly enough.

  8. Michael N. Marcus

    Every person you encounter offline is a potential customer — or knows a potential customer. Even if you hire experts to toot your horn for you, you’ll miss potential sales if you are too shy to toot to or talk to strangers.

    Don’t be overbearing, abrasive or obnoxious. But there is often an opportunity to work your book into a conversation, even with the person ahead of you at the post office or next to you on a plane. If she seems interested, give her a business card or two with your book cover and ordering information.

    My wife and I carry book cards to give to possible customers. Marilyn has turned out to be an excellent salesperson. She even “sold” a book to our dentist. He asked me to autograph it when I had my teeth cleaned. My podiatrist, on the other hand, asked for an autographed freebie. I gave it to him.

    Always have some books in the trunk of your car and in a suitcase when you travel. You never know when you might meet a customer — or a book reviewer.

    From my newest book, 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice

    • Joel Friedlander

      Good tips, Michael. There’s a reason that the stereotype of the self-publisher is someone with a carton of books in their trunk. I talked to an author who struck up a conversation on a flight and walked off with a purchase order for 1,000 books. Unusual, but it’s smart to not overlook these opportunities.

    • Alicia Young

      Michael, I agree.

      I always carry cards with me, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how often people ask for one, or are curious to see the book cover – I only just recently added it to one side of the card, and the response has been great.

      Next round of printing, I need to add a QR code!




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