Book Marketing and Promotion
On June 1, my novel While You Were Gone was published by C&R Press, which means I should be promoting it. Even though this is my third novel (and fifth book) in my last post, I discussed how, for me at least, writing does not get easier, as each project brings its own challenges for promotion as well.
All of my books have been published by small presses, which means a limited promotion and marketing budget. All of the presses I have published with did send out review copies (from 20 to 100) to a variety of publications; however, I usually only end up with a half dozen reviews best. Part of this is because publications (unless they are specifically geared to small presses) tend to publish reviews of books from larger presses. Part of this is also because reviewers can only review a small percentage of the books they receive. Also, from my experience and talking with other people, a book review does not guarantee more sales.
When my first novel The Life Plan was published in 2009, I did a “blog tour” for the novel, and did a similar tour for my linked collection Talismans in early 2011. By the time my novel Into This World came out in 2012, blog tours were passé, while podcasts were becoming more popular. For that novel, my publisher helped with some coverage at those online review sites, and we worked to schedule some readings at different bookstores.
Unless you are a well-known writer or know people in the area who will come out, readings are often sparsely attended. Now I only try to get readings if I know people in the area who will come out. I’m not sure how much promoting on social media helps with book sales, although I think writers should have some kind of social media presence. For me, I’ve had the most success with Facebook to at least get the word out about readings, events, and announcements.
I have been lucky to have a lot of local support for my work—interviews with the local NPR station, packed readings, and regular reviews in Chapter 16. I have been fortunate that my current publisher participates in conferences and festivals, pays for advertising, hosts popular readings, and submits their books for contests and awards. Not all small press publishers can offer that kind of support.
In the end, I find that marketing your book is like throwing noodles at a wall and seeing what sticks. Despite the changes in publishing and marketing, I recommend writers try the following:
1. Make review copies available at least three months before your book launch. If you have limited resources, target your review copies to places like Small Press Review and Foreword Reviews, where you have a higher chance of getting your book reviewed.
2. Think of articles related to your work and pitch those to media outlets.
3. Make sure you have a website, and it is up to date and searchable.
4. You don’t have to be on every social media platform, but choose a few that you might be comfortable with.
5. Offer to give talks (rather than readings) on topics related to your book.
6. Work with your publisher to submit your book to different awards and contests.
7. Keep a list of people from your contacts and send them a personal email when your book comes out. For people who bought your book, ask them to post reviews on Goodreads and/or Amazon.
8. Finally, do what you can, but realize that much is out of your hands. Say yes to things related to your book when you can, but also don’t spend money you don’t have on promotion or advertising, especially since there is no guarantee that those will increase sales.
If you want even more advice on marketing and promotion, I recommend Dana Kaye’s Your Book Your Brand.
For my new novel While You Were Gone, I’ve been traveling before and after its release and so I’ve been unable to focus on promotion as much as I’d like to. As a result, I plan to try more of these marketing tips myself when I return home in August.
If you have any tips, questions, or comments about promoting your work, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.
Sybil Baker’s most recent novel While You Were Gone was published in June 2018 by C&R Press. Immigration Essays, (C&R Press, 2017) will be The University of Tennessee’s Chattanooga’s Read2Achieve selection for 2018-2019. She is also the author of The Life Plan , Talismans, and Into This World . She is a UC Foundation Professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and teaches at the Yale Writer’s Workshop. She has received two Make Work Artist Grants and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission.
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