Following are some ideas for how to promote and sell your book. As with marketing, many of these are not one-time actions; they require regular diligence. And like marketing, the goal is not necessarily short-term results, but keeping an eye on the longer term.
Networking—Personal & Social
Networking is the systematic process of contacting specific people or organizations in order to develop a mutually beneficial (i.e., productive) relationship, which involves the sharing of information and/or services. The shared information may be advice, other contacts, or support.
The people involved in the network may be peers or even potential clients or customers. And the exchange may be in new business or referrals, money (e.g., finder’s fee or commission), gaining employment, etc. And the links connecting people in the network may extend beyond your first level of contacts to people and organizations that they know. This explains the success of networking applications like LinkedIn.
Where should you network? Everywhere you have the time and energy for, including book signings, trade shows, conferences, organization meetings, and the like. The easiest way to start is with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and industry peers that you know.
Though the goal of networking is to get sales, it’s important to remember to avoid openly selling to these people or groups. The idea is to ask them for referrals, and to tell others about your book. You should also ask each person or group if you can use them as a reference.
Once you get beyond personal networking, the next step is social networking. In reality, social networking has been around since the beginning of societies. What makes social networking different today, and in some ways more powerful, is access to the World Wide Web or Internet. The availability of specific websites and applications that are dedicated to connecting with other people and organizations expands the number of contacts beyond those you know personally. It basically creates an online community of people who use such websites to communicate with each other — to share information, resources, etc. Social networking can be done for social purposes (as the name implies) or for business purposes or both. Well-known examples include Facebook and LinkedIn.
So, how can you use social networking to promote your book? First of all, you need to determine which online social networks will serve you and your book; then join and participate in them. Learn what sub-groups or functions a given social network has that will serve your goals. As with personal networking, it’s important to avoid openly selling your book. Some of these groups have ways and means to advertise, and you can certainly take advantage of them. A good way to become known in a given network is to post blogs on your subject, or participate in discussions. It demonstrates your expertise, builds your author credibility, and may lead to direct contact or a referral.
If you want to promote your book — indeed, promote yourself and/or your business — you need one or more websites. Many authors have one website for their personal or business use, and another separate website for their book(s). Of course, you can always just have a separate page (tab) on your main website. Either way, the site serves as the online brochure for your book. If people hear about you or your book, your website is where they can learn more about both.
Because of the way internet browsers work, it’s important to keep your website current; it also needs to be active. One great way to do this is to have a blog (which can also be a separate website), where you post short pieces of information in your field or on the book’s subject matter. It may be obvious, but you should have a “store” on your website, through which people can buy your book(s). This can be by direct sales, or links to a book distributor (e.g., Amazon, Barnes & Noble). And that’s true whether it’s a printed book (p-book) or an electronic book (e-book). And don’t forget to include reviews, testimonials, and endorsements.
As mentioned above, a blog is a great way to keep your website active in the “eyes” of browsers. For those who don’t know, “blog” is a shortened form of “web log”. Blogs are usually short, and may be personal or business-related. When personal, the content may range over a wide variety of subjects. When business-related, the content is usually targeted to the author’s business, or specifically about the content of the author’s book.
Your blog can, and should, serve as one of your platforms, where you can establish and maintain credibility in your field — and as an author. If you have a place for people to comment, be sure to respond to any comments as soon as possible, and do so professionally (there’s no value in getting into a war of words). It’s often fun and rewarding to invite guests to write blogs for your website, or for you to be a guest blogger on someone else’s website. Again, think of the exposure this creates for you as an author.
Publicity is the process of promoting someone or something, which involves “the media” or any kind of communication (newspapers, magazines, television, radio, brochures, word-of-mouth, etc.), with the goal of attracting the awareness or attention of the public. The main objective of publicity, arguably, is not to promote sales, but to create an image. Publicity may be free (e.g., contributed articles) or paid (e.g., advertising). Publicity is sometimes called public relations or PR.
If (or when) you choose to undertake a publicity program, there are several important things to consider. First is your target audience. Knowing who will likely read your book (from your marketing efforts), should lead you to what else they read or tune into. The media are always looking for someone or something to fill their pages or airwaves. Choosing the right media channel can have a huge impact on your publicity; choosing the wrong one might be expensive.
The second consideration is your budget (assuming you’ve created one!). How much can you afford to, or want to, spend on publicity? This should be thought out, in advance, and discussed with some trusted advisors or experts (obviously, not someone who stands to gain by your decision).
Once you’ve chosen your avenue, your next step is to create a press release. This is a topic all to itself, but here are some basics. A press release is a brief written communication addressed to the right person at each of the organizations within the media you’ve targeted. It’s purpose should be to announce something that’s worthy of being printed, broadcast or passed on to others. Following are some simple guidelines:
- Be sure that you have a valid reason for sending out a press release. List the most newsworthy points (or “hooks”) of your book. What’s special or valuable that it would be worth getting the public’s attention?
- Make sure that your press release is targeted for the medium you’re sending it to. Have a strong attention-grabbing headline and opening paragraph. Avoid making it sound like a commercial.
- Following the opening paragraph, you should include relevant background, any quotes from others, and anything that demonstrates why your press release should be considered newsworthy.
- Limit your press release to one or two pages at the most.
You can also submit your book to various sources for reviews, and you can create a press kit with information about your book. When you’re just getting started with a publicity program, it helps to start locally, and then go further afield. Interviews, live or printed, can be great promotional tools. Again, much more could be written about each of these topics.
Selling, Personal & Direct
With a targeted niche market, you can sell your book by using personal communication. The major advantage is that you get immediate feedback, and based on your questions and those of your audience, you can modify your message for greater success. Ideally, this kind of selling should be done person-to-person, by scheduling an appointment. But sometimes, telephone sales may be effective (e.g., in challenging transportation areas).
Some examples of person-to-person events include book signings, launch parties, book tours, speaking engagements, and personal presentations for certain organizations. Remember that, even though your goal is sell your book, you don’t want to sound like a commercial. Cover the book’s content, and how it can support or entertain them, as appropriate.
When you’ve tapped out personal selling, or want to expand beyond that, it’s time for direct selling. Your goal here is to reach your targeted potential buyers directly, through one or more channels (e.g., direct mail (including postcards), e-mail, targeted promotional letters). If you don’t already have an available mailing list, you can buy one from a number of sources. One way to build an e-mail list is to create a free newsletter or provide some kind of give-away, which people can get by providing their e-mail address. Keep in mind that, with the flood of e-mails that many people get, having a strong subject line is crucial.
A trade show is an exhibition at which businesses or organizations in a particular industry or field try to create awareness of and promote their products and services. There may also be seminars, conferences, or workshops that cover technical or market trends in that industry or field. Trade shows are generally restricted to company representatives and members of the press, although some shows do open to the public for all or part of the run, which may be several days to several weeks.
Trade shows may be local, regional, national or international. For U.S. authors, one of the largest shows is Book Expo America. However, you might want to target a trade show that deals more specifically with your book’s subject. It’s a good idea to first visit one or more of these trade shows before you venture in as an exhibitor. You’ll also want to obtain an exhibitor’s manual for the trade show(s) you target, to learn of the costs, policies and procedures. It should go without saying that you’ll need to have an exhibit that will attract people enough to get them involved. As with other topics, this one could have its own space.
Promoting your book takes time and energy, and as with marketing and selling plans, you need to spend some time developing a promotion plan. Without one, you may miss some golden opportunities or waste a lot of money.
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