Three ways for authors to promote their new book

This is obvious, but essential. Connecting with a local bookseller is vital to promoting your book. Most booksellers see your book title listed in their wholesale catalogs. All you need to do is remind them it’s there and then see if they’ll host an event. Be sure to contact the bookstore’s event coordinator, not the store’s book buyer. The PR  & Events Coordinator schedules store events like readings and book signings and is the best point of contact for a newly published author.

Consider non-bookstore venues. Schools, public libraries, or other venues may have suitable audiences for your book title. Don’t just assume that your audience only buys books at Barnes & Noble. Libraries are great places to read. I’ve read in various locations including a tavern, café, ballroom, art studio, church and several other places. One author I know had a reading at a chocolate shop. Be creative with your events.

Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. are great tools to promote your book. If you don’t have an account, you’re already behind. Be authentic and approachable on these sites. If you sound like you’re a pushy salesperson, you’ll lose your audience. Share with your social media audience the same way you approach your book reading audience. Make converts from social media followers to book buyers.

So yeah, I think the TV interview went well

That is, until the interviewer realized I wasn’t Viggo [1] Mortensen [2]. The irony is that I don’t have a television and haven’t for years. And cable. Well, I think maybe I had cable service about a decade ago to watch the Olympics. So I was a bit embarrassed when the interviewer asked me if I had seen her show.

What the interviewer found fascinating is that the event I helped organize with two other people was promoted exclusively through social media and word of mouth. Most people who manage events work up a press release and send it to local print, radio, and television outlets. And in turn, local newspapers, radio and television stations pick up local entertainment news and add it to the calendar of events to fill in programming space. But that’s not how three people on a September afternoon began to plan an event.

Three weeks after that September afternoon, sixty people attended an invite-only poetry reading, book-signing and jazz show on a Friday night with almost no coverage [3] by the Mountain Xpress or Asheville Citizen-Times. The event was so far under the radar that it didn’t garner a mention on Ashvegas’s Asheville Hot Sheet [4]. To be honest, at the time I didn’t know if an event publicized exclusively through Twitter and Facebook and word-of-mouth would work. But it did. And I guess that’s why I was invited to a television interview regarding that event.

One comment made during the taping of the interview hasn’t left me. I don’t recall who said it, but someone observed that if poets watched a lot of television there would be less poetry in the world. Television has been around for at least 85 years. Most people reading this have grown up with access to television. This means most of you — specifically Gen-X and younger — grew up in a mass media culture. Interestingly, less than 60 years ago, the poet T.S. Eliot packed an university gymnasium with 15,000 people [5] to hear him lecture about literary criticism. Not exactly what you might call primetime broadcast material. At the time Eliot delivered his lecture, the average American earned a salary of $5300. A car cost $2100. A color television set cost between $500 to $1000 and a gallon of gasoline cost $0.30. [6] Cable television was on the horizon [7], but like network television it was only just becoming accessible to most Americans.

Now, an average gallon of gasoline costs $2.81. The average annual salary is $42,000. [8] And it seems ironic that now a cable television program may be making poetry more accessible to Americans. [9]

[1] Poet, painter and, oh, yeah, an actor. [2] He founded Perceval Press to publish his own books and CDs as well as other artist, poets, musicians and photographers. [3] Full disclosure, Mountain Xpress Blogwire did mention the event twice, but it’s not quite the same as opening a copy of Mountain Xpress on a Wednesday afternoon and reading a nice piece by Alli Marshall or one of the other writers covering Asheville’s vibrant entertainment scene. [4] There is always a lot of entertainment going on in Asheville. So I don’t fault Ashvegas for neglecting to mention an event that was not publicized in the traditional manner on the Asheville Hot Sheet. Maybe the event might get a mention if Dehlia Low or the Avett Brothers were part of it.  [5] Is there a poet alive today that could lecture about literary criticism and pack out a gymnasium?. [6] When I look through the television history archives, I can help thinking that a lot of those old television screens were not much larger than an iPhone screen. [7] Now that there is Netflix, will that be the end of cable television? [8] I wonder if the average American salary includes under-employed and unemployed Americans? [9] Estimated viewership of local cable television ranges between 150,000 to 180,000.

Advice to authors regarding indie bookstores and Amazon.com

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) offers advice to authors seeking to work with indie books stores:

  • Know the Marketplace
  • Know Who And How To Contact
  • Know the Terms (i.e. your business arrangement with the bookstore)
  • Don’t shoot yourself in the foot (avoid mentioning that you book is available on Amazon.com)

This is good advice for authors when working with indie booksellers. The operative words are “with indie booksellers.” Truth be told, the majority of the sales for books I’ve helped publish come from Amazon.com. The reason for this, I suspect, is that Amazon.com is where the masses go to buy books.

Know that I am a big supporter of indie bookstores. But I’m also practical and know that indie bookstores attract a niche audience of readers. Some book titles do better at indie bookstores than others. For example, if you’re a local writer with a book on regional hiking trails or you’re a local poet with a book, you may do better at an indie store than on Amazon.com. That being said, Amazon offers a 45/55 terms of sale (a smidge better than indie stores offering a 40/60 terms of sales). That may not seem like much, but if you’re a small publisher, that 5% difference may cover cost of shipping products to bookstores which directly impacts breakeven numbers for book titles.

As an author (or small press publisher), know that you have sales options. And avoid mentioning Amazon.com when working with indie booksellers — it gives them ulcers.

