Congratulations! You finished your first book. Work-wise, you’ve accomplished 10 percent. Now for the hard part: doing what’s required to get your book into a reader’s hands. Do you know that an unknown self-published or small-press author only sells an average of up to 250 books? Once your friends and family members have purchased copies, where do you go from there?
Column by Pat DiCesare, author of HARD DAYS HARD NIGHTS
(August 2014, Headline Books Inc.). The book was named the 2014
Independent Book of the Year, was the Grand Prize Winner at the
2014 Great Midwest Book Festival and was the Runner Up at the 2014
Southern California Book Festival. DiCesare is a concert promoter,
songwriter, author and entrepreneur whose career began at the dawn
of the rock-n-roll era. Find him on his website.
Before I began my book, I thought I was an expert in the art of promotion. I’d spent my entire career promoting people and events. As a teen employed by a record company, I drove from town to town, visiting radio stations to promote the records of artists like Buddy Holly and Jackie Wilson. After bringing The Beatles to Pittsburgh in 1964, I spent the next 50 years promoting concerts for every major artist in the business, from The Doors to The Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen. When I sat down to write my memoir of those experiences, Hard Days Hard Nights, I quickly realized that the tactics that served me so well back then—namely radio and newspaper advertising and media relations—would no longer be enough to guarantee success in today’s digital information age.
If you’re a first-time writer like me, you probably never imagined the amount of work involved in selling your book. Don’t be frustrated! Here I am—a heretofore-unknown author with no previous writing experience—with a book that’s currently at #2 in its respective category on Amazon’s bestseller list. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way.
1. Aesthetics are important. I’ve learned that a great cover can make your book stand out on the shelf and on the Amazon page, and entice people to read it. An attention-grabbing title and attractive cover must be integrated to create a total look. Hire a professional designer to accomplish that task.
2. Go after free publicity. I’m always be looking for “free” press. I send press releases to announce my book signing/speaking events and any awards I receive. I use PR Newswire to distribute my bigger releases, and I use MondoTimes to build my own media lists for the ones I send myself. I call newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations to casually chat with reporters, and often this results in an interview. Don’t assume that newspapers won’t be interested in your story. Most are always eager for new feature material.
3. Don’t be afraid of public speaking. Most organizations love to have speakers address their groups. I’ve called every social and civic group chapter within a 50-mile radius and offered to speak -– at Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, etc. Every group welcomed me with open arms. Now, like most people, you might be terrified of speaking in public. Personally, I gained a lot of confidence and speaking expertise by attending Toastmaster International meetings. Find one in your area.
4. Network. Look for writing organizations in your area and get involved with their activities. In the past year I joined the Pennwriters Group and will be making presentations at two of their upcoming workshops.
5. Organize book signings. This is where I sell the most books and have the best interactions with readers. I’ve contacted every library and bookstore within the tri-state area to schedule signings. I’m amazed at the number of people who attend, and how happy they are to talk to the author of a book they enjoy. Some even bring along baked goods, coffee, or wine! No amount of money can equal the feeling I get when a fan tells me how much my book inspired him or her.
6. Utilize social media. Because this was the area newest to me, I took every class and workshop available in order to better understand and use it. I’ve learned the importance of constantly updating my website/blog. (Don’t struggle with building the site yourself; hire a professional.) I’ve learned to post daily, relevant items on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I’ve recently organized a “blog tour.” I’m planning to upload video promos to YouTube, and might even host a podcast! All the while, I try to generate interest in my book without blatantly asking people to BUY IT.
When I began writing my book, my goal was to reach the #1 bestseller spot on Amazon. The book is currently at #2 in its category, so I have more work to do. At the same time, I’m applying my “lessons learned” to begin pre-marketing my upcoming book, Promoting You.
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