Promotion: Business or Hobby

My article “Promotion: Business or Hobby” was published in the National Association of Women Writers Weekly Newsletter / April 2004.

Do you treat your writing like a business or like a hobby? Promotion is no hobby. If you want your book to sell, you have to get out there and sell it. It won’t sell itself.

Relying on your publisher to promote your book? If your publisher is aiding promotion, great! But think about how many books your publisher has to promote besides yours? You have a greater chance of success because you can focus on the promotion of one book unlike your publisher.

How to make the shift from hobby to business?

1. Realize that success will not occur overnight. Promotion is an ongoing business and doesn’t stop after a couple weeks or a couple months.

2. Set realistic goals. Start small, think big. Setting the goal of being on the top ten best sellers list is aspiring but may not be realistic, at least not right now. “In the next six months I want to increase sales by 100 books.”

3. Be willing to travel outside of your town. Yes this can be a great expense. Or you can be frugal. This is the perfect time to call all your friends in different regions of the country and ask a favour, “Can I stay with you while I’m in town promoting my book?”

Have them do some groundwork for you before you arrive. Where are the local bookstores? Libraries? Ask for feedback on the ones to hit up for a booksigning (booksigning may not always produce great sales but they help with face and name recognition). Don’t have any friends that live across the continent. What about your online friends? You might be surprised at the response you get from them. And you might have a cheering section waiting for you. If all else fails pack a tent and live out of your car. Yes, I’m serious!

“Well what about my day job?” Then make day trips on your days off. If you’re serious about being a writer you need to get serious about promotion. You are going to be tired. But the long term results will be worth it. Be sure to let your publisher know where you are going to be and what you will be doing. They might be more inclined to kick in some help if they see the extra effort you are applying. But don’t count on this. Expect this to be a lonely job. Your job. The first three months of your books release are the most important.

4. Use every opportunity out there to speak or set up a display table of your books. Church groups, women’s groups and writing groups are always looking for guest speakers. Ask to attend bazaars, craft fairs, train fairs. Scour the newspaper for announcements of this kind. There is usually a contact number. Give them a call. Any place with a gathering of people is a potential opportunity to promote yourself and your book.

If you have a children’s book, approach guide and scout groups. Talk to regional leaders so you will have access to numerous groups in the area. Don’t forget to approach schools. Offer to read your book and do a workshop with the kids. Make some kind of craft that would compliment the book. Have bookmarks with details on where to get your book, to hand out to the kids to take home with their craft.

5. Ask your physician, doctor, dentist, massage therapist, gynaecologist and hairstylist if you can leave a copy of your book in the waiting room along with a few bookmarks. If you build a rapport with the receptionist she may even offer to retain a few copies to sell for you

6. Have book parties. Call up your friends and let them know you are trying to promote your book. Offer them a free copy and a special gift if they will get together 10-20 of their friends for a book party. Plan a few games and definitely have a draw for one of your books and few little gifts. Have a table setup displaying your book with attractive bookmarks and a vase of flowers. Read an excerpt. At the end of the night with the hostess’s encouragement hopefully you will have a few sales. If not that is ok too. Think name recognition. They may not have bought that night but they might the next time they see you or your book again. At the very least they will tell one other person how they spent their night and that they met an author. Make it a fun experience to encourage positive word of mouth.

7. Websites, newsletter etc are great promotion tools if you use them. But be consistent. Update your website at a minimum of once per month, ideally once a week. If you have no new content to add, switch around one or two items already present. This also lets the WebCrawler’s know your site is not stagnant. If you distribute a newsletter don’t be sporadic in sending it. You want to portray a reliable, consistent image. Pretend your subscribers are publishers waiting to review your latest book. Set a time and date for sending out your newsletter and stick too it. It’s that important! Once a month is the ideal. Even if it’s only a couple paragraph’s. You don’t want your readers to forget about you which is a definite possibility when you only send out a newsletter a couple times per year. Respond to emails within 24-48 hours. That means you must check your email more than once a week.

8. Keep track of everything you do and spend towards promoting your book. Keep meticulous notes as if you were researching one of your characters. This will help you see the vastness of your promotion and give you a map to follow for your next book.

9. Approach your areas radio/TV station to announce the release of your book. Offer to read and excerpt. Some areas also have student TV and they would love the opportunity to interview local authors.

10. Send messages to lists you belong to daily with a detailed 3-4 line Signature. Don’t only join writer’s groups. Join readers groups and other interest groups. Don’t overload yourself with this. It is easy to get carried away. Focus on 10 groups with high subscriber numbers rather than 50 groups with a small subscriber list. Lists are constantly changing. After 8-9 months drop a few of your groups and add some new ones. Digest is a handy feature if your e-box is overloaded with messages. Be a participant and don’t spam them. If you have an announcement, request permission from the list owner to post it to the group. Be sure to include a copy of the announcement in your email. If they say ‘no’ — DON’T POST IT! Most will respect the request and allow you to post or they may offer suggestions to make it an acceptable post. Don’t leave the group because they say ‘no’ that just makes you look like a spammer. Continue to participate, keep your signature line and when you have another announcement ask again.

11. Join Professional sales groups. Offer to be a guest speaker. Introduce yourself as a published author/writer. Always carry a few copies of your book in your bag to show people who ask questions. It’s your best visual aide. Donate a book as a doorprize. Offer to write content for the newsletter in exchange for advertising space.

12. Use the FREE websites to your advantage. Here is a URL to a site that reviews free web hosters: Pick five and set up a one page website at each of them. Be sure to have a link directing them to your main site if you have one. Don’t just set it up and forget about it. Take 30 seconds and check it each month to be sure it is functioning properly and update as necessary. Most will delete you if you are inactive with the upkeep of your site.

Patience is vital. Give it your all for at least three months then look at your stats. Look at your techniques. Look at what you’ve accomplished. After a year of promoting you’ll be better able to see the long term effects. Don’t give up your promoting. You can cut back but don’t fall off the wagon. When you cut back, do at least one promotional event a week.

Never assume that someone else can promote your book better than you can. Readers love to be able to put a face to the author. Get out there and meet your readers. Let them get to know you. There are millions of bookshelves out there waiting to house your book. It is your responsibility to let the readers know what you have to offer. Make the shift from hobby to business. You can only benefit.

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