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Marketing Yourself & Your Work

A talk delivered by Susan M. Toy at Calgary Public Library, Main Branch Feb. 5th, 2011

Susan Toy has been a bookseller, an award-winning publishing sales representative, a literacy teacher, and is now a writer and promoter of fellow authors and their books through her company, Alberta Books Canada.

Born and raised in Toronto, and after completing a degree in English Literature at Queen's University in Kingston, she moved to Calgary in the late 70s. At that time, Calgary's streets were paved with gold, and she found a job immediately at The Guild Gallery of Artists and Authors, beginning what would become a life's career working with books and their authors.

Through Alberta Books Canada, Susan represents authors directly, helping them find promotion for themselves and their books, seeking out new readers, and assisting them in making wise career decisions.

She created the writing contest, Coffee Shop Author, has sat on the Board of Directors of the Fernie Writers' Conference, and is now a member of the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program steering committee, and a member of the board of directors for the Writers' Guild of Alberta.

Susan displays books for authors and publishers at Alberta library conferences throughout the province. 

Introduction 

Before we get started, watch this video: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9fc-crEFDw 

I’ve named the two characters Wannabe Author and Real Author. 

How many of you have ever said any of the things Wannabe Author says in this video? Come on, be honest. Okay, then, how many of you have heard other writers say any of these things? And, like Real Author, haven’t you just wanted to get a gun and shoot those writers to put everyone out of their misery? Obviously, Wannabe Author is the least promotable kind of author. First of all, Wannabe is never likely to be published, so will be of little worry to the publishing industry anyway. WA is not listening to an experienced author, knows nothing about the publishing business, and thinks the path to publication and bestsellerdom is a piece of cake.

Did you notice WA says all fiction novels suck? Don’t you just hate it when anyone calls the genre “fiction novels”? It’s one of the first signs they don’t know what they’re talking about. 

There’s no hope for a person like Wannabe author, because any attempt they make to promote themselves will piss off everyone so much that they will end up being shot before they can do any more harm. 

In today’s talk, I’m going to share several pieces of advice to help promote yourself and your work, both to get it published in the first place, and also to help to sell the book when it is published, whether that’s done with a traditional publisher or you choose the path of self-publication. 

First, don’t be a jerk like Wannabe! This business is filled with people who assume they know what they’re talking about, and all they do is shoot themselves in the foot. And this point cannot be repeated too many times: There are no gatekeepers! Authors are the only gatekeepers stopping themselves from being published and selling their books. Repeat after me – I am the only gatekeeper! 

As Real Author in the video says, “Are you ready to spend hundreds of hours banging away on your laptop?” 

Listen to the Advice of Professionals 

Just as you need to spend a great deal of time honing your craft, learning how to write, and preparing a flawless manuscript, you must also be prepared for the fact that the learning does not stop there. Once the manuscript is ready – absolutely ready – you must then prepare to listen to wise counsel, either by taking workshops such as this one offered by the Calgary Public Library, or attending writing conferences, studying in writing courses, working with writers-in-residence, etc., and while you’re doing that, asking questions of the instructors and mentors. At the same time, you should be learning as much as you can about the publishing business. I’ve included titles of a couple of very good books on the bibliography that follows this talk. Read them. Learn from them. 

Aside from a lack of knowledge about how the publishing business actually works, and what it takes to not only write a book, but also how to get it published, the main, and very important aspect of writing that Wannabe Author is missing altogether is a platform. 

Create a Platform 

Does every author require a platform? You betcha! Unless you are writing for your eyes only or, if like the young man I met at a workshop, you burn everything you write every day, because you have no intention of ever publishing anything. In which case, what are you doing here? You don’t require a platform. And that’s okay, too, because you should question why it is that you’re writing in the first place. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to simply write for yourself. 

However, the majority of writers write to be read, and they’re the authors I’m addressing here today. They need to develop a readership that wants to read what they’ve written. And that’s all platform means – the readership you can attract to your work. Plain and simple. So what I’m going to offer you are some methods of building that readership, both before you are published, after you’ve signed the contract, and once your book has been released, so that you can then help to sell copies of your book. After all, this is a business, and whether you’re publishing with a traditional publisher or are self-published, the point is to sell books, and hopefully lots of them. 

