Don’t kid yourself. If you thought writing the book was difficult, wait until you have to package it, market it, promote it and sell it.
The writing process by comparison is easy: all you have to do is show up at your desk every day and commit to putting pen to paper. It’s a solitary process that requires patience and discipline, and the only person you can count on or who will let you down — is you.
This is not the case when it comes time to launch your work into the world. There are all sorts of gatekeepers to get by when you start generating awareness and driving sales of your book. And it’s your job to entice, convince, cajole and excite the various publics who can make or break your book sales. Oh yes, and you have to be persistent – one attempt, two attempts, three attempts are not enough. When you’ve exhausted all of the angles (and yourself) – that’s when you can stop.
So here’s how you get started …
First, there is your immediate reading public: your blog readers. They are your first and best resource for word of mouth referrals. I’ve had blog readers surprise me by ordering my book Any Color but Beige and requesting it from their local library. Most libraries will order a book on request. And what I’ve learned is that larger library systems will not only order one book but at least eight copies. This has been my experience with the Baltimore and Cuyahoga County, Ohio library systems. Canadian Libraries will pay royalties based on the number of times the book is borrowed. My thanks to Tamara, BethAnn and Adena respectively.
Second, and a bit more elusive, are the media. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, your pitch has to be both compelling and timely. And sending out a press release is only one-half of the equation – you’re only as good as your follow-up. What you have to do is call each media person personally and ask if they’re interested in receiving a copy of the book or conducting an interview. The media has to do more with less these days so make yourself accessible. The easier you make their job the better your chance at getting coverage.
Third, approach your local bookstores and speak to the promotions managers. Be sure and give them plenty of time to schedule your event. Remember that you’re not the only local author. And if the store is not interested don’t take it personally. I’ve approached three stores in Montreal; one said no outright, that the book wasn’t right for their customers. The second said they only work with established authors. The third store, Chapters on St. Catherine, not only said yes but have been promoting the event in store. I’ve spoken to several staff members pre-event, and their excitement and their pleasure in meeting me was very gratifying. I made sure to pinch myself as I left the store.
Fourth, family and friends are also good resources for book promotions and sales. My mother, Little Lou, carries a copy of the book with her everywhere she goes, whether it’s to the hairdresser’s or bingo – she’s my best supporter. My father, thank god, has stopped short of taking his copy to wakes. But the racetrack is still fair game. If you’ve read the book you already know about my colorful childhood.
Friends have also been big supporters. They’ve organized “Girls’ Nights In,” combining friendship and commerce in an enjoyable and light-hearted environment.
Other friends have used Any Color but Beige as an opportunity to revive regular book club get-togethers that may have lapsed because other commitments have taken over. In fact, I will be the guest of honor at one such book club in Cleveland Heights at the end of the month. In keeping with the spirit of the book, the potluck will be French themed – but of course! I’d like to thank Kathy H, Freya and the girls for this wonderful opportunity.
Finally, from all of this word of mouth I have somehow found myself as a quasi-expert in the world of self-publishing. I don’t have all of the answers but I’m happy to share what I know – what I’d do again and what I’d do differently the next time. As a result, I’ve been invited to speak to writers’ groups and conferences, and the reaction of the audiences has been rewarding.