Book promotion is an extremely time-intensive, all-consuming activity – and authors always have something else to do. As a result, most authors leave their books to promote themselves – which, as everyone knows, never happens.
Here are some thoughts on things to do to promote your book. They are not set out in any order of preference. They are merely some suggestions – some or all of which might appeal to you.
- Self-promotion. I once met an author who told me that she would always wait until her publisher ‘remaindered’ one of her books – that is, designated it as ‘out of print’. At that point, she would make the publisher an offer to buy up the ‘remaindered’ copies, for a few pence each. Then, armed with this stock of books, she contacted clubs and societies around the country and offered to give them a talk about her work. She said that it didn’t matter if they paid her a fee – although she always asked for travelling expenses. Her subsequent talk would always conclude with her inviting the audience to buy some of her books which she just happened to have with her – and these would be available at a ‘special price’ below the recommended retail price (so that the offer sounded like a good deal). She maintained that she always sold sufficient books at each venue to make each of her trips profitable. If you have time on your hands, you could follow this pattern, travelling the length and breadth of your country. It’s more likely, however, that you could promote your book, on appropriate occasions, to:
- students at the university after lectures or tutorials
- executives at large companies where you have connections – perhaps via a talk or lecture
- relevant conferences/ events (both those serving the academic world and the corporate world)
- Press release(s). Issue a press release announcing the publication of the book and offering a ‘taste’ of some of the book’s contents. You will need to (a) write a good, readable press release, (b) generate a relevant distribution list (most, if not all, distribution is done online nowadays) and (c) monitor the distribution list to see who has published the press release. Then, you will need to promote this coverage – via social media (see below).
- Promotion via the internet. This includes:
- Give the book a page on your website – and promote that page on the home page of your website (to refer visitors to the book’s page on the site). This page will include a sizeable excerpt from the book (say, the foreword, contents page(s) and first chapter) as well as some reviews of the book and a ‘reader offer’ to buy the book at a discounted price. You should try to sign-up the reader to subscribe to ‘regular news’ or something similar from you on the subject that your book addresses. This will enable you to build up a list of subscribers’ emails – and you can use these to market to them your works, especially your further, similar, books.
- Set up a separate website to promote the book – and cross-promote both the book’s site and your website.
- Pay for Google Ads / Google Adwords to attract visitors to these websites/ pages.
- Let Amazon sell the book [However, please note that Amazon will want a large percentage of the cover price – at least some 35% – to do this (but, with all the other costs associated with being an ‘Amazon author/ publisher’ this can seem a lot nearer 75%). Moreover, Amazon won’t actively promote the book. So, the only reason to have your book ‘on Amazon’ is for prestige. In all the years I had my books ‘on Amazon’ (and I’ve now removed them from Amazon because it was too costly for me to sell them via Amazon), I never made any money out of the deal – however many copies of the books I sold via Amazon].
- Let other book distributors sell the book. They will probably offer you better terms than will Amazon – but, in my experience, the results are still the same. The only real reason to do these deals – with Amazon and others – is for the prestige of being able to say that “my book is on Amazon…” (or whichever distributor you’re with).
- Promotion via social media. This would include:
- Posting stories about the book on, say, LinkedIn and…
- Posting excerpts from the book on LinkedIn and…
- Getting other people to write posts on LinkedIn mentioning the book and its contents.
- Then, promote these stories, excerpts and posts via Twitter (that is, issuing tweets that link to the LinkedIn posts). Remember that the key thing to do here is to use hashtags – but no more than three hashtags per post. The point about using hashtags (for example, #marketing) is that this will ensure your tweet is picked up by the bots that search for, for example, ‘marketing-related’ tweets. People who’re then searching for ‘marketing-related tweets’ will be shown your tweet and, in this way, you will widen the audience for your tweets and, thereby, your book.
- Like and re-tweet any and every tweet that mentions your book and/or you.
- Promotion via magazine. This is a bit ‘old school’ but there may be magazines (commercial magazines – not academic periodicals and journals) that will publish a feature article on the book, its contents and/or you, as author. This gives you the chance to do a deal with the publication to promote the book – through a ‘reader offer’ (usually, you pay for a quarter, half or full-page advert promoting the book and offer readers a reduced price to buy direct from you. An alternative is that the magazine gives you the advert space ‘free’ but operates the offer and takes a percentage – say 80% – of all money received from orders).
- Direct marketing. This can take many forms, including:
- Buy lists of ‘marketing professionals’ in, say, the Czech Republic, or ‘Eastern Europe’, or, indeed, anywhere. Then email (or post via snail mail) some advertising copy about the book, with an ‘offer’ on the book’s price.
- Contact all the senior executives and marketing professionals you know and ask them to buy the book – and to buy copies of the book for all the staff in their marketing departments.
- Send a (free) copy of the book to CEOs/ senior executives you know or would like to get to know, with a covering letter introducing yourself and the book – and saying why it’s important that every marketer learns and applies the secrets set out in this book. Then follow up with a request for a meeting with this CEO/ senior executive. At that meeting, you sell the idea of you doing presentations about the latest approaches to marketing (and related disciplines) for that organisation’s staff. At these meetings, you promote the book (see the first option above).
From this brief outline of how you can promote your book(s) to get some sales, you can appreciate why many authors decide that they have more artistically creative things to do rather than endure the hard grind that is marketing and selling their books. However, no one else is going to do this for you – at least, not for free. So, all would-be successful, best-selling authors need to factor into their creative schedule the time needed for them to promote their books once they have been published.
About Bob Little
Having graduated from the University of Wales with a BSc in economics, Bob Little became a journalist and editor specialising in the corporate training/ learning sector. In May 1990, having founded his own public relations business, he was introduced to what became the corporate online learning technologies industry and has worked in this sector – worldwide – ever since as a writer, commentator and publicist.
Bob has advised many organisations around the world – ranging from niche companies to large, multi-national enterprises, including BBC Worldwide (UK), the Tata Group (India) and Lattanzio Group (Italy). He has spoken at conferences on corporate learning in the UK, the USA, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Germany. He has also chaired corporate learning related conferences in the UK, the USA, Croatia, Germany and Australia.