Be Prepared to Promote Yourself 

Those of you who are self-publishing already know that you’ll be looking after all of this promotion, marketing, sales and publicity yourself, but I’m sure those pursuing the traditional publishing route are now thinking, “But that’s what my publisher will look after for me as part of our contract.” This is where some knowledge of the book publishing business comes in handy, and those of you who have already been published will back me up on this point... Don’t expect much promotion from your publisher. Most publishers have a very small budget, some no budget at all, and once your season in the sun is over, they won’t do any further promotion for you, unless your book proves to be a big bestseller. So, if you’re going to realize any reasonable amount of promotion, you should be prepared to do most of it yourself. 

Gail Bowen gave me permission to share this story about her first publishing experience. As soon as her book was published, she received a box of author copies, along with a note from the publisher that read, “Here is your book. We hope you enjoy promoting this as much as we enjoyed publishing it.”

So, off we go! 

Build Your Audience 

The best time to begin building your readership is while you’re still writing the manuscript. The very first thing you need to do is create a web presence of some kind or another. This can be as simple as building a blogsite (always free) and writing posts for it on a regular basis. Encourage your friends to subscribe to this, and ask them to ask their friends to do the same. Then write something meaningful, as often as you can, even if it’s only once a week. You should never have to ask, “But what should I write?” You’re a writer; you’ll think of something! 

Write regularly, keep it positive and upbeat, and post, or repost, articles that will create a discussion in your comments. When people comment on your blog, do them the favour of visiting their site and commenting on their blog. It will seem slow at first, but you will eventually build up a readership that will follow you, as long as you keep your blog interesting, and show you are interested in it yourself. 

Do not EVER kvetch about your writing or the publishing process, ie., complain about how hard it is to write, or how many rejections you’ve received, who those rejections were from, and what was said in the letter. In fact, do not say anything negative about anyone or any aspect of the business. Ever! 

Make Yourself Visible 

The other reason for developing a web presence, besides increasing your readership, is because publishers and agents will be googling your name, especially when you begin the querying process. In fact, that will be the very first thing they do when they receive your query, if they decide to read beyond your first paragraph. You want to make sure that absolutely everything you’ve written and published online is above board and as perfect as it can be. You want to create a good first impression so that the agent or editor will contact you to ask for a submission. The last thing you want them reading is you slagging any of their colleagues. 

And here’s an example of another reason why web presence is important – Darcie Friesen Hossack published Mennonites Don’t Dance last fall, and I worked with her on promotion.

She has a terrific web presence – because she followed my advice and really developed it right from the beginning. Last week, her publisher received a call from Jim Bartley of the Globe & Mail. He said he was writing a review of the book to be published in the paper, but needed some more information from Darcie. The publisher tried to call Darcie, but when she wasn’t home, he was able to find everything required on Darcie’s blogsite. The G&M wanted the information immediately, and who knows what might have happened to that review if Darcie hadn’t posted a comprehensive “About Page” as part of her blog. She asked me to tell you this story and to say that, yes, a good and comprehensive web presence is important! 

Post to the Blogs of Others and Receive Valuable Links 

Once you have your own blog established, you should begin searching for other blogs and websites that are in your same area of expertise. Read these regularly, but more importantly, comment on them. Don’t ever invite people to visit your blog in those comments, but do include your URL when signing in so that the blog’s readers can just click on your name and be taken directly to your site. Hopefully, when they discover that they like what they see there, they will become your new readers. 

I was quoted on another author’s blog two years ago, and she included a link back to my blog. I still receive incoming links from that one mention. 

Develop Your Blogroll 

Develop your blogroll. Ask friends whose blogs you follow if you may add them to your own list, and ask that they link to yours as well. Then ask other bloggers and website owners (authors, writing professionals, special interest sites) if you may link to their sites. Always ask. They may surprise you and ask if they may link to your site in return. And if their site has 1000 or more hits a day, that will be another potential 1000 readers who might search out your site at some time or another. But do always ask first before you link to anyone. 

Network 

Social networking is another free opportunity to help you with building a readership. It`s the ultimate means of word-of-mouth promotion. I’m going to talk specifically about Facebook, because that’s what I find to be most useful. There’s also Twitter, LinkedIn, and a number of other possibilities, and all are free. 

The thing about all social networking is that it’s not a means of promotion so much as a way of starting a conversation about a topic. To get the most out of it you should listen, communicate and share, but never actually sell anything. If you keep your postings somewhat professional, and not get personal at all – and never complain! – just making positive comments on others’ posts, you stand a better chance of attracting more friends. In my own postings, and because I’m using Facebook to get the word out about my business as well as for writers who have contracted with me, I’ve tried to stay away from complaining about the weather or telling everyone what I ate for supper last night, or the minutiae of my humdrum life. 

