So you have fifteen hundred beautiful new, fresh, attractive books piled up in your spare bedroom and the garage. How do you go about creating a market for them? Here are a few ideas for you to think about.
- When you have your book published, earmark twenty to fifty copies for publicity purposes. Add the cost of these to the sale price of the rest of the books. Ask your printer if supplementary material such as posters, bookmarks, flyers, or business cards might be produced at the same time the book is printed. Add the cost of these to the price of your books.
- Have any advertising material professionally designed. This includes the cover of your book. You have to make a good impression up front, and you won’t do this with an amateurish cover or poster.
- Make sure your book carries an ISBN and library catalogue number. This will enable it to be searched and ordered by any bookstore or interested reader.
- Give copies away to useful contacts: anyone who you hope will help promote the book fits in this category.
- Don’t give away free books to your friends and relations. They are your most likely paying customers.
- Contact distributors and see if they will carry your book. Understand that their fees are quite large to cover the effort they go to and the time it takes them to place and oversee your books. They usually cover the bookstore's charges from their payment as well.
- Hold a book launch and invite everybody you can think of. This is your first, best opportunity to sell copies to people in return for some nibbles and a drink.
- Local bookstores. Make an appointment to speak to the manager (keep it very short—s/he is busy) and donate a book plus an order form. Ask if you can leave some copies on consignment. This means that they will pay you when the books are sold. They will not be responsible for loss or damage to your books. You will have to go back to check on progress and replenish copies.
- Combine with other authors: you place their books along with your own in your local stores, and they reciprocate in their areas.
- Local newspapers. The community papers often run articles on local authors. Provide them with a book, a photograph, and a review. Write the article for them. The easier you make it, the more likely they will use your material.
- Local radio and television stations. Again, provide a copy of the book plus promotional material so that they don’t have to work hard to get your message across. Offer to appear on a programme and talk about your book. If you have written a memoir set in a particular town, promote your book in that place too.
- Local libraries: Donate a book (and poster, so it doesn't get lost on the shelves). Offer to talk about your book to a reading group, or to share tips on writing and publishing. Carry copies of your book to these occasions to sell while interest is high.
- Contact your state writing organisation to see if they carry space for self-publishers in their newsletters. Pay for an advertisement there, or lobby them for free space for self-publishers. Many of these organisations regularly publicise self-published books by members.
- Clubs, schools, special-interest groups are often looking for speakers or visitors. If your book is about your experiences as an immigrant from Italy, for instance, offer to speak to local Italian clubs. If you have written a picture book for children, see if the local primary schools and kindergartens would be interested in your coming in to read it, or to sell it at their book promotion day. If it is a book about native animals, place copies in zoo and museum book shops. If it might interest tourists, place copies in hotel shops, tourist information centres, etc.
- Offer to run writing courses at your local writer’s centre. Use your book as a demonstration of what can be done, and sell it to course attendees.
- Purchase a stand at craft fairs, car-boot sales, or the local weekend market. Offer to sell other self-published books on consignment there. Make the stall (or yourself) stand out by using bright colours and making contact with the crowd. One short author I know of wears a rainbow-coloured wig to get herself noticed.
Do everything you can to promote the book yourself:
- Print business cards featuring your book with web and phone contact details. Hand these out liberally.
- Carry a box of books in your car to sell to folk you talk to.
- Print out other promotional material: we have seen t-shirts, caps, pens, fridge magnets, bookmarks all used to promote self-published books. Make sure these carry information about how to purchase a copy.
- Promote your work with reader’s magazines such as Good Reading. A book, a review, a photo, a JPEG of the cover, all help.
- Try the general national magazines too. If it is a work that would interest readers of Women’s Weekly, approach the editors and see if they are interested in developing an article based on your material, or perhaps in serialising your work. Make sure the book can be purchased through the magazine.
- Make use of any famous people you may know. Get them to write a few words in praise of your book and use this in your promotional material. Invite them to your launch (and tell the newspapers about their presence)
- See if relevant organisations will carry your book in their offices: for instance, if you have written about caring for a blind person, the Association for the Blind might be interested in carrying copies of your book. Offer them a generous amount of the profit in return, so that they benefit too.
- If your book is a manual or self-help work, it might make a useful prize in a raffle or lottery, or a promotional device by a company. Remember when The F-Plan Diet was promoted by a cereal company? They ran out of copies very quickly …
Make the most of electronic options:
- Print-on-demand and e-book options are popular and cost-effective. Place copies of your book with all the well-known on-line booksellers: Amazon, CreateSpace, Lulu. There are many of these. Some are free, and some charge a fee. Decide whether the fee is worth the publicity, keeping in mind that the more mentions of your book on the web, the higher its rating in the search engines.
- Search the web to see where your book is listed. Make sure that a picture of the cover is available. Add a blurb so that browsers can see what the book is about. Ask lots of friends to write reviews, and post those on each site—the more there are, the more surfers will think the book is worth looking at.
- Set up your own website and sell directly to surfers. Include a purchase order form and set up an account through Paypal or another safe payment option.
- Promote your book on Facebook. Use freeware like Wordpress and Blogger to create a site where you can communicate with your audience, instead of just posting stuff on the web and hoping people find it.