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Sarah Gerdes

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30 Day Program to Jump Start Book Sales
by Sarah Gerdes   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, January 19, 2008
Posted: Saturday, January 19, 2008

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Improve awareness and demand for your books by holding local events with little or no out of pocket expense

Hold a ďHow-ToĒ Ö..


When Iím not writing, Iím searching for new ways to promote my works. Endlessly. My objective is to find the silver bullet on-line book promotion marketing campaign thatís free, can be completed entirely on-line (while Iím in bed at 11 pm) and triples the amount of daily sales within twenty-four hours.


Iíve yet to find this. Worse, I rarely discover a new technique or tip that I havenít read before.


Not one to give up, I tend to fall back on my previous life of public speaking at conferences and wonderedówhy not give a public forum another shot? Iím not talking about bookstore events. As the director of events at the famed Powell Bookstore in Portland Oregon told me, ďthe only events that draw a crowd are for famous romance novelists or a cookbook author thatís been on Oprah or The Today Show.Ē Well, Iím not famous, nor am I cookbook author so thatís out. With my figurative book in hand, I told the local Barnes and Nobles event manager I'd spoken to nearly forty schools in three months, sure she would rush to put my poster in the front window. She bluntly told me they wouldn't be able to get more than ten people in the store.


Okay, then.


Once bookstores was off my list of possible event venues, I looked around and stumbled across a fabulous resource that has paid tremendous returns for my book sales: the public library system. But a funny thing happened. My first few events sucked because I was talking about me. Then I got wise, I changed my talk to something that got people in the room, kept the attendees sitting up straight, taking notes, asking questions and then fervently wanting to know more about the speaker. I made the talk about Them: the wanna-be writer/novelist.


30 Days to an effective author event



This is the draw. This isnít about pushing your book. This is about educating others. If you do a good job, the attendees will want to know more about you and likely feel compelled to check out your material.


Begin with a How-To topic and make it catchy. How to become a writer, get an agent, complete your novel. Hobbiestís love a free how-to. If you doubt me, check out the local Home Depot on a Saturday morning. Closet writerís are no different. Blend a motivational how-to (as in, how to keep your motivation level high, developing the discipline to write etc.) with a step-by-step so the attendees can have a clear path for progression. This ensures the attendees leave feeling they learned about an important topic but also have an action. Itís like attending weight watchersóyou go, see the motivational pictures of the skinny person and leave with the calendar and food planning tools to be successful. Donít forget to create a catch title.



Forget the local bookstore. Check out the public library. Iíve yet to run into a public library that doesnít have public meeting space. The use of the room is free; the one caveat is that itís non-exclusionary and that itís not being used to solicit sales of any kind. If you donít think a library is a glamorous as a bookstore, think about John Grisham who held his first ever promo at his local library and brought donuts. I figured, if it worked for him and it worked for me, it can work for you.


Library Promotion

Since this is an in-person event, the draw will be limited to probably a ten-mile radius if you are in a suburban area, maybe ten blocks if youíre in New York.


Larger libraries have a landing page with a main call-out for author events and readings. In Seattle, about twenty minutes from where I live, the author reading section is in the middle of the home page, from and center. However, Seattle events can fill up six months. If you have the option, try smaller, local libraries. For this article, I called the six surrounding suburbs and every one had open rooms, and all were within fifteen miles of my house, five of the six within five.


Butts in Seats

Forgive the phrase, but itís the line used by seminar pros to literally, get butts in the seat for an event (and if the event is a long one, to get them off break and back into the room). Itís typically the hardest part of the job, but in your case, itís rather simple. You start with making fliers and tacking one up to each of the libraries in addition to submitting the event on the on-line calendar. You also put up fliers in every grocery store, community center, gym and health club, weight-loss center and community church you can think of. Look at it this way: real estate agents are shameless about self-promotion (with a picture on business cards no less!) so you can be too!


Local papers also have an event calendar section which may or may not be handled by the editor. Typically the city in which the event is being held will include the event (not the surrounding cities), so take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the editor. It may be the opportunity for a photo shoot if itís a slow week or you have a good turnout.


Brute Force

At this point, I know youíre thinking that low-cost doesnít mean low effort. Thatís true . If I had $15K of discretionary dollars, Iíd be spending it on public relations to drive demand across a few hundred thousand people instead of two hundred. Repeat after meóthat will come. For now, drive the awareness and demand at the local level. Do so by providing lots of resources on site.


Have on hand a picture of your book(s) on an easel so they know instantly who you are and what youíve done (I created one at the local Kinkoís/FX for about $25 with foam and itís lasted forever). Have small flyers with local bookstores that carry your book. If you sell only on-line, include this information with the URL etc.


Also, be prepared to have a follow-up event. A good event spreads by word of mouth. If you have one how-to, you probably have enough rattling around upstairs to have a few more. Consider one every other month, one a quarter etc. Remember itís all about starting the viral effect, keeping your name and book top-of-mind for the busy people who can buy your book, and frankly, want to emulate your success.


Planning and Organizing

When it comes down to planning the actual event, itís rather simple. Instead of bullet-points, Iím going to attach a separate doc. It will be easier to follow, and can be used time and again.



If you forgoe the poster (or have one made up), and you can print fliers from your house, you will have gas money driving around posting your fliers. If you bring donuts, that will cost you a bit extra.

Coming Up

I think the next event article will be on either book parties or on-line events. Iíve done both with equal degrees of success, even though they are on the opposite ends in terms of reach and impact.

Check out for my blog for updates on marketing and my progress as  

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Reader Reviews for "30 Day Program to Jump Start Book Sales"

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Reviewed by Linda Newton Perry
Good ideas! The idea of enough about me,let's talk about you. Great.
Thanks for writing the article.
Reviewed by Ron Karcz
Dear Sarah,

Another good one! You're going to be one of my favorites.

Isn't this the truth..."This is the draw. This isnít about pushing your book. This is about educating others. If you do a good job, the attendees will want to know more about you and likely feel compelled to check out your material." Unfortunately, it's hard to be a prophey in your own back yard. Making it about others is the key.

Ron Karcz
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