If you’re seriously hoping to build your group of Facebook friends, don’t talk about the trivial, but offer something of value that will be of interest to a large group of people – your reading public. Repost interesting articles, repost invitations to literary events, “friend” other authors and publishers – be sure to send them a note when you ask to be accepted as their friend, especially if you haven’t met them previously –and say something like, “I really enjoyed reading your last book,” or “I like such-and-such an author that you publish.” Follow the fan pages you’ve “like”d and comment on them. 

Link your blog to Facebook so that every time you publish to the blog, it’s posted on Facebook automatically. 

Know Who is Noticing 

Set up Google Alerts for your name and the title of your book. Then, whenever either is mentioned anywhere on the internet, you will receive a quick notice with the link. This saves you having to search every day to see if you’re receiving any publicity. (Not to mention avoiding the embarrassment of appearing to be narcissistic!)

Set Aside Time for Social Networking 

I know some of you are going to say you don’t have enough time to waste on posting blogs and reading and commenting on Facebook every day. I agree. Both can be time wasters, and they do take valuable time away from what we all should be doing, which is writing. But you cannot afford to not be blogging or posting to Facebook at all. Here’s the biggest reason I found for authors to be blogging and developing a readership online – 87% of all blog readers are book buyers. With a statistic like that, if you’re publishing a book, you must blog. 

My best advice is to block off some time every day, or every other day, and it can be just an hour-long stretch, but do allow yourself some time to develop a presence on both the web and Facebook, or another social network. This will stand you in good stead for the next part of promotion I’m going to talk about – that is, once your publishing contract is signed. 

Remember what I told you earlier? Your publisher will likely do very little promotion of your book, above and beyond what is usually done for any of their other authors. That promotion is likely to take place between when the book is released and up until the end of the publishing season – Dec., for a fall release, and June, for a spring release. Once that publishing season has ended, the publisher’s scant resources and their staff are concentrating on publishing and promoting the next season’s books. Your book has just entered what is known as the backlist – or what I refer to as “publishing limbo” - unless you’ve been fortunate enough to have won a major prize... In all likelihood, however, your book has been placed in most of the retail outlets in your area, maybe it has received one review, and it’s sold a few copies – mainly to your own friends and family. This, I’m afraid, is the reality for most books published in Canada. 

But there are ways that you, the author, can change the odds in your favour. This involves not only working with the publisher to develop a promotion plan for your book, but also by striking out on your own, and continuing to develop your “platform” – and remember that this means your readership. 

Develop a Marketing Plan 

Once the contract is signed, and while the manuscript is being worked on by the editor, is the best time for you to ramp up your web presence. While you wait for the edited copy to be returned to you – and this could take several months – is when you should work on further developing your blog and Facebook presence. This may be a good time, as well, if you haven’t done so already, to create a website (and your publisher may be able to help you with this and will want you to link to their site), and prepare yourself for the time in the very near future when you can actually call yourself “a published author.” 

It’s not too early to announce that you have signed a contract, and inform your readers that a published book is in the works. Depending on how you’ve developed your blog, you may consider offering updates on the entire publishing process – but only mention the good stuff! Forget the bad times, or any problems, or difficult people you may have encountered. If your readers tend to be other writers, they’ll want to know of your experience and, if you have good friends among them, they’ll cheer you on towards publication. Those cheers of encouragement alone are well worth having a web presence. 

Keep writing throughout this time. One of the ways you can help get your name out there is by writing articles for magazines and newspapers – on topics either related to your new book or not – and make sure that when your by-line is printed, it includes information about your upcoming book. “So-and-so is the author of the soon-to-be-released book,” and remember to add the title. If readers like what you’ve written in the magazine, they will make a note to look for your book when it’s published. 

If you’re writing fiction, continue to send submissions to literary magazines. Every publication credit you receive is a bonus, and an opportunity to spread the word about your new release by having it mentioned in the magazine. 

And continue to enter as many contests as you can find. Set an entry-fee limit, or only enter free contests, so you’re not spending a fortune, and don’t worry about the dollar value of the prizes, or whether you’ll win or lose, so much as just getting your name out there. If you do win – bonus! And then you get to announce in your contest bio that you’re also the author of a soon-to-be-released book... and your publisher can use the information of that prize when promoting your new book. 