Link: How To Market Your Book to Independent Bookstores

When to sell and when to market

Often I hear people use the term “marketing” when they mean “sales” and vice versa. A Melbourne advertising professional succinctly defines the terms this way:

Marketing tells a story that spreads.

Sales overcomes the natural resistance to say yes.

Link: The difference between marketing and sales

So, If your “marketing” campaign isn’t yielding the “sales” you projected, it’s probably because you need to rewrite your campaign story and retool your pitch.

Sometimes I feel so used

Five Magazine Direct Mail Envelopes

Last week I received five direct mail envelopes from five different magazine publishers. Only two of those magazines have I actually had subscriptions (guess which ones). That means those two magazine publishers sell my name to other publications with similar demographic audiences.

Is it possible to be a polymath in today’s culture?

Are polymaths extinct? In the ancient world polymaths shared expertise in various fields of knowledge. One example is Leonardo da Vinci — not merely a painter, but sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, cartographer, botanist and writer. More recently, Thomas Jefferson fits that definition as a horticulturist, political leader, architect, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia. Is it possible to be a polymath in this modern world? As it relates to blogging, can effective bloggers be polymaths?

Copyblogger offers some habits of effective bloggers. The list includes:

  • prolific
  • concise
  • focused and consistent

(Link: 8 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers)

One of the things stated as an attribute of an effective blogger is:

Successful bloggers choose a topic and stick to it.

They write consistently about their chosen subject… Even when they write about something that seems to be off-topic, they relate it back to the niche they know…

This makes practical sense as far as marketability. You don’t expect comic books sold at a doughnut shop. But what about a gas station? Of course, you purchase gas at a gas station, but most gas station owners don’t make profits from the sale of gasoline. Most of their revenue comes from products sold inside the gas station. In high school, I stopped by the gas station routinely to purchase comic books. Should blogs be doughnut shops or gas stations?

In the marketing world, as in the blogosphere, an individual who chooses a topic and sticks to it is a specialist or consultant. In Peter Rubie’s Telling the Story, he presents this definition of genres:

The development of genres came about as a marketing necessity. “Category” and “genre” are marketing terms… Their purpose is basically to help you more easily find what it is you’re looking for.

Telling the Story then goes on to list seven narrative nonfiction categories: adventure, travel books, biography, history, military, memoir and true crimes. The music industry follows the same protocol: country, pop, rock, hip-hop, and so on into the sub-genres of goth-metal, indie-folk-americana, afro-celt, etc. What Copyblogger proposes is to be marketable to your online audience. If you’re a tech blog, write about technology. If you’re an organic gardener, write about gardening. If you’re a mom, write about mommy stuff. That way your online readers are trained to expect only doughnuts at the doughnut shop.

The question is this: if blogs are specialized, will that make the community more or less knowledgable? I’ve noticed that art blogs often link to other art blogs. I understand that the reason for this is to create a strong community. The challenge with specializing content is that the specialists become islands of highly focused, topical knowledge surrounded by the waters of ignorance of other general knowledge. Jacques Barzun explores the idea of specialized knowledge and more in The House of Intellect. Let me go back to the opening paragraph where I stated “more recently, Thomas Jefferson…” Between Thomas Jefferson and our present information age, the society and culture has changed so dramatically that I wonder if our institutions of intellect suppress the nurture and nature of polymaths.

Getting things done: first define your goals

The simplest approach is not always the most effective. Seth Godin offers a Simple five step plan for just about everyone and everything. The operative word is “simple.” The one-size-fits-all approach may work for someone, but other situations are complicated with many variables. So, when you want to “make something happen,” try this:

  • Define your goals.
  • Determine a desired outcome.

Once those two actions are accomplished, prioritize tasks by:

  • doing
  • delegating
  • deferring
  • or deleting nonessential actions that don’t contribute to the defined goal and determined outcome.

More advice about GTD (getting things done) is available at GTD Times.

Publishers, present a reason to buy your artifact

“Consumers need powerful emotional & psychological reasons to buy your books rather than just grab the nearest free e-book,” says Audry Taylor, creative director of Go! Comi. Earlier this month, Robot 6 announced that Go! Comi closed shop “due to a combination of economic downturn and digital theft.” In a recent article she offers five suggestions for publishers who want to avoid going out of business due to digital piracy:

  1. Make a story available world-wide simultaneously in all major languages.
  2. In a digital format.
  3. With perks for pre-orders.
  4. And goodies that digital pirates can’t reproduce. (And yes, that’s possible. Goodies they can’t compete with, like author chats.)
  5. Rip off business model 4 pirate sites & one-up them. They offer a Wii raffle for a subscription to a d/l site, u offer author-signed Wii

Though this is written primarily for a manga/comic publishing audience, I think this is good advice for any book publisher.

I’ve said this before, but books need to be designed in way that compels consumers to buy a souvenir, dead-tree product (maybe in a decade a book will be called an artifact). In light of Audry Taylor’s comments, I plan to amend that note to encompass a broader reach than well-designed, dead-tree products. She continues by saying, “My dream pub company is multimedia + print + Etsy + Cafepress + Goodreads + Facebook + fan community.” I agree. The more you compel readers/content users to make emotional and psychological investments in your content, the better the relationship your brand will have with your loyal followers (dare I say, your brand’s evangelists?).