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How to Promote Your Book

We all know that authors must take an active role in promoting their own books. Each author has her or his own personality and will feel comfortable doing only those things that fit within his or her own comfort level, but try to stretch your boundaries. Take a risk or two. I truly believe that if I'd done only the cursory readings in my geographic area that my publisher would have arranged for me, my books would not have sold well enough for me to still be publishing.

Jennie's Top 10 Tips

1. Books… are the best marketing tool you have. Negotiate with your publisher for as many galleys and books as they'll give you. Give them only to people who will be good marketing partners: booksellers, appropriate media people, and "big mouths," those who will influence others to buy the book. It's not out of the question to ask for several hundred.

2. Awards… are the best free advertising out there. Submit your book, or have your publisher submit it, for all awards you're eligible for

3. Web site. Invest in a good web site and supply as much info as possible about the book, including an excerpt and HOW TO ORDER, as well as supplying the viewer with bonus material: why you wrote the book, links to sites that are related to your topic, reading recommendations, articles or essays you've written. Change the content often to encourage repeat visits.

4. Mailing list. Use the Internet and email to spread the word. Create a mailing list sign-up on your web site, and have a paper sign-up sheet at every event. Send regular newsletters or updates, but not too often. Have something of value to say, not just "buy my book." Always include an "unsubscribe" option in each mailing.

5. The talk. Prepare a solid, conversational 30-second spiel that aptly describes the content of your book in an interesting and intriguing way. Know your three most important talking points for interviews and off-the-cuff presentations, and prepare answers to all likely questions, including those that will be the most sensitive for you.

6. Booksellers… are your best allies and partners. If they like you and your book, they will hand-sell it to countless readers. Get to know them at readings you do, at other authors' readings, regional booksellers conferences, and store visits you make to sign stock. Buy your books at indie book shops; befriend and support them, and they will do the same for you.

7. Readers. Put yourself in front of potential readers at bookstores, on blog sites, at writing seminars, book fairs, or other events that are a good match. Go outside the box to find readers at venues that are somehow related to your book.

8. Press. Go for "off the book page" stories to reach more readers. If nonfiction, pitch a story related to your topic. If fiction, find a nonfiction hook that makes sense for your story, something timely or newsworthy or even just fun for radio or TV hosts to talk about. Or write an article or essay somehow related to your topic, and put your book title in your bio. Propose a profile of yourself to your hometown paper.

9. Book groups. Readers love to meet authors either in person or on the phone. Find book groups online and through bookstores, libraries, friends, word of mouth.

10. Marketing materials. Print bookmarks or postcards with book cover art and pertinent info through cheap online printers. With permission, leave stacks at front counters in bookstores that carry your book, in coffee shops, at writers organization events, anywhere your readers may be. Leave postcards with event info at the venue a couple of weeks in advance. Include your email contact info and use as your business card.

And a bonus tip, because so many writers ask me this question: "How do you get those great author quotes on your book jackets?" Some publishers gather quotes from other authors, but you shouldn't count on it. Take some time to research other authors in your category (narrative nonfiction, or mystery, or literary fiction, whatever) whose books have done well, but who aren't yet so popular that they are inundated with requests. Send a short friendly email (their contact info is often included on their web sites) telling them just a bit about your book, expressing how much you enjoy their work (which you have read) and asking if they'd be willing to take a look at your book for a possible quote. That's it! My success rate has been about 80 percent, and I've even become friends with some of the wonderful authors who've so generously blurbed my books.

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