There are lots of Indie and self-published authors, and they each face many of the same problems: Writing, editing, publishing and promotions. How can an indie author with limited resources promote their own book?
Truth is there are a TON of ways to promote a book for little or no money. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
This is probably the best way to meet your public and promote your work. Nothing says “author” like having a book signing. Like everything else you do in your career, it’ll take some planning and perseverence, so be prepared. There are several things to consider.
Venue: Where will you hold your event? Wherever you live, there’s bound to be a book store, whether it’s a local shop, store in the mall or Barne’s and Noble.
Before you start asking around, remember, you’re a professional. Act like one. Speak like one and conduct yourself like one. Don’t swear, don’t joke around, and don’t beg.
Have your ducks in a row. Prepare a list of questions to ask them. What are their requirements? What do they expect you to bring? Is there anything that you need to know: Will they put a few books on the shelf for you if you’ve got some left over? (They’ll probably say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.) Do they have any questions for YOU?
And, at the same time, be prepared with a list of things you’re willing to offer THEM. Sometimes, a deal is made or broken by what you’ve got to offer them, not just what they can do for you. Make sure they know that your book is available through online ordering (for some stores, this is a must). Assure them that you’re prepared to buy any books that don’t sell so that they’re not left with a stack of books. This plays into your planning. Don’t go hog wild and suggest that they order forty copies when you might only sell ten. If they’re willing to order the books for the event, ask that they order maybe fifteen, twenty at the most. And be prepared to buy them back if they don’t sell. This fact alone may convince them that 1) you’re a professional and 2) you’re worth the risk, time and trouble of setting up a signing.
Some stores won’t want to preorder books for your event. They’ll want you to bring them. If they say that’s what they’d prefer, tell them you’re all too happy to do that, and tell them how many copies you’ll be bringing with you.
Either way, you’ll be paying for your books for a signing. Chances are that you get a discount from your publisher, even if you’re self-published, so the cost shouldn’t be too exorbitant.
As well as books, be prepared to offer them publicity. Tell them you’re planning to be on the morning radio show plugging the event. If they ask which radio show, be prepared to tell them the station you plan to approach, the name of the show and the potential time slot. This is where your planning comes in. You need to set both up, the book signing and radio promotion months in advance. I’d say a good four months. That’s about how far in advance radio shows book their air time. Planning media promotion could be a huge bonus for you on the phone with the book store if you tell them you’ve got (or plan to have) air time to plug not just yourself, but the store as well.
Tell them you’ll be in the paper as well, plugging the event. And be prepared to tell them which paper. You know what the bigger papers in your area are.
Also, make sure they know that you’ll have posters, bookmarks, and whatever other promotional items you plan to make available. The prettier the package, the more likely they are to take you up on it. Don’t go crazy and get all cutesy, though. They still need for you to be professional about it.
Ask them what their policies are about hosting a book signing event for a local author. Let them tell you what they expect from you. And don’t be discouraged if you get brushed off. If that store won’t have you, another one will.
Many states have a book festival once a year. Those are great way to get your book and your name out there.
HERE’S a list of book festivals by state. Check to see if there’s one close to you. If you don’t see one on the list, don’t be discouraged. Google around and see if there’s a book festival near you that isn’t on the list.
When you find one, get in touch with the folks that run it and find out about taking out a booth or table for your books. The cost for setting up could depend on the location you choose. Some festivals have tables indoors for a higher fee, or tables outside that cost less but leave you at the mercy of mother nature. It’s up to you how much you want to spend, including how many copies of your title you plan to have on hand.
Again, be sure to have business cards and/or other promotional materials to hand out. When the day comes, meet the public amicably. Be warm and approachable, but keep it professional, as ever.
Nothing spruces up a writer’s resume like winning awards and contests. That buys you bragging rights on your website and dust jackets, and it helps you to catch the eye of bigger traditional publishers.
