Author Earnings’ most recent quarterly report surprised many in the publishing industry when it revealed self-published authors were now responsible for 31 percent of Amazon’s total daily e-book sales.
With an increase in e-book distribution platforms, self-publishing has become an attractive option for writers who would like to branch out from freelancing, blogging, and journalism. But while it’s now easier to publish a book, promotion still remains a challenge.
Anyone who’s written a book knows that publicity is essential to finding success. Without it, very few readers will learn about your latest book, especially if you’re a new author.
Where do you start? ProfNet’s recent #ConnectChat, “Insider Tips for Book Promotion” with Sandra Poirier Smith, aimed to answer this question.
Poirier Smith is the president of Smith Publicity, an international book marketing company based in Cherry Hill, NJ. Since 1997, Smith Publicity has promoted thousands of authors and publishers — from New York Times best sellers to first-time, self-published books.
During ProfNet’s Twitter chat, she explained the differences between advertising and publicity, the importance of pitching to bloggers, specific ways to get the media’s attention, and much more.
However, media and blogger outreach is just one piece of book promotion. Poirier Smith recommends strategic plans that incorporate a variety of tactics. Here are six ways to promote a book beyond the traditional pitch, taken from her #ConnectChat.
#1 First things first, get your house in order.
An author’s website is essential to book promotion, providing prospective readers with a chance to get to know you.
Poirier Smith says your site, at minimum, should include ‘about the book and author’ sections, a book excerpt, media contact page, and links to buy the book. She also emphasized including a newsletter signup and author blog that site visitors can use to keep updated on your current and future projects.
“Try to have an active social media presence,” advises Poirier Smith. “Having a Twitter, Facebook, Google+ page, authors can interact with potential fans. Updating social media as much as possible is important to growing your following and finding your fan base.”
Don’t miss out on monetization opportunities, either. “Selling autographed books through the website can help improve profitability for authors,” Poirier Smith recommends.
#2 Don’t neglect your Amazon listing.
“Make sure the listing has a book cover, ‘look inside,’ detailed author bio and robust book description,” Poirier Smith says. “Amazon offers an author page option where on the listing you can click on the author’s name for more information. Use this! Include website, blog, media runs, other books, etc. in the author section.”
And once a book is available for sale: “Encourage family, friends and fan to post reviews. If this is a second book, contact past reviews to preview a free copy of your book in exchange for a fair review!”
“Make sure your Amazon listing has your book tagged for the right genre,” she says. “Some self-published authors shared that they changed these tags to come up in different search results. For example romance, historical fiction, paranormal fiction, mystery can apply to the same book. Don’t lose out on audiences!”
#3 Think local …
“Local book signings can be a great way for authors to introduce their book to potential buyers,” Poirier Smith says. “Visit chain and independent bookstores, introduce yourself as a local author and ask about book signing options.”
Although many bookstores can set up events in a few weeks, Poirier Smith cautions that some larger stores may take several months – give yourself lead time. For self-published authors, she also recommends offering to stock the shelves with signed books.
#4 … And outside the box bookstore.
Bookstores are not the only place where you can host a book signing.
“Health books can be done at yoga studios … romance at a local lingerie store,” she said. “Invite your friends, colleagues, neighbors, relatives, mail man. Let the venue know you have local people you are inviting … Consider giving a talk related to the book!”
#5 Instead of pitching your book, try a byline or op-ed piece.
“Byline articles are articles experts/authors write related to their expertise or book’s topic. Byline articles are ‘pitched’ or offered typically to magazines, newspapers and online outlets for potential publication,” explained Poirier Smith. “If an article is picked up, the author is credited as the writer, typically with a byline including the book’s title. Topics of a byline article include how to, case study with problems/solutions, and tips style articles.”
Although the purpose of these pieces is to tie your expertise to your book, they cannot be too “salesy” or self-promotional. For instance, one of Smith Publicity’s clients – a self-published business author – had a byline article published by TIME offering advice on how to start and sell a company.
Non-fiction writers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from byline articles. Poirier Smith also shared the example of a novelist who wrote an article about the social and emotional results of choosing to not have children. Her article was picked up by dozens of outlets worldwide and helped promote her novel about a main character who similarly chose to not have children.
#6 Promotion tactics may vary.
“Promoting fiction and non-fiction books are a bit different,” says Poirier Smith. “Fiction is often more about the ‘entertaining’ value of a book. It is important to reach the fans of the genre — romance, historical fiction, sci-fi, mystery, for example.”
“When promoting non-fiction authors, credentials are key! We need to tell the media why someone should listen to this author,” she said. “In promoting non-fiction authors, we often are focusing more on the author’s experience, credentials, advice than the book.”
Additionally, there are some genres, such as children’s books, where the buyer you’re marketing to differs from the reader. “When promoting adult books, we are often targeting the potential buyer,” she said. However, “when promoting children’s books, we’re appealing to book buyers in their lives: parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers.”
For more book promotion tips, check out the full transcript of our #ConnectChat with Sandra Poirier Smith on ProfNet Connect.
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Evelyn Tipacti is a community relations specialist at ProfNet, a service that connects journalists with expert sources. She is a former broadcast journalist with years of experience behind the television camera and radio mic.