Marketing your book is the most time consuming step in the writing process. While most writers don’t think of themselves as salesmen, selling your book is ultimately your job whether you are traditionally published with a big five publisher, signed to a small press, or self-published. With limited marketing funds, you must think as a strategic business owner when choosing what to give away, where to spend your time, and when you will pay for advertising. Here are a few inexpensive yet effective ways to market your book.
Column by Jaimie M. Engle, author of 2013 debut novel CLIFTON CHASE AND
THE ARROW OF LIGHT (Sept. 2013, CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Platform). Engle is an award-winning middle-grade author from Melbourne,
Florida. Before releasing her debut novel, she ran a body shop, modeled
bikinis, danced in the Aloha Bowl halftime show, and managed a hip-hop
band. Her young adult novella placed honorable mentions in the 2013 L.
Ron Hubbard’s Writer’s of the Future contest. She is represented by Pam
Howell of D4EO Literary. Engle is a regular conference speaker with the Space
Coast Writer’s Guild, Eastern Florida State College, the Orange County &
Brevard County Library Systems, and the Society of Children Book Writer’s
& Illustrators. She is the PR Specialist with Black Rose Writing, a publishing house
based in Texas.Engle offers a coaching & editing service for aspiring writers,
teaches writing classes, and volunteers with elementary
school & library writing programs. Find her on Twitter.
You should ALWAYS have books on hand to sell. I carry a case in my trunk because if I count on people to go to my website and order a copy, I will be sorely disappointed. It’s not that they don’t want to, but life gets busy, funds get tight, and memories get short. Make it easy for your fans. Have books on hand. With that said, you should also have the capability to accept credit cards on your phone or tablet. The easiest excuse to overcome is “I wish I could but I don’t carry cash.” No problem. You take plastic. The Square is free, easy to use, and easy to get. There’s no reason not to have it.
Offering your book to bloggers and active websites for reviews and giveaways is a great way to gain exposure for you and your brand. Finding a niche and catering your work to that audience will help you to find your ideal buyer. I prefer to offer one physical book and 2-3 ebooks or PDFs because it increases the chances to win and the digital versions don’t cost me anything. Here’s what I did:
- Prior to my book release, I went through a directory of the top 500 Mommy Blogs by doing a Google search on the subject. I reviewed the brief description of each one, learning if they were PR friendly, reviewed books, and the ages of the children friendly products they reviewed.
- As a middle grade author and mommy, I personally emailed a few hundred of them, offering to send a copy of my book for an honest review. I made it clear that like them, I was trying to reach other moms with kid friendly products, such as my anti-bullying fantasy adventure book, and would they be willing to help spread the word. I had more than half of them agree to help and of those, half did giveaways on their sites.
- My total cost for a review was around $7.39 and a review plus giveaway cost about $14.78. But I was able to advertise all across the nation to a specific target audience, not to mention the more than 1,500 contest entrants that I wouldn’t have otherwise reached. Show me anywhere else you can launch a national advertising campaign for that price.
Be sure to ask for the total number of entrants to keep a tally for future books. For example, if one blogger only brought in 5 entrants at $7.39 and another brought in 780 entrants at $7.39, that’s important to know for next time. Spreadsheets are an easy way to keep track of what works and what isn’t cost effective. If it’s in your budget, include a $10 Amazon gift card or something of equal value for the winner. More people will enter.
Writing books/novels for kids & teens? There are hundreds
of publishers, agents and other markets listed in the
latest Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.
Buy it online at a discount.
There are many places you can donate books. I’ll go over several options and ways you can really make the most out of the cost you incur for giving your book away.
- Libraries—Librarians are wonderful places to make your book available. It ensures that everyone has an opportunity to read your book, regardless of finances. But don’t just drop and run. Ask for an opportunity to conduct a book signing. See if the library will post it in their newsletter in exchange for the free book you’re giving them. Ask if they could recommend another library where you could drop a book and hold a signing. I teach a free class once a month to the advanced youth writing group. It’s a great way to give back while creating opportunities for both relationships and sales. And be sure to leave bookmarks behind and replenish often.
- Charity Events—Most charity events have both live and silent auctions. Your book will be included in marketing material and in a basket on display throughout the event where hundreds of people will see it. Make the most out of the opportunity by providing additional items such as bookmarks, t-shirts, stickers, chocolates, gift cards and anything else particular to your niche. The good news is that not only are you helping a charity, but everything in the basket—including the basket—is a tax write off at the retail value. Be sure to also send a media release outlining your charitable donation to your local media outlets. Hopefully, they will publish a small paragraph or two about you.
- Community Events—When possible, ask a new business, such as a car dealership if you can donate a book basket for their raffle. I would only do this if they will agree to let you set up a table to sell books. While you are there, bring a signup sheet for your e-newsletter and collect names for a drawing to win a free ebook or physical book. If they won’t let you stay, then I would ask for a copy of the raffle entrants for your list. It’s great to give things away, but you always have to find ways to recoup your loss through information, exposure, or future bookings. That’s good business!
- Schools—Annual fundraisers and open houses are great places to meet community members and find bookings. Even if you’re not a children’s book author, you are a writer and schools love it when authors come talk with their students about the writing process and publishing, or even to read to students during Literacy Week. Bring lots of freebies like bookmarks, stickers, and candy. We all love free stuff, right? Create a school packet which lists your presentations, bio, book blurb, and cost. Leave a book behind for the media center if age appropriate and be sure to do a giveaway at the event so you can collect names for your newsletter. Those names are worth their weight in gold!
I’m sure you’ll agree that none of those ideas seem like “selling” or only for “salesmen.” If you are clever enough to create characters and worlds, then you are creative enough to come up with some marketing ideas. Remember, sales are about relationships. When people like you and trust you, they naturally want to help you. Get out into your community and the sales will follow!
Your biggest sales tool is your list of friends and fans. Opening a MailChimp account and creating an e-newsletter will sell more books than social media sites or paid marketing campaigns. Any time you attend a book signing, author panel, conference, presentation, fundraiser, etc., where you have the opportunity to collect names, DO IT! These people are giving you permission to invade their inbox, a place that most people open every day and read 100% of the contents from non-spam driven emails. I send out a quarterly email sharing what’s happening in my writing career, what’s coming next, and a writing or sales tip. I always end it by asking each fan to please post a review on Amazon if they haven’t already done so, and sometimes I offer ebooks for anyone who emails me the request in exchange for a review. This also helps me to see who is actively engaged in my campaigns. I have sign up links on my website, and if you’d like to join, you can do so here: http://eepurl.com/5ZzPX
Remember, your book is a product and you are a small business owner. Thinking like an entrepreneur and carving your own path will bring more success then waiting for others to do it for you!
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:
- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- Feb. 26–March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (conference/cruise departing Miami)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer's Digest Conference (New York, NY)
Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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- Agent Spotlight: Holly Lorincz (MacGregor Literary Agency) seeks Historical Romance, Westerns and Fiction.
- How I Got My Literary Agent: Maria Mutch (Memoir).
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- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.
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