Self Promotion on a Budget
By Linda Morelli
1. Set up a website to promote your book(s) several months before it is released. Most Internet access companies, like AOL, allow you to set up one for free. Take advantage of it! What do you need on your website? Here’s the basics:
a. Your name and contact information; i.e., email address and a Post Office Box. I suggest renting a post office (especially for women) because you don’t always want readers to know your personal address. PO lock boxes can be had for as little as $25/year.
b. Your book information. This includes a .jpg of your cover, the title, publishing company, ISBN.
c. Include a short summary of your book. Make it interesting so that people will want to purchase it. Some people actually include the first chapter to whet the reader’s appetite to purchase the entire book. If it’s a great chapter, they’ll get hooked, right?
d. Of course, you’ll need to include links to online sites where the book can be purchased.
e. Your bio. A short one is fine, giving a brief summary of who you are. If you can, include a photo of yourself as well. It can be casual or professionally done. I prefer casual photos – that way the readers will recognize you at booksignings. J
f. Be sure to list any writing awards and writing/author group memberships, even those online.
g. Some people like to add contests – these are a great way of gaining what I call “friends” – people to whom I send out newsletters, information on my latest reviews, my latest books, etc. Save these names and email addresses in a special file!
h. Encourage people to write you back by including your email and a notation like, “I’d love to hear from you!”
i. As you go along, add links of interest to you and/or your readers. (You can visit my site at http://hometown.aol.com/lbmwriter/romance/Index.html. Mine is pretty extensive. Don’t let it daunt you. Start off small, with one page, and you’ll be fine.
j. Once you’ve set up your website, submit your website's URL to search engines.
k. As those reviews of your book start coming in, add one or two short lines from them to your site. Select the best quote (lines or portions of sentences) and be sure to include the reviewer’s name and who they represent.
2. Send notices out immediately regarding your book’s pending release to friends, relatives, etc. The least expensive way is to use postcards. You can have these professionally done at a printers (like Staples, Kinko’s, etc.). I suggest using your cover and, on the reverse side, your book’s title, ISBN, date of release, publisher, and a brief blurb about your book on the left half. Leave a space for a personally hand-written note (i.e., for original release and, later, for info on local booksignings). On the right (this is where you’ll place the address label or hand-write the address), be sure to include, in small print, your name, PO Box, and “Return address requested.” That way, if anyone on your “Friends” list moves, you’ll have their current address. Definitely send out press releases to local bookstores, and include a sheet with your photo and bio.
3. Soon as you can get them, purchase and send out ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) to reviewers who specialize in your genre; i.e., if you wrote a mystery, don’t send your book to romance reviewers, only those who review mysteries. I suggest you send to at least 25 reviewers to obtain 2-3 good to great reviews. Yes, it costs to purchase copies of the book and pay the postage, but a good review is priceless.
4. If you’re short on funds, consider pooling resources with another author. Two author friends of mine wrote historical romances. They purchased postcards with covers for their books in sufficient quantities to mail to their friends and do follow-up mailings announcing the date and place of their future booksignings. They had enough quantities remaining so make up memo pads, with white paper the size of the postcards, with the postcard covers of their books on each side of the pad. That way, no matter which way the recipient used the memo pad, they’d see at least one of the two covers – a constant reminder of the book’s availability. The point is to get your name and book in the public’s eye.
5. Always carry promotional material in your purse or jacket. This can be just the postcard, a business card with your book’s title and ISBN, or even a tri-fold brochure you’ve worked up. And always be sure your name, address and email are included on these materials. See “Samples of Promotional Materials” below.
6. Publish an e-mail newsletter. Make it helpful in addition to promoting your book. For instance, you can include tidbits of info on writing or articles that will appear on a regular basis. (I provide my favorite recipes.)
7. Be sure to promote your book’s URL in your e-mail signature.
8. Stop by all the bookstores within easy traveling distance from home and talk to the manger (CRM = Community Relations Manager) about your book. Leave simple flyers or, if you have it, a press kit with them. Independent bookstores are the best, because they’re more willing to work with local authors and often love to have authors’ bookmarks to hand out to their clients. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try the major bookstores like Barnes & Noble. You never know. The CRM of a major bookstore might just love having a local author sign books at their store. (Be sure to stress the “Local Author” aspect.) Wait a few weeks, then be sure to follow up on your visit with a phone call.