Add a signature to your email address so that everyone you write to immediately sees that you’re being published. Include the title, publisher’s name, ISBN, and the date the book will be released. Once you have a blurb – and a “blurb” is an endorsement written by an authority or another author that will be added to the cover of your book - include a short quote from that. Be sure to update the signature as you have new information, so it becomes a way of announcing any events or important information about the publication. 

Secure Book Blurbs 

And remember when I said earlier that you should “friend” other authors on Facebook and ask if you may link with their sites on your blog? This is the time you should be thinking about who would be best to blurb your book. If you’ve created a true friendship with an author who writes in the same genre then that person should be your first choice. Work on this with your publisher, and secure blurbs as early as you can. Any author you ask will need time to read the edited manuscript, so make sure you ask them early enough so that, if they turn you down or change their minds, you have enough time to find another willing author. 

Do blurbs matter? In a word, yes. Booksellers base their selections on what others have said about a book. Sometimes they have mere moments to make a decision about an unknown author, and if an author they know, and admire, has endorsed your book then they will likely take a chance and order some copies. Find the best-known authors in your field to blurb for you. They may turn you down, but they may also surprise you and say yes. If you are still an unknown quantity, having an authority tell potential readers and buyers that yours is a worthwhile book is definitely the best promotion you can possibly receive. 

Prepare a Bio and Synopsis 

This is a good time to write your biography, and prepare an elevator pitch. You’ll need two bios – one brief and one longer. It’s also a good time to have some professional photos taken. Your publisher will help you with information on what digital photo sizes will be required. Both the bios and the photos are not only for the publisher’s use, but also for the use of anyone wanting to review your book, interview you, or for groups that are inviting you to be a speaker. 

The people at your publishing house who look after marketing, promotion, and publicity (and this is often the same person) will contact you to ask for your bio, and a complete list of information they’ll require in order to set up promotion for your book. Fill this in with as much detail as you can. When I was a sales rep, I used to joke that I needed to know where every living, breathing relative of each author lived so we could sell books to them. It’s not quite that intensive a list that the publisher wants from you, but almost. 

Forge Alliances 

Think about things like associations and organizations you’ve belonged to, contacts, colleagues and influential people you may know, education you’ve received and which schools have an active alumni association, newsletters you subscribe to that may include a notice about your book if you ask them to print one, places where you might be asked to speak about the book, any media in your area that might review the book or interview you - the publisher should have all of the national media covered, by the way, and you must rely on them having that information - any media personalities you may know personally, and list any media attention you have had in the past, for any reason – unless it was because you were incarcerated, or part of a big scandal. Although, come to think of it, there really is no such thing as bad publicity, and with any luck people will have remembered your name but not the unseemly circumstances surrounding it... 

Does your Uncle Al own a drugstore in Oxbow, SK, and would he like to sell copies of his favourite niece’s book? Don’t laugh. When I was selling A Prairie Alphabet, the author’s uncle did own a drug store in Oxbow, and he sold many copies of Jo Bannatyne Cugnet’s book. When Dave Elston was publishing his sports cartoon books, he asked me to sell copies to the hardware store in the neighbourhood where he grew up, because the owner was an old family friend. You never know which of your connections might sell your books, but the publisher’s sales reps won’t know to pitch the book to them unless you tell them the market exists. 

Send your publisher the names of any literary magazines, or publications in general, where you have had anything published, even in years gone by. Many of these periodicals review books, and they might be interested in reviewing your new book, if your name is familiar to them.

Once your cover has been designed and approved you can post that to your blog and website, and to Facebook. Use it whenever possible to promote your book. You want to imprint that picture in everyone’s minds, and create anticipation for your book’s release. 

This is a good time to have new business cards printed with the cover of your book on one side and your contact information on the other, including your web or blogsite address, publication date, the ISBN and publisher’s name, their website address, and a brief blurb, if you have one already. You could even make that business card a bit larger so it’s useful as a bookmark. Your publisher may help you with designing and printing this. Or they may even go ahead and produce a bookmark or postcard without telling you. Make sure you ask what they plan to do before spending your own money to produce any promotional materials. 

