To Market, To Market

This week’s guest blog post comes from Chris Nickson – you may remember him from my Debut Author Q&A last week. Chris shares some marketing insights with us, something I’ve told seminar attendees and heard from published authors time and time again, that the work on your novel doesn’t stop after the writing has.

You book’s been published after trying for so long. You feel on top of the world – as well you should. But guess what? The work’s just beginning. Now you have to sell it.

Unless you’re a big name with a big publishing house, the advertising budget for your book is going to be little or nonexistent. If anyone’s going to tell people about your baby, it’s going to be you.

It takes work, it takes time, but it’s worth it. The good news is that your expenses, at least, are minimal.

Online

These days you have to have an online presence. Every writer should have a website. It tells people who you are, and it makes a great shop window for your work. There’s no need to have anything fancy. Software for making a site is cheap, and you can find deals in web hosting. Just make it look good. Think about what you want on there; you don’t need audio or video, or even elaborate slideshows. Stick to the basics – just do them well.

Use Facebook and Twitter. They’re excellent ways to network. Establish a page for your book on Facebook – that way you can disseminate information about it to all its fans. Get to know other writers on Twitter. Follow them (metaphorically, of course!). You can learn things, come in contact with interesting people, exchange ideas.

If you want to be ambitious, record a short extract from your book. Along with a photo of the cover, and put it up on YouTube. Link it to your site, Facebook, Twitter. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s another weapon in your arsenal.

Out And About

Making yourself visible helps publicize your book. Contact the library service where you live. Many of them welcome guest speakers – you get to give talks on writing and seem like an expert, but the library has something to offer people. And when you’ve finished, you can self copies of your book. It’s a win-win situation.

Book stores have people in to sign books. Make yourself one of them. Independents welcome it as a way to draw in customers, and you reach more people. In the U.K., at least, the big chain of Waterstone’s will have relatively unknown authors in on Saturday mornings. Contact these people, go in and talk to the managers – sell yourself! In a couple of hours, it’s quite feasible to sell up to 15 to 20 copies. When you show up, though, don’t just sit there and wait for people to come over. It won’t happen. Grab a couple of copies of your book and talk to people browsing in the appropriate section. Be friendly, not pushy. Charm them. Believe me, it works.

Print

Getting print reviews of your book can be difficult. So many books, so little space. What can you do? Use your contacts. If you know someone who works on a local or regional newspaper, ask them to help, even for a name. You’ll have publicity copies, and this is where you use them.  By way of example, I wrote concert reviews for a regional paper. When my book was coming out, I talked to the entertainment editor who did a small feature on me and my book (if you have a good hook, it’s even better). I also talked to musicians friends who gave me another name. That led to another article. Don’t be too pushy, but work those contacts.

Keep Going

All of this is fine for an initial push, but you need to keep going. Be persistent, go back to bookstores for more signings, keep using your Facebook page and website. Employ all the tools you have. That way, when success happens, you’re the one who brought it about, and it seems doubly sweet.

Chris Nickson is a freelance writer, music journalist and novelist. His historical crime novel, The Broken Token, was published in October. He is also the author of 30 non-fiction books and was a regular commentator on National Public Radio until 2008. He moved back to the U.K. in 2005 after 30 years of living in America.

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