How I’m Successfully Promoting My Book, Marlene’s Piano By Jill Charles

After five years of writing, researching and editing my historical fiction novel, Marlene’s Piano, I looked for a publisher who shared my commitment to writing. A friend referred me to When I compared their services to, and other print-on-demand publishers, BookLocker offered the assistance I needed with formatting and cover art and the greatest autonomy for a writer. The copyright of my book belongs to me and I retain all rights to sell or publish it, or any part of it, anywhere, any time. Although I chose to publish Marlene’s Piano as a paperback, I have the option of having BookLocker produce it in hardback or as an e-book, too.

BookLocker gives authors the choice of formatting their own pages for print, or assisting them. When the first copy went to print, I received it in the mail and had one final chance to check each page before the first run of 100 copies went to print. It felt wonderful to hold my printed paperback in my hands after writing and typing it for years. I also got to make suggestions for the cover picture and preview it online before the first edition. Todd Engel’s cover design of a sheet of music and half moon with a midnight blue background perfectly suited my story of a jazz piano prodigy. My only suggestions to him were “dark blue” “night” and “piano music.” The cover indicates the mood of the book enough to catch the reader’s interest without giving any spoilers.

Anyone can order my book directly from BookLocker, from, and through their local bookstores. The distribution of BookLocker books by Ingram makes it easy for any bookseller to order it. Often, when I took my book to bookstores, the first question the owner would ask was “Is your book distributed by Ingram?” My bookstore sales all came from independent bookstores, including used bookstores, even though my book was new. I would call ahead to ask who reviewed books for sale in the store, and would leave my book with my contact information for the manager’s consideration. Most of the booksellers I approached agreed to sell Marlene’s Piano and signed sales contracts with me. Currently my book is for sale at five bookstores in Chicago (where I live), as well as ones in Seattle, Spokane, and Ellensburg, Washington. Before I published my novel, some of my short stories and poems had been published in literary magazines. I kept a list of all these publications to represent my work to BookLocker, when they were considering my manuscript, and to any store considering Marlene’s Piano for sale.

I also found an audience for my poems and stories at local open mic nights in Chicago. After regularly hearing my poems, the audiences welcomed my book. Any live event where an author can read a “preview” of the novel can increase sales, and is more effective than simply displaying copies. If the readers hear an interesting scene, like the writing style and feel curious, they are much more motivated to buy. Online, BookLocker lets authors post sample chapters to entice readers.

As I read Angela Hoy’s suggestions for marketing your own book, I appreciated input from her and other authors about what has and has not worked for them. For instance, she recommended sending a query letter asking for a review in a literary magazine or newspaper, rather than sending an unsolicited copy of the novel. Because reviewers receive so many requests, they cannot review all the books that are mailed to them. Before I sent my book for reviews, I made sure that the reviewer had the time and interest in my story to give it a chance.

My review in The Sun: Seattle University’s Alumni Magazine was read by thousands of alumni and the only expense for me was mailing the book to the reviewer at the discounted media mail rate. (Always ask your post office about the rates for media mail when sending books!) With the reviewer’s permission, I also posted the glowing recommendation online and printed it to show to local bookstores. Because I majored in creative writing at Seattle University, my publication reflected well on my school. Any author should consider a review in their college or high school newsletter, or their employer’s newsletter if possible.

I have promoted the book online in my blog and asked friends to make links to the sales page on their Facebook and Myspace accounts. This creates a lot of interest at no extra expense. To help reach a wider audience, I donated some of my copies to Books to Prisoners and local homeless shelters. I hope that my story of a piano player finding her independence and supporting her family in the Depression will encourage readers to pursue their own dreams, and know that the current recession is not permanent, and certainly not America’s worst economic time ever.

BookLocker’s author pages let you check your sales 24 hours a day, and ask Angela Hoy any questions you have about publishing and promoting your book. They respect their authors, and give guidance and honest advice at every step of the publishing process. Although I never considered myself a great saleswoman, I have learned to promote my book online, in person at bookstores and open mics, and with the assistance of friends, relatives and my alma mater. It feels wonderful to have my book in print, available for order at any local bookstore and online. I hope that reading about my experience helps other authors and strongly recommend for publishing any genre of fiction or non-fiction print-on-demand books.

Jill Charles grew up in Spokane, Washington and majored in Creative Writing at Seattle University. She wrote articles for Tablet: Magazine of Arts and Culture and poems and stories for Poetry Motel, Heliotrope, and The Inlander, an independent Spokane newspaper. In 2007, she moved from Seattle to Chicago, where she performs poetry at open mics at Kafein and the Heartland Cafe.

In her book, Marlene’s Piano, piano prodigy Marlene Piper hopes to go to music school but her father’s death leaves her family broke. Torn between loyalty and her longing for adventure outside her small Pennsylvania town, Marlene marries against her family’s wishes. She finds work playing the piano in a speakeasy called The Starfish with torch singer Blue Maria and an old flame named Robert Schumann… Read more HERE.


TRAVEL WRITING 2.0 – Earning money from your travels in the new media landscape
Toss out the old travel writing books and advice because the media landscape is changing fast. Old paths are disappearing but new ones are opening up. Join veteran travel writer Tim Leffel on a journey of opportunity tempered with realism and hear advice from dozens of other travel writers, bloggers, editors, and book publishers.