In the December 2014 issue of Total Funds for Writers, C. Hope Clark offers some great advice for authors who want to increase their odds of selling their books: "Don't be invisible or you wrote the book for nothing."
As a debut author whose hard 2016 goal is to promote my memoir Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces, this spoke to the heart. I interviewed C. Hope Clark on "The Courage to Promote Your Book" for my weekly podcast, "Giving Voice to Your Courage."
This guest post is by Dorit Sasson. Sasson, author of the memoir Accidental Soldier, writes for a wide range of print and online publications, including The Huffington Post and The Writer, and speaks at conferences, libraries, and community centers. She is also the author of the a featured chapter in Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time, the latest installment of that best-selling series. She is the host of the global radio show "Giving Voice to Your Courageous Story." She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and two children.
We started talking about the fear of rejection and how this gets in the way of authors.
Here's what Hope had to say:
"It's even scarier to be rejected as the author. We're worried that when we put ourselves there, someone's going to email us or even say something to us in person that makes us look less than stellar. This day in time, anonymity on the Internet breeds ridicule. There's not one week when I don't get one of these emails myself, but it's the nature of the Internet. You have to armor yourself -- you are working for the better good. You cannot please everyone. It's like letting thousands of people know who you are and that's a little spooky."
Hope's advice: start small. For many authors including myself, starting "small" means promoting your book locally.
In fact, promoting your book locally is crucial for building visibility.
Brooke Warner, publisher of She Writes Press and author of the upcoming book Greenlight Your Book says, “as an author, the single most important goal you can strive for is visibility—whether that's publishing new books, speaking, teaching, writing articles, blogging, what have you. We have to consider what avenues we want to pursue to obtain that visibility, and what is going to motivate us to follow through.”
There are so many ways to get the word out about your book starting with your own community. This article presents a number of strategies I’m using to build visibility with my memoir Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces. (She Writes Press, 2016)
Fundraisers are a great way to gain visibility. It’s a win-win situation. The receiving organization financially benefits from the sale of your books while helping to spread the word about your event. Often they’ll promote the event through their ezines and social media platforms, which is also great for book buzz.
Promote these events by creating a Facebook event page, and start inviting your friends. Post the news of the event on related groups with a link to collecting RSVP’s.
To figure out which organization would be a logical fit for a fundraiser, start with your book’s themes. If you’re writing a book on Alzheimer’s, connect with your local Alzheimer’s chapter.
If you’re writing a mother-daughter memoir, why not do a Mother’s Day themed fundraiser partnering with either the YMCA or Girl Scouts of America?
2. Local conferences
Never underestimate the power of local conferences. They provide giant networking opportunities. At our local literary conference, I attended a session representing a panel of the Pittsburgh literary community including authors who organize literary events and reading series.
From this panel, I found out about Littsburgh, an online literary hub that houses all the main events and happenings in Pittsburgh. This community featured a chapter from my book on their site which they also promoted through their social media channels. By clicking on their events calendar, I learned of a number of book clubs hosted by libraries, local readings and other places to submit my book for consideration of an event, which I wouldn’t have found on my own.
It was through those connections that I forged yet another important connection to an online Facebook group of authors and writers of Pittsburgh. Several reporters expressed interest in covering Accidental Soldier. What a gem!
Had I not attended this conference and this panel specifically, I would have stayed invisible in my own community!
3. Book Clubs
Getting the word out locally means contacting book clubs through sites like meetup.com and libraries. As Hope mentioned on our podcast, book clubs are a great way to promote your book - another win-win. These events are filled with book enthusiasts eager to interact with you as an author.
You can identify book clubs in the following ways:
1. Look for book clubs through your local libraries.
2. Many sisterhoods of various synagogues organize book events and not necessarily around Jewish themes. The same goes for community centers.
3. Meetup.com features book clubs. It was through meetup.com, that I secured a number of book invitations.
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4. Talk up your book at Toastmasters
The speeches I've done through our local Toastmaster's chapter gave me important practice and visibility as a speaker and helped build confidence in my ability to talk about my book. There’s nothing like enlisting the support of your local community. Patricia Fry author of Talk Up Your Book says to “present your programs in safe zones (friendly territory), among family members, at your local Toastmasters club meeting, before your writer’s group, in front of your fellow business or civic club members. These are good opportunities for you to work the bus out of your presentations.”
You just never know what kind of opportunities happen when you speak. After I won first place at our Toastmaster’s contest, a writer wanted to cover news of the event for a local magazine. Not only did she recommend other local outlets to help get the word out about my book, she also featured it in the article. Talk about getting an extra bang for your buck!
5. Speaking opportunities
Speaking opportunities put you and your book with larger numbers of people. Personality is what sells books,” Patricia Fry says, author of Talk Up Your Book, and what better way to do that than to speak at a local event.
It’s challenging of course, to create local opportunities for the right kind of exposure. Toastmasters is of course, a good start to test “the speaking waters” and network with like-minded people – many of whom are also authors.
6. Here are a few more ideas:
- Create Google alerts with keywords: “speakers, speaking submissions, 2016, keynote speaker, (your city)” and see what pops up.
- Pitch yourself at local community events, conferences and trade shows. Your local college will often host conferences and need for speakers
- Pitch yourself as a speaker at local book fairs and festivals: There are a number of sites that features book fairs and festivals and are actively looking for speakers such as this site and this one. Watch deadlines.
- Google organizations with volunteer speaking bureaus.
Sometimes speaking events happen with little effort on my part. For example, I did an author event at a local library, and I was later asked to do a speaking event. One of the book club organizers asked if I was interested in speaking to members of her local rotary club.
7. Author Events
In addition to hosting book clubs, many libraries also have author events and fairs where authors meet with patrons and are allowed to sell copies of books. This is yet another way to make a connection. Once you’ve secured these events, seek out the local magazine to see if they’d be interested in covering this event to help build additional buzz and visibility.
If your book has a theme that speaks to young people, why not get in touch with schools in your area to see if teachers might like to use it in conjunction with their curriculum?
9. Casual random talk
Carry a copy of your book as your new "business card" and talk it up as a conversation piece. Who knows who you might run into?
Even though it sounds easier to promote your book locally than running down perfect strangers and celebrities, it still takes a village to eyeball and promote your book. But when trying to get your book noticed in a sea of author, promoting you book locally is still an excellent way to build your platform and book buzz.
How have you promoted your book locally? What worked or didn’t?
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Here are 10 questions you need to ask your characters.
- The one big reason some blogs succeed and most fail.
- Chapter 1 cliches and overused beginnings -- see them all here.
- Here are 7 reasons writing a novel makes you awesome.
- New Agent Alerts: Click here to find agents who are currently seeking writers.
- Download a year's worth of writing prompts right here.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.