Okay, now you’ve completed the further editing, the proofs have been approved, and it’s just a matter now of waiting for the printer to produce and ship your book. So, what’s been happening at the publishing house all this time? The main thing they’ve been up to is preparing for, and holding, sales conferences for their sales reps. A catalogue page for your book should have been completed and posted online. Be sure to link to this page on your own blogsite, and direct anyone to it who asks about your book. The reps have been told about you, and they have discussed how they can best sell your book to the booksellers, the libraries, wholesalers and specialty markets. Some of them may have even read the manuscript. If at all possible, try to meet your sales reps when they are in town for the seasonal trade fair or on a regular sales trip. 

Be aware that not all reps will want to meet you. I was one of the few reps who enjoyed working directly with authors, and perhaps that was because I was a writer myself, so I understood where authors were coming from. When I first met Betty Jane Hegerat, she told me she hadn’t realized she even had a sales rep. That wasn’t an unusual comment. Most authors know nothing about the sales side of this business. 

If you do forge a good relationship with the reps, you stand a better chance of selling more books, because they will champion your book, and you. Most of the authors I met over the years were wonderful to work with, and selling their books was a pleasure. A few “difficult” authors, though, were like Wannabe Author in the video, and I couldn’t get away from them fast enough. 

Remember that the rep has many, many authors, and in some cases many, many publishers they must sell for, their territories are usually ridiculously huge and the selling season short. They don’t have time to concentrate on your one book in particular. So unless you have a very close association with your rep, don’t expect miracles. And, if you do have a complaint or concern, or you want to point out that a particular Chapters store is not stocking your book, deal with this through your publisher and have them contact the rep, don’t try to discuss the situation with the rep directly. After all, the rep works for the publisher, not for you – unless you’re self-published. 

You should have also forged an association with a bookstore in your area – preferably all the bookstores in your area. You can’t have a better ally than a bookseller who loves your book and wants to sell it to all of their customers, and this includes Indigo/Chapters employees. Before your book is published is a good time to get to know as many local booksellers as you can possibly meet and talk to about your book. Ask to speak to the manager or with whoever is in charge of buying books for the store. 

For Indigo/Chapters there’s one regional buyer who looks after stocking all locally authored books, but each individual store has someone appointed to be what the chain calls the “local champion,” and their responsibility is primarily to look after consignment books – the books that are left with the store, usually by the author, with any unsold copies being picked up after about 3 months. It’s a good idea, with the chain, to talk with one of their staff members who is responsible for the section of the store where your book will fit. 

Introduce yourself to whomever you do approach. And be sure to do this in a nice way – don’t be bothersome about your book, but do mention what it’s about (this is where you can use your elevator pitch you developed), give them your business card, the one you created specifically about your book, and maybe a print-out of the catalogue page, so they have all of the ordering information. It could be a case that they haven’t heard of your book yet, because the sales rep hasn’t sold it to them. When the sales rep does make a call on the store, that buyer will remember you, and will pay more attention to the rep’s sales pitch. 

Do not promise anything! Don’t try to organize any launches or events at this stage. Let your publisher look after all of that for you. If your publisher wants your help in doing this, they will ask for it. Do tell your publisher that you made contact with the bookstore, and that there is a possibility they may be interested in doing some promotion. At the very least, those booksellers who do show interest in your book should receive an advance copy to read. Suggest to the publisher that the store be added to their sample list. 

The main point here, though, is to make contact with the people who will be responsible for selling your book, leave them with a good impression, and hope that when your rep sells your book to the store, the buyer remembers your name. Of course, if you’ve been a loyal customer of this store all along, your name will be remembered, anyway, and the store will be asking your publisher if they may schedule a launch of your book. 

Whatever you do, don’t ever, ever, ever demand that a store carry your book because you’re a local author. And especially, don’t try to shame a bookseller into stocking your book. When I was a buyer at Sandpiper Books, a man came into the store and asked if we were carrying a particular collection of short stories written by so-and-so. 

I told him I hadn’t heard of the book, but that we likely wouldn’t have bought it if it had been sold to us, because it was a collection of short stories (which we couldn’t give away at that time) and it was published in hardcover, and too expensive. 

The man shouted at me, “Well, you should have it in stock, because I’m the author, and I live here!” In one second, he managed to piss me off so much that I vowed to never sell a single book published by him, ever. I didn’t tell him this directly, only kept it to myself, but I have maintained that vow. I still don’t like the author, even though he went on to some success since that time. So, don’t demand, don’t be the prima donna, and don’t expect that your book will be on every bookstore’s shelves when it’s been published. And be forewarned – booksellers have very long memories... 

