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Blogs by Shawn Patrick Cormier
3/23/2011 3:59:00 AM
If you want to sell books, you have to self-promote. You cannot self-publish (and here I mean both POD and self-publishing) and sit on your laurels, expecting people to find and buy your book. Believe me, it doesn't work that way. Just because your book is listed on Amazon.com doesn't mean anyone will find it, let alone buy it. There are literally over a million books on Amazon. Imagine a bookstore where one million books line the shelves. Now imagine your book smack-dab in the middle of all those books. How could anyone ever find it? The answer is you have to tell them where it is. This is self-promotion.
Self-promotion is a broad term, so I will break it down into its many parts, and in the next few posts I will tell you what worked for me and what didn't, and what I wished I had done. The actions I took to promote me and my book may not work for you and yours, or they may work far better, depending on your geographic area, your book's genre and your personality. You will see what I mean as I go along.
The first thing I did, and one of the best things I did, was to walk on over to my local newspaper and ask to speak to the reporter responsible for local interest stories. Local interest reporters are tasked with finding local interest stories, and if you live in a small community like I do, the local interest stories are limited and often not that exciting. You and your book and the story of how and why you wrote it ARE exciting. You should have no problem getting an interview, perhaps with a picture of you and your book, in the local paper. Don't stop there. Branch out and contact the newspapers of surrounding towns as well. If you live in a large city (and here you see why I mentioned geography) you will have a harder time getting in the paper. Nevertheless, try! If you are not comfortable barging in to your local newspaper office, then email them. However you do it, it's important you do it. That kind of publicity is worth a lot of money. And when you give that interview, make sure that the reporter lists where people can buy your book. You don't have your book in any bookstores yet? No problem. If you did it right, and I will assume you did, you have a distributor (if you are self-published) or you used a POD company who acts as your distributor. (Again, refer to the many great books on self-publishing or POD companies.) This makes your book available to order from ANY bookstore. So go ahead and list the bookstores in your area and tell the reporter that anyone can BUY your book at those fine stores. Include Barnes and Noble, Borders and any other biggie, too. No, it's not a lie. Your book CAN be purchased there. You are not saying they stock it, just that they carry it. Make sure you definitely mention your small local bookstores. Why? You will see shortly.
There are a few other key points you will want to cover during the interview. Make sure you can describe your book clearly in as few words as possible. In fact, if you can describe your book in one sentence, then do it. That one sentence has to be powerful, though. It can't just be, "My book is about a boy who wants to be a wizard despite his upbringing ." That's not only boring, it's common. Make your one sentence unique by finding the HOOK in your book. The hook is what makes your book stand out from the million other books out there. So instead of "My book is about a boy who wants to be a wizard despite his upbringing" it could be "My book is about a boy who wants to be a wizard but discovers he may be the Devil instead." Finding the hook will mean digging deep into the meat of your story. You should have done that already while writing it, but if you didn't, do it now. What is your story really about? Make it good, then make sure the reporter writes it down.
Another thing you'll want to mention, especially if you still live in your childhood hometown, are the people who influenced you to write your book. These people could be high school teachers, librarians, family, friends, clergy, anyone really. Mentioning someone, especially a local person, will help promote your book to more people because the people you mention will talk up your book. It's human nature and it works. Just make sure that they actually DID influence you.
A newspaper article will not only spread the word about your book, it can also help get your foot in the door at local bookstores. Bookstores are businesses and businesses love to know that what they are selling has some publicity behind it already. Going in to a bookstore cold, and by cold I mean without any publicity or buzz about your book, will not make an impression. But if you bring your article in and show them that your book already has some promo behind it, and that their store is mentioned as a place where they can buy it, and that you are not afraid to self-publicize, they will most definitely take a few copies for their shelves. You will also have an easy time getting in for a signing, another great publicity vehicle for your book, which we will cover in our next post.
Let me mention here that bookstores, especially small bookstores that prefer to order books directly from you, will often want them on consignment. That means they will be hesitant to pay you in advance for books. Instead, they will gladly take five copies for their shelves under the stipulation that they will pay you when they sell them, or return them to you if they don't. That's standard in the industry. Do not demand that they must pay in advance. Make it easy for your books to grace their shelves. You are at their mercy. They are the gatekeepers. Go with it, but keep good records.
More Blogs by Shawn Patrick Cormier
Why Do You Write? - Monday, December 05, 2011
Creative Ways to Sell Your Book – or Selling in a Psych Ward! - Monday, December 05, 2011
Book signing dos and donts - Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Self-promotion - Wednesday, March 23, 2011
So you want to sell lots of books? - Sunday, March 13, 2011
To publish or not to publish - what is the difference? - Thursday, March 10, 2011
There is hope for us yet! - Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Has Publishing Killed the Writing Star? - Monday, March 07, 2011