Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spreading the Word about Our Books

At the risk of blatantly tooting my own horn, I recently attended a banquet for the Florida Book Awards (for Missing Math: A Number Mystery, more info here.) Fellow author Donna Gephart mentioned that she had received a letter from Hilary Clinton about her book, As If Being 12 ¾ Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President! Her blog post about it indicates that she had sent now Secretary of State Clinton a copy of the book when the latter was indeed running for President.

It was a great idea, wasn’t it? I have to confess that it hasn’t been my practice to think of similar gambits for my own books. Many authors like to think marketing is all up to the publisher, while others do quite a bit on their own initiative and it seems to pay off. Finding ways to reach the niche audiences for a topic seems especially suitable for nonfiction books.
In many cases the publisher will be glad to send a review copy to a person or group that seems appropriate. Recently I’ve been making a list of ideas to try; here are a few in no particular order:

1) Find Yahoo groups, blogs, or other online interest groups that are related to the book’s topic. Naturally you have to be aware of their promotion policy, but many groups love to hear about books about their favorite subject.

2) Make book signings a big event. My favorite story along this line is how author-illustrator Brian Lies (Bats at the Beach, et al.) had a graphic of the book’s artwork wrapped around the family car and 12 foot
bat wings attached on top. Now that’s making an entrance!

3) Search for specialized awards. I recently completed a picture book about energy, and during my research ran across the Green Book Award. I’ll make sure the publisher knows about it!

4) Dedicate a web site and/or blog to a book using the title as domain name if possible. Include downloadable activities and invite readers to contribute photos, etc.

5) Make a short video that gives the gist of the story to prospective readers. I’ve made two of these so far, for Missing Math and Crazy Like a Fox: A Simile Story, and have gotten enthusiastic responses.

6) Support a charity effort. For example, one author of a book that had feeding birds as part of the plot partnered with The Nature Conservancy, who sold the book as a fund raiser.

7) Create a stuffed animal, banner, or other tangible item that can be loaned to libraries as part of a display about the book.

8) Write a how-to article related to the book’s topic for a teacher/parent magazine.

9) Rent a table at a general public or trade show with your books. For example, my brother is a used book dealer, and recently mentioned he knows someone who does the majority of his annual business selling aviation-related books at one particular large air show.

These marketing tips are just a start, there are many more possibilities. Please add any brainstorms you’d care to share... thanks!


Brian Lies said...

Hey, Loreen-

Great suggestions, and congratulations again on the award!

I think it's VERY important that a book signing isn't just a morose and lonely-looking person behind a card table with a stack of books. We have to compete with a lot of cultural noise to get people just to SEE our work. But you don't have to be a flashy showman or showwoman to make a book signing more noticeable. Even bringing a dozen helium balloons to tie to the front of the bookstore (with your own signage) will let people know something fun is going on inside, which is the goal...

John Nez said...

Doh! Helium balloons! Of course! How is it possible that I could do an entire book about dirigibles and the idea never crossed my mind to have a helium balloon attached to a paper Sky-Cycle?




Ms. Moffatt said...

Thanks Loreen, great ideas. Your books are wonderful! And Thanks for the balloon idea Brian. I print up black and white color-your-own bookmarks with my website on them for schools and libraries.

Good luck with your books, sell, sell, sell!