PROMOTING YOUR BOOK…VISUALLY
Jerry D. Mohrlang
Within a few months of my first novel’s release, I had made the obligatory rounds to all of the area bookstores; met the owners or managers, espoused the merits of my novel, dropped off an information packet and a complimentary copy of the book and requested book signings. Sound familiar?
About a month following my very first book signing at a Barnes & Nobel bookstore, I was surprised to receive a telephone call from an owner of an independent bookstore located in an adjacent community. I recalled visiting her store with my promotional materials, but at the time, she was “unavailable” so I simply chatted with her store manager, handed her a copy of the novel and asked her to give it to the owner for review and to please mention my request for a book signing. I didn’t give it another thought until receiving that propitious telephone call from someone I had never met.
Following a long, ego-inflating monologue in which the owner regaled my novel, Sarawak, an historical adventure novel, with glowing adjectives (at one time even comparing it to M.M. Kaye’s, The Far Pavilions), she asked if I would be interested in making a presentation to a local library group she belonged to. I agreed in, oh…about a fraction of a nanosecond.
After selecting a date for the event, she further astounded me by saying she would place posters advertising the event, pay for newspaper ads and make arrangements with the library for a room, any equipment I might need, and a book signing to follow the event. She also stated that she would order two dozen books for the signing.
Two dozen books! I had only sold eight books at the Barnes & Nobel book signing and thought it was a huge success. The pressure was on and I wondered how I would make a presentation to an anticipated group of 50-60 strangers that would motivate them enough to part with $24.95 to purchase a copy of a novel by an unknown writer.
While I contemplated my impending presentation, I reflected upon book presentations I had attended in the past by other authors, some of them highly successful writers. It was then that I realized that most of the author events that I attended were essentially the same; the author told of how he/she came to write their story, their background, experience and method of writing, a brief summary of their book, the tribulations of finding a publisher and the elation of finally being published. The similarity of substance of these events, although presented with varying degrees of humor and interest, still struck my memory as being essentially the same. It was then that I decided to do something different, but what?
What would have made these other events better, I wondered? The authors all had credentials (they were published, weren’t they?), they had copies of their books and most even read a few sample passages from them. What could I do differently? After all, I had an obligation to sell two dozen copies of my book, didn’t I?
After pondering the problem for several days, it finally dawned on me that what all of these presentations lacked, beyond a stack of copies of their books, was something visual. As a former teacher, I understood that the best classroom learning occurs when a multitude of a student’s senses are engaged simultaneously. Shouldn’t the same concept apply to adults? Following a little reflection, I decided to put together a visual presentation of my novel by using overhead projections.
My idea was to give the audience a “feel” for the place in which the main action of the book takes place (Borneo), the time period of the story (early 19th century), and a brief synopsis of each of the main characters. Because Sarawak is based upon the life of a real historical character, James Brooke, I already possessed renderings of him. Other characters in the book were either fictional or highly fictionalized versions of actual people, so I had to browse the internet through a Google search until I found maps and non-copyrighted pictures of period people that closely resembled what I envisioned my fictionalized characters to look like. The usable pictures I found were a mélange of sketches, portraits and actual photographs. With the use of my computer, scanner, printer and a packet of transparencies obtained at the local Office Max, I copied the maps and pictures to the transparencies along with quotes I selected from the novel that were reflective of each of the book’s main characters. Obtaining a projector was no problem-every library has one or at least has access to one through their regional library systems and I’ve also learned that, at least in my area, the libraries allow patrons to borrow the equipment for use outside the library. A couple of examples of the transparencies I created follow this article.
So how did my first visual book presentation to a large group turn out? Two words. Very well. Not only did I sell the book store owner’s two dozen books as well as a few from my personal supply, but I discovered two concomitant values to making a visual presentation of a book.
· One, it allows for more audience Q&A participation because the audiences attention is riveted upon the visual renditions of the characters and the visual excerpts of the writing samples from the book instead of upon me, the author.
· Second, I was surprised to discover that my visual presentation was adaptable to many groups and organizations unaffiliated specifically with book groups. Some of the people who attended the event that evening belonged to other groups such as social, civic and service organizations and I have subsequently been invited to make the same presentation to many of these organizations as well.
Promoting my book visually has been such a success and has opened so many new opportunities to promote my book that I plan to develop a similar presentation for my new novel, Mujahidin, following its release early this year. I hope you will consider promoting your book…visually, as well. I think you will discover, as I did, that it is well worth the effort.