9. If you have arranged booksignings at a store, ask the manager if you can pre-sign a couple of copies of your book to leave with him. Signed books can't be returned, which means the bookstore will actually have to push to sell them.
10. Promote your book’s URL in your e-mail signature. Change your signature line on all personal email you send out to include your book's title and ISBN number, as well as a short review quote. No one will know you've written a book if you don't promote it all the time.
11. Don’t just list the URL address link. Include a reason for them to visit; i.e., a short blurb, like “murder at its best.”
12. Contact local libraries. They often love to have a local author discuss and/or sell their books at a special event. Also consider donating copies of your books to the library. Yes, that might decrease sales, but only marginally, and the reader will recognize your name when your next book comes out. This is all about developing a loyal readership.
13. Check out any local book clubs in your area. They occasionally purchase from authors and this can provide some great sales.
14. Consider writing short stories or articles to submit to online groups and magazines. This is a great way to reach new audiences and gain that much needed name recognition.
15. Consider giving talks to your local writer’s center, library or school. People love to meet and talk with a local author and, even if you don’t get a ton of sales, they may just appear at your next book store signing to get an autographed copy of your novel.
16. Put up index cards at the local stores (and libraries) with info about your book -- you know, the ones with the little tags at the bottom so people could tear off your phone number/email.
17. Consider holding contests. I have a few suggestions:
a. Don't offer one of your books as a prize. You're trying to get people to BUY your books, and they won't do that if you offer them for free.
b. Be sure to announce the contest in plenty of time to online groups so they can get it in their newsletters and/or put it on their sites, etc.
c. Be sure to announce the contest to all the online groups of which you are a member (I have received several requests to review my books from these groups -- and ideas for writing articles elsewhere that would bring my name into the public eye – a great way to get name recognition.
18. Develop mailing lists for the following (I used a regular Word document, but you can put them in a database of sorts if you like--might make it easier to generate labels):
a. Local bookstores and libraries; when possible, get the contact person (we call them CRM or Community Relations Managers). You will use this list for a press release (which Jean will probably do, but I can also help you fine-tune it for your area)
b. Friends and family. This list will be updated frequently. Include home address and email, if they have it. NOTE: When anyone purchases your book, you should add them to this list. I highlight in color the people who have purchased my book, so if I want to do a mailing to people who haven't purchased, they're easy to select. Of course, if they're in a database, it would be easy to select them.
SAMPLES OF PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS
Business Cards: The least expensive way to do up business cards is by doing it yourself on your computer. I suggest this because, if you were to print up the minimum required at most print shops (i.e., 500), you’ll probably never use them up. You also won’t be able to add any new books you’ve released, any reviews (which you can actually print on the reverse side), etc. Consider adding your book’s cover or your photo to the business card. I prefer using a photo, because it’s a visual reminder that I talked with a particular person and they’ll remember that I’m an author. These are also good for mailing to agents and/or bookstore owners with press kits. Be sure to include your address, email and your website. Hand them out to everyone you know and meet.
Bookmarks: These are also an inexpensive method of promotion, and easily created on your own computer. Use heavy card stock. You can use either “portrait” or “landscape” format, depending upon the size bookmark you desire. For the contents (first side), place your name at the top (bold letters), then a .jpg of your book, then the book’s title and ISBN. Below that, list a short blurb about the book, then your name again, with contact information (i.e., PO Box, email). On the reverse side, add your photo and a short bio. You can add one line reviews here as they come in.
