Self-Publishing Primer: Part 14 – How can I market and distribute my books?

You will find links to the other posts in the series at Self-Publishing Primer.

To cover marketing and promoting would require volumes. We’ve talked in previous posts about building a platform, creating a Web site, and lining up speaking events and other promotional events. In this final installment of the series, I’ll highlight a few suggestions that I consider most important in marketing and promotion.

Top tips for successful self-publishing authors:

  • Start building your platform early. Although this has been said before, it’s too important not to mention it again. You have to find an audience of people interested in the genre of your novel or the subject of your nonfiction book.
  • Always wear your marketing hat. Take every opportunity to let people know about your book – standing in line at the grocery store, networking at a business meeting, sending out your Christmas letter…everywhere and everybody. People are fascinated with writers, and you never know when you’re going to meet someone who will not only buy a copy of book but also tell others. Hand out lots of business cards with your contact information and where to buy your book.
  • Carry books with you wherever you go. If you start up a conversation waiting in the post office and find someone interested in your book, don’t expect them to remember – and get around to ordering it. Offer to sell it to them on the spot.
  • Create a brand identity. My client David Bowles has built an identity around The Westward Sagas. That’s the name of his Web site and part of the subtitle of each of his family history books.
  • Target your marketing. Don’t imagine that everyone will be interested in your book. Figure out who are likely buyers and focus your marketing efforts on those groups. If you’ve written a book about retirement planning, your audience might be professionals and entrepreneurs several years from retirement. If you’ve written about how to stay active during retirement, your audience will be people who are nearing or already retired.
  • Find as many distribution channels as you can. Join the Amazon Advantage program to sell your books through the popular online bookstore. If you have also published your book in electronic formats, search for e-bookstores. If you want to sell you book in offline bookstores, look into Baker & Taylor or regional distributors in your area. Look for outlets other than bookstores that attract your target market: veterinarian offices for a book about pet care, park gift shops for a book about the area, hobby stores for a book about the world’s largest baseball card collection.
  • Join organizations that offer educational and promotional opportunities to small publishers: PMA, The Independent Book Publishers Association; Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN); Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN).
  • Be creative and realize that you can’t use the same marketing methods the large publishers do. As a self-publisher, you aren’t likely to get reviews in major newspapers or get booked on Oprah to talk about your book. Focus your efforts where they will be most effective. Submit your book for reviews in trade journals or association newsletters related to your subject, and aim for media coverage by your hometown newspaper or local TV station.
  • Share your knowledge and expertise. Volunteer to speak at civic organizations if the membership is a good match to your target market. Submit articles to the community newspaper or business journal or other publications whose readers would be interested in the subject of your book. Ask for permission to sell books at your speaking engagements and for brief information about you and your book for publications.
  • Look for unusual venues to sell books. Grace Anne Schaefer, who writes novels about prehistoric Indians, does very well selling her books at Indian pow-wows.
  • Added 10/1/07: Take advantage of online communities and promotional sites. Four of my favorite places to promote, network, and learn about marketing are Authors on the Net, Books We Love, Book Marketing Network, and Nothing Binding.
  • Use promotional materials that are unusual, appealing, and identified with your book or you as the author. Many authors give away pens, pencils, and bookmarks, but your promotional item is unlikely to stand out from other pens. One novelist gives away small packages of tissues with a label: “Other readers say you’ll need these when you read My Book.” Another whose book has a heroine who loves tea gives away tea bags with a tag about her book. If you wrote a book on growing wildflowers, you might consider giving a pack of seeds with a short tip on planting them and the purchase information for your book.
  • Use your Web site and e-mail list to stay in front of people who are interested in your subject or your books.
  • Stay enthusiastic about your book and always share that enthusiasm with others.
  • For other views on promotion and marketing, read these articles:

You will continue to market and promote as long as you want to sell books, but we’ve come to the end of this series. I hope you find it helpful. If you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment. I’d like to hear from you!

Related Post:
What Do You Think of Virtual Book Tours?

[tags]publishing, self-publishing, writing[/tags]

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