You can google a list of book writing contests and find page after page of book contests. The problem with that is not knowing how many of them are legitimate. I strongly suggest that you pick up a copy of The Writer’s Market. Aside from having comprehensive lists of publishers and agents, TWM also has a whole section dedicated to providing information about contests. What they are, what they accept, how to enter and what you can hope to win. Some contests go by state, some by genre, others by gender or age. Whatever your criteria, you’re bound to find a contest to suit your book. And the best part is that you won’t likely find a scam on the list. They check ’em before they list ’em. TWM is a pricey book, but most libraries have the most recent edition in their resources section. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by thumbing through it.
As much as I hate that word, it’s widely used to describe promotional items like bookmarks, business cards and other trinkets authors hand out to promote themselves and their work. The types of promotional items you choose to carry is up to you, but you should have something handy to give to anybody you come across that expresses some interest in your work. Most often, it’s business cards. They’re compact, portable and you can carry a bunch of them at once. Paper bookmarks aren’t much bigger. Girls who carry purses shouldn’t have a problem lugging a few a round. Bulkier items like metal bookmarks and keychains are better reserved for events. When you have a book signing or table at a festival, you can keep a small basket of baubles attendees can pick up and take with them.
You’d be surprised how much attention your title can get by giving a copy to your local library. A ton of people browse for titles to read. That’s the only reason they’re there. They want to find something to read. If they find your title on the shelf, they might pick it up, read it, like it and become a loyal reader. They might have read this book for free, but they’ll pay for the next one. And all it costs you is one copy. A lot of libraries will let you leave a stack of bookmarks on the counter, too. 😉
For a little free publicity, ask your favorite restaurants if you can leave a stack of business cards or bookmarks by the register. They will or they won’t. Most likely, if it’s a place you frequent, they will. That can garner you a ton of free publicity. Check back every so often to see if they could use a fresh stack. Just be sure to order something while you’re there. A little give and take goes a long way. Your bookmark or business card should have a nice picture of your title on the front and your information on the back. Your name and your internet information, including your official website.com, official Facebook and official Twitter, primarily. Remember, keep it professional. This could be the first time a potential reader gets a glimpse of you. Make it a good first impression.
AAFES is the armed forces exchange store that supplies goods and services to military bases around the world. That’s a HUGE market that not a lot of indie authors think of. It’s tougher for indie or self-published authors to get a book into the AAFES book stores. There’s a lot of paperwork, and any number of hoops to jump through, but it’s not impossible. Contact AAFES and find out about doing business with the exchange.
Whether or not you can get your books into the AAFES bookstore, chances are that there’s a military base relatively close to where you live. You can set up a book signing in the BX (base exchange), and you can donate a book to the base library as well. Look up the numbers for the BX and base libraries, give them a call and find out how you can go about making a book signing and donation to the base library happen.
United Service Organizations is a nonprofit organization that provides programs, services and live entertainment to United States troops and their families around the world. It wouldn’t hurt your public profile (or karma) to donate books to the USO for troops to enjoy. It’s a way to get your title into the hands of service members and their families around the globe. Whether you donate a number of titles to the USO center to distribute or just drop by the local office to drop off a book, it would be time and effort well spent.
Once you’ve got your promotional event set up, whether it’s at a book signing or festival, it’s time to set up some media promotion to plug it. There are a couple ways to go about it.
There are two types of radio shows you can sign up for: internet radio and actual radio.
Internet radio shows are a dime-a-dozen. It’s the easiest thing in the world to get on those, and that’s not a bad thing. Any audience hearing about you and your book is a good thing. So go ahead and sign up to be interviewed on internet radio shows.
The only drawback to internet radio shows is that they all too often have a small audience. It’s great to be heard, but the bigger the audience, the better, right?
Radio, real, live radio offers a broader audience, by thousands. If you get on a morning radio show to talk about your book, you’ll be heard by a very large audience. It’s not that hard to do. Radio has nothing but airtime to fill, and they’re happy to give it to you. You just need to plan ahead. Many radio stations book their guests months in advance. So call the station and ask what their procedures are. How far in advance do they book shows? How do you go about it? They’ll be all too happy to tell you, so have a pen and paper handy. You’re writers, so they’re probably beside your hand right now.