Tri-fold brochures: These are easy to set up. Just set your word processing document to landscape setting, then set up three columns. Going from left to right:
a. First page, column one: In the first column, create a little order form. Include the title, ISBN of your book and the price. Then create a little order form with the captions (and lines following each of these) for Name, Address, City, State, Zip and Email. Then, below that, a line for the user to fill in number of copies, then your book’s title and cost (i.e., Fiery Surrender . $9.95/each), then a line for the total cost. Be sure to add a line for the cost of shipping, and note the choices (i.e., Priority 1 .$3.85, book rate . $1.65). [Note: These prices may change over time. ]Then provide a total line. At the bottom, tell them where to mail the order form; i.e., provide your name and address.
b. First page, column two: Here, include your photo, bio, and contact information.
c. First page, column three: In the upper third of this column, include your book’s cover, title, ISBN and, below that, the notation “Excerpt © (author’s name). Below that, provide a short blurb on your book. This would normally be what you’d find on a book’s back cover.
d. The reverse side of this landscape flyer will contain a short selection from your first chapter; do it up in three columns. At the end, in the third column, be sure to leave room for some one-liner reviews (and the reviewer’s name/company). You can easily adjust this as new reviews come in by reducing the size of your print font.
Press Kits: Purchase good quality folders, ones that have a place for your business card on the inside. A label with your name and “Premier Author” below it can be placed on the cover. The inside would contain, as you receive them, the following:
a. Business card in slot on top.
b. A 5 x 7” color photo (with your name and contact info applied by label to back)
c. A sheet with your photo, bio and contact information.
d. A “Contact Information Sheet” listing you (your name, address, phones, fax, email, and website(s); same for your publisher and agent, if you have one.
e. As you get these together, you’ll want to add a sheet for any online articles you’ve written; as well as articles written about you. You can also add a sheet for “Public Appearances” which can start off with your booksignings (date, time, store name, city, state) and, later, any lectures, speeches, etc. that you’ve conducted.
f. Press Release(s). Here you’d place a copy of the press release regarding your book(s). A simple press release can include a copy of the cover, a simple short blurb about your book, a brief bio about yourself and a nice photo of yourself.
g. “FAQs” sheet. Not everyone has these, but I suggest you make one up. It saves a lot of time for bookstore owners and gives them a little information about you. The format is simple: Just ask yourself, then answer, some of the questions you’d be asked if you were do to a newspaper or online interview. For instance, How long have you been writing? How did you go about publishing that first book? How do you come up with your ideas? Etc.
a. Postcard cover of your book (or, if you have it, a small booklet summarizing your first chapter.
b. Printed copy of a summary of your reviews. You can use the entire review here or just summarize several reviews on one sheet. Always be sure to include your name at the top, the book’s title, publisher, date of publication and ISBN and, at the bottom, your address, including website.
c. Behind this, place copies of any newspaper articles written about you pertaining to writing and/or your book’s release.
Small booklets: I’ve made up little booklets, 4 x 5-1/4”, for each of my two books. The cover of the booklet has my book cover; the back of the booklet has a blurb on my other book (with, of course, title, ISBN, cover .jpg and a brief blurb), but you can place reviews of your book here. Inside the front cover of the booklet is the publishing information (title, publisher & address, ISBN and notation: “All Rights Reserved” under title, and “Excerpts contained herein are Copyright by (Author’s name).” Back inside cover can contain your bio and photo, and don’t forget to include your contact information (i.e., name, PO Box, email). You might find it easier to develop these little booklets by using 8-1/2 x 11” paper, two columns. It takes some work, though, to get the pages lined up on the right side. Unless you have the patience of Job, you might want to print out a chapter (landscape, 2 columns), then paste the pages on another sheet and finally take it to a printer.
Sites to visit and consider joining:
Sites for marketing info:
Fiction Factor: Free ebooks on marketing http://www.fictionfactor.com/marketingfreebies.html
Earthly Charms-great article on promotion: http://www.earthlycharms.com/ecpromo22-04.htm
Jennifer Hollowell’s Pre-Marketing Plan: http://www.absolutewrite.com/novels/pre-publication.htm
Contest Announcement Sites (mostly romance):
Romance Junkies - http://www.romancejunkies.com/. Contest coordinator, Email: runacontest.romancejunkies.com. Also, send them some promo materials when you get some printed up, like bookmarks and the like.
Earthly Charms www.earthlycharms.com/contests.htm Su Kopil SUWK (SUWK.aol.com)
The Romance Studio - http://www.theromancestudio.com/writingcontests.php
Good luck with your promotion!