Feed the Online Publicity Machine 

We’re coming up to the publishing date now, and you’ve been working very hard on Facebook and through your blog, posting “meaningful” content, and encouraging your readers to become equally excited about the publication as you are yourself. You’ve been building the anticipation. Now what you want to do is set the stage for the publicity your book will receive once it’s been published and in the stores. You want to start driving those potential readers into the stores to buy your book by letting them know that it’s now available. 

Your publisher will likely have contacted as many of the media names that you gave them, or that were on their own publicity lists. Their publicist will have created a press release, and sent out advance review copies along with that release to the entire list to try to generate requests to interview you or review your book. You should leave the traditional media up to your publisher to handle. But where you can help is by finding online sites that may review your book. First of all, create a “media room” on your web or blogsite. That’s a separate page where you can post any and all links to where you or your book have been mentioned in the press. 

Ask the publisher if you may post their press release. Also include your two bios, your photo, and a link to the catalogue page here. This way, if a reviewer does decide to go directly to your site, all the necessary information will be accessible. And, of course, every time a review appears or your book is mentioned on a blog or website, this is where you will post the link. 

Remember all of those friendships and associations you forged earlier on with other authors and blogsites? This is where they come in handy again. Make up a list of all blogs and websites dealing with your genre or the subject of your book, and write to the blogger to ask if they would like to review it. They’ll know who you are, because you’ve been politely commenting on their blog all along, and have been promoting their site through your blogroll. When they do agree to review your book – or, if you’re lucky, to interview you! – then return the favour by posting their review with a link back to their site. This will help to increase traffic for them, for which they will be forever grateful. 

Darcie Friesen Hossack did exactly this with her book, and contacted any and all sites dealing with Mennonites. She managed to get a few very good solid mentions and a couple of favourable reviews that she wouldn’t have received had she left all of this up to her publisher. 

As well, Darcie, and another author, Teri Vlassopoulos, who also published for the first time last fall, interviewed each other in what they termed an “uninterview,” and both posted these to their blogsites. All of their friends reposted this same “uninterview” to their own sites, and to Facebook, and it kind of went viral for a moment in time. What happened was that Darcie’s book was exposed to Teri’s contact list, and vice versa, increasing both their readerships. At one point, if you searched Mennonites Don’t Dance on Amazon, it was suggested that “customers who bought this book also bought Bats and Swallowsby Teri. Generally, publishers have to pay for links between books, but so many people had bought both books at the same time that the Amazon computer kicked in and placed the books side-by-side, not realizing that these two authors are actually friends. 

Once you have your new book in your hot little hands, always carry around at least two copies with you, no matter where you go, and especially when you’re travelling. You never know when you might need to whip it out of your bag and show it to someone. You’ve earned bragging rights! 

Consider Speaking Engagements 

Another area of promotion you should consider developing – and only do this if you are comfortable with it – is speaking engagements. (And if you are truly an introvert, you may want to read The Shy Writer: The Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success by Hope C. Clark of the website, Funds for Writers. This book is listed in the bibliography at the end of this document.) 

Speaking engagements are something your publisher will not arrange for you, unless they are approached directly by a group inviting you to speak. Make sure that you are either allowed to sell books or that a bookseller has been asked to look after sales wherever you appear. Here’s another important statistic I gleaned from reading Get Known Before the Book Deal: Authors who speak at events sell three times as many books. 

You can give a straight reading from your book, but my preference is to hear an author talk about how they wrote the book, or how they managed to get it published (if that’s a funny story) or just a general talk about the subject matter of the book. Darcie has worked up speeches about all three of these areas, and as well she can include an interesting reading from her collection of short stories. We’ve recently managed to get her an invitation to be keynote speaker at an Alberta-wide library conference being held in Edmonton this May. And the bonus is – this speaking gig pays! 

Some engagements pay for your travel expenses and accommodation. Plus, while in Edmonton, we’ll be allowed to sell Darcie’s book. And we can organize a mini-tour for her over that weekend, sending her to Mennonite communities and their libraries. So consider which groups you might be able to speak to about your book, and call them. Start first with any associations or organizations you belong to, or anything that’s related to the subject matter of your book. 

Offer something of value, more than just a straight reading, and don’t expect to be paid for the appearance. But do expect, and request, that there be book sales at any event. Your publisher is more likely to support your efforts if they know your books will be sold. 