One note to keep in mind is that you don’t always have to go to the radio station for an interview. Nine times out of ten, they’ll phone you in.
Also, offer to send the Deejay a list of questions they can ask you about yourself and your book. They don’t know you from Adam, and won’t have the first clue about what to ask you, so be sure to offer pertinent questions about yourself, your book, and most importantly, the event you’ll be plugging.
And approach the newspaper to see if somebody in the entertainment section would be willing to do an article on you. It’s always a great human interest story when a local boy or girl does something good. “Small town girl releases first novel” or “Home town man goes national with the release of his second (first, third, fourth) book.” You get the idea.
Placing ads in a newspaper costs a lot of money. Interviews are free. So once you’ve got the date for your signing, contact the paper’s entertainment section and approach them from the angle of featuring you as a happy-ending human interest story. Worst they can do is tell you no. Best that can happen is they tell you yes. So be sure and have a picture ready for them to print. A nice, professional picture of you holding your book would be good. Professional, too.
As with the radio, offer your interviewer a list of questions relavent to yourself, your book and your event. They don’t want to know what pets you had growing up or what your favorite color is. Keep it about your work. Nothing screams “ROOKIE!” like irrelevant banter. Don’t be a stick in the mud, but don’t stray too far off topic, either. I think we’ve all seen examples of how unprofessional a writer can be, talking about irrelevant or inappropriate matters. Use those as examples of what not to do. Keep it professional.
Aside from promotional events and giveaways, the biggest opportunity you’ve got as an author to reach the masses is the internet. There is no bigger audience on the planet. The whole world is, quite literally, at your fingertips. So use it.
Make yourself a dedicated website. I’m not talking about weebly or wix or some other free template-based service, I’m talking about your very own dot com. The only thing you want people to see in the url box is your name, not the name of some host service. That screams cheap. It says Rookie. Spend five bucks buying your own domain at Yahoo or Go Daddy, or whatever webhosting service you prefer. Don’t get cutesy or clever choosing your domain name. The world doesn’t want to know what your favorite stuffed toy is or sports you enjoy. They just want to know your name. As a serious author, that’s all your domain needs to tell them. If your name is Bill Smith, you might find about a thousand variations of domains with your own name already claimed, so you might have to be inventive, but keep it straightforward. If BillSmith dot com already exists, try for AuthorBillSmith dot com, or TheAuthorBillSmith. Keep adding on if you have to, but stick to your writing as much as possible. If TheAuthorBillSmith is taken, try HorrorWriterBillSmith, or RomanceAuthorBillSmith, things like that.
I, personally, had to use initials as my author name because there are no fewer than five women that write using my name, in various spellings. Artists, too. If you Google Jeanne Larson, you’ll find artists, watercolor artists, professors, even physicians. So when I signed up for my dot com, I fell back to using my screen name for it. Like this blog, my author and artist domain is Lepplady. It’s unique to me. Nobody else has it. So if you absolutely must, you can create a name that’s uniquely you to use for your dot com. But if you do that, be prepared to be identified by that moniker for the entirety of your career. Me, I’ve been Lepplady online for nearly twenty years, so I’m cool with that. Be sure you are, too, before you commit to any name that isn’t your given one.
FACEBOOK, TWITTER, et al
There are countless social media sites you can use to promote yourself. Just about everybody in the free world has a Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter account. My suggestion is that you create an official one. If you’ve got a FB you use to socialize and play games, don’t expect for that to serve as your official page. Your readers deserve to see a professional page from you where they can find out about your books and events, things like that without tripping over your Farmville scores. They have the option of looking for your personal accounts if they want to, but it’s best of you provide a professional presence online that’s separate from your personal one. As you gain popularity, you might even decide to make your personal profiles private, to keep the public from nosing into your personal business.
Post official information only on your official profiles, from Twitter on down. Save the personal stuff for your personal pages. It’ll look professional, and it’ll gain you a whole world of promotional possibilities.
There you have it. These are just a few promotonal ideas that you can pursue on a small budget. I’m sure there are more, and as I think of them, I’ll add them. The important thing is that you don’t give up. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Now, get to work.