Promoting Your Own Book (Because No One Else Will) by Aliza Sherman

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Published authors often lament the challenge of getting their publisher to promote their books. They aren’t ungrateful. They just realize that if they aren’t a top-tier author, they are going to have to promote their book themselves.

Here are some published authors who took charge of their book promotions with positive results.

Jane Applegate (http://www.sbtv.com), author of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, gets sponsors for her book tours. “My biggest book tour hit 20 cities in 1998. [The tour] was underwritten by GTE Communications, Network Solutions and Wells Fargo Bank. We pitched the idea to GTE, which was the lead sponsor. We created a road show on the theme “Unlimited Ideas for Your Small Business.” We had a moving van and crew of eight roadies to manage the show. We partnered with local business organizations to promote ticket sales. All attendees received a free copy of my book. It definitely helped boost sales and generate a very positive word of mouth buzz about the book. The book later sold to Books on Tape and was made into a desk calendar.”

Elizabeth Carlassare (http://www.dotcomdivas.net), author of Dotcom Divas: E-Business Insights from the Visionary Women Founders of 20 Net Ventures went for an offline medium to promote her book. “Radio! Radio! Radio! When my book, Dotcom Divas, was published, I requested that McGraw-Hill (my publisher) pay for a PR firm to set up a radio tour. I knew it would be a cost-effective way to create some buzz about the book. It was. I was able to do most of the interviews by phone from the comfort of my own home. No traveling, no muss, no fuss. The result was exposure for Dotcom Divas throughout the United States. The first radio tour was so effective that I did a second one.”

Paulette Cooper (http://www.paulettecooper.com), author of over a dozen books including 277 Secrets Your Dog Wants You to Know, swears by celebrities. “Give free copies of your book to any prominent people mentioned in it. I included sections in my dog book and my award-winning cat book (277 Secrets Your Cat Wants You To Know) on which celebrities own what kind of cat or dog. Then I made sure the celebrities who were named later received a copy of the book. Whenever I meet a famous person (which happens pretty often since my husband and co-author is a television executive), I always ask if they’d like a free copy of my book.” Paulette points to an instance when she was at a TV convention with her husband and saw Kelsey Grammer. “I leaped up and handed him my book, telling him that he and his dog were mentioned in there. The TV show “Extra” was filming Grammer and briefly flashed a shot on TV that night of me handing him my book — with a close-up of the cover.”

Catherine Dee (http://www.deebest.com), author of Girls’ Book of Love, among other empowering books for girls, used a common promotional item that she made herself to promote one of her books. “I made laminated magnets of the book cover and gave them away at signings. I have a laminator, so I simply scanned the book cover and printed it on the color printer, then laminated [and attached a magnet]. Cost: About $1 for three magnets. Benefits: Great advertising with anyone who puts it on their fridge!”

Robin Fisher Roffer (http://www.bigfishmarketing.com/), author of Make a Name for Yourself: Eight Steps Every Woman Needs to Create A Personal Brand Strategy for Success, was targeting female executives. “I held a tea party at the Beverly Hills Hotel for 45 female movers and shakers. I gift wrapped and autographed each book and gave a quick talk between scones and finger sandwiches. The event was successful in creating a buzz around my book and cost under $1,000.”

Spike Gillespie ), author of All the Wrong Men and One Perfect Boy, took a grassroots approach. “My publisher was not interested in sending me on a book tour. But there were a couple of cities — namely Knoxville and New York– where I knew I could get an enthusiastic response to my book. So, I asked my friends in Austin to please attend a fundraiser that I threw in my kitchen, in my honor. I made homemade pizza for about 8 hours straight that night (something like thirty pizzas.) My musician friends set up in the back yard and, despite my very old house, managed to not blow the fuses with their amps. The music was spectacular, the food– if I may say so myself– was quite tasty. I set up a table full of books. I wasn’t allowed to sell them (part of my contract.) But I did have a donations bucket set up. So people dropped cash and checks in the [bucket] and took books. We raised a thousand bucks that night, which was enough gas money to get me across the country. In Knoxville, where I used to live, I got a tremendous response. In New York, my oldest friend threw a huge party for me in his apartment. I kept telling my publisher that it would be a huge bash and I kept getting this sort of dismissive, “yeah, yeah… right” response. Like they didn’t believe I could pull it off. They didn’t know my friend has an enormous, stunning apartment in the heart of the Village with a big back deck. One by one, they came in and did a double take. So I’d say my best tactic was to use my friends, to ask for their help, and to trust they would pull through for me when the publisher wouldn’t.”

Jan Jasper (http://www.www.janjasper.com), author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology, used a classic Internet marketing technique. “The most effective thing I did to promote my book was to mention it regularly in my quarterly e-newsletter, which goes to my ever-growing e-mail list. This costs me nothing except for a little time. My e-newsletter contains tips on time management such as how to simplify your workload by using technology correctly and how to deal with information overload. Of course, I prominently mention my book and include a link to amazon.com, where I’ve posted my book’s Table of Contents and an excerpt. There are several benefits to e-mailing my newsletter rather than using postal mail. It’s faster and cheaper, it’s easy for recipients to forward to interested friends, and the link to amazon.com is right there! It’s a great and virtually free way to get the word out about your book.”

Angela Nissel (http://www.thebrokediaries.com/), author of Broke Diaries: The Completely True and Hilarious Misadventures of a Good Girl Gone Broke says that the most interesting way she promoted her book was with food. “A friend of mine actually came up with the idea. My publisher had Buy the Broke Diaries! stickers printed up for the book. My friend stuck them to packages of Ramen Noodles and handed them out near bookstores. People were taken aback, and several people we handed them to bought the book. The stickers were free (well, taken out of my promotional budget, I suppose) and the Ramen set us back 10 cents a package.”

Since she posts actively on message boards online, Angela includes a signature link to her site at the bottom of every public post she makes – a subtle text ad. “I have software that enables me to see how people get to my site (search engine, link from another web site, etc.). I get a substantial number of visitors through posts I make on various sites.”

M.J. Rose (http://www.mjrose.com), author of Sheet Music, enlisted fans to embark on a marketing campaign. “The most interesting way I’ve promoted my book was something I initiated with my novel In Fidelity I asked my fans – whose email addresses I have collected – to help me spread word of mouth from my books and offered the one who got the most people to buy the new novel a gift certificate at the book store of his/her choice. One woman had over 100 sales to her credit.”

Danny Seo (http://www.dannyseo.com), author of Heaven on Earth: 15-Minute Miracles to Change the World, thinks big. “I visited all of the official web sites of the talk shows I wanted to be on and looked up what shows they were seeking guests for. For the Oprah Winfrey Show, I saw they were doing a show on “Spring Cleaning,” and I was able to pitch myself as a guest who can show people how their trash could be used to make a difference. It tied perfectly into my book. No PR firms, no fancy pitches. Just quick and easy online research did the trick.”

Deborah Tannen (http://www.deborahtannen.com), author of You Just Don’t Understand and Talking from 9 to 5, takes the writer’s approach to promoting her books. “I’ve found it useful to try to write as many articles for magazines and newspapers related to the topic of the book as I have time to write and can find people willing to publish.”

Aliza Sherman is author of five books including PowerTools for Women in Business (Entrepreneur). The most unique way she promoted her book Cybergrrl@Work (Penguin Putnam) was by turning an extended road trip in an old RV into a promotional book tour on wheels. She convinced KOA to give her a VIP card for a year of free campground stays and received promotional software, tshirts and some cash from IBM and Macromedia. With those companies’ support, she was able to organize book signings at local bookstores in 51 cities.