Speak to book clubs, especially if you belong to one. Create a list of discussion questions, add a separate page to your blog or website that’s titled For Book Clubs, and post the discussion questions there. You can add to this site, as you have new information you think would be of specific interest to book clubs. Then make yourself available to meet with and talk to members. If you’re tech savvy, offer to talk to book clubs remotely, using Skype. 

I know several authors who understand the fact that book clubs are their ideal readers, and they love having that immediate interaction with people who have enjoyed reading their book. You likely will not receive payment for any engagements with book clubs, and if you’re lucky they’ll buy a few copies of your book and feed you some food, but you can’t discount the fact that you are reaching out directly to your readers, will have a personal interaction with them, and that you have hopefully created a new group of fans who will invite you back again the next time you publish. 

Join Book Club Buddy 

The best way to attract the attention of book clubs, North America-wide, is by listing your book online with Book Club Buddy. www.bookclubbuddy.com. Pearl Luke, an author formerly of Calgary, has created a terrific site that really supports and promotes authors. For as little as $25 you can arrange for a package that lists your book on the site. For $100, you can arrange to have even more information listed and possibly also arrange for a book video to be created. Here’s one Pearl has posted for Betty Jane Hegerat’s book, Delivery. 

http://www.bookclubbuddy.com/category/videos/  

While you’re on this page, scroll down through the other videos created by Pearl Luke. Definitely check out Book Club Buddy at www.bookclubbuddy.com. 

Send Thank You Notes 

When your publisher’s promotion season is over, you should send thank you notes to the publisher, your editor, the sales reps, and any booksellers or librarians you met along the way. But send your publicist chocolates. Publicists love chocolate, and the publicist’s job is difficult enough as it is, so they deserve to receive chocolates. In a recent entry on the blog, The Gatekeepers Post, titled Why Isn’t My Publicist Doing Anything? the blogger spoke with publicists about why authors had the impression that their books weren’t receiving the attention they thought was deserved. This is what a couple of publicists told him: 

Authors don’t realize how many other books there are out there. And how many other publicists and news stories we’re competing against. We’re competing against breaking news, news of the day, books that are better written, or not as well written, and we’re competing against less and less space every day. Yet publishers are increasing the output of books. The tougher ones [to get publicity for] are novels, which have even less of a chance for coverage. If I could do anything, if I were running the company, I would reduce the number of books being released. 

If you send your publicist chocolates, you will be appreciated, and remembered. Trust me! 

There’s much, much more you can do – above and beyond what your publisher will do for you – and I don’t have time to go into it all today. Really, though, you’re only limited by your imagination, and by your will to become involved in promoting yourself and your book. 

Accept that the Book Industry has Changed 

The times they are a-changin’ The book business is vastly different from when I first got into it in the late 70s. Publishers don’t send authors on lengthy book tours any longer, there are fewer traditional print media reviewing books, there are fewer independent bookstores in business, and Indigo/Chapters is becoming more difficult about stocking books, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll even sell 2-300 copies, let alone ever require a reprint of your book to be ordered. 

That is, unless you’re willing to step up and take control of your own promotion, and to work with the publisher to get the word out there about your book, by developing a good solid platform of readers who will not only want to buy this book, but the next one that you publish, and the next, and the next. 

Once you learn more about how publishing works, and where you fit into all of this, it will help you in being able to work with your publisher to promote, and to sell, your book even further. 

  • Keep positive thoughts.
  • Ask questions of other authors.
  • Attend conferences and workshops.
  • Network, and make new friends, whether it’s in person, or online.
  • Join writing associations, attend other authors’ events and readings, support other authors’ books by buying them, then read those books and review them on your own blog, giving that author some promotion.
  • Be professional in everything you do.
  • Be a vital, engaged, and engaging part of the writing community.
  • Believe in yourself, and in your craft – do not be self- disparaging, but do be humble. 

When I was at university I was struggling to write my very first, professional resume in order to land a summer job. A friend told me that it was simple – all I had to do was make myself look like such a delicious chocolate bar that everyone would want to open the wrapper and begin eating. 

That’s what you need to do: make yourself so irresistible that everyone will want to have a part of you – or at least they’ll want to read everything you’ve written. Remember that your job isn’t just to write, but also to get people to care about what you’ve written, and then to let everyone know that you’ve written it. 

Thank you.

Alberta Books Canada Sales & Promotion




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