By Sally Murphy
So you’ve had a book published? Congratulations. Now, what are you doing to promote yourself and your book. ‘But that’s the publisher’s job!’ many first time authors say. Correct.
A good publisher will work hard to promote new releases. But the more promotion, the more chances of good book sales, and whilst a publicist may be promoting dozens of books by dozens of authors at any one time, you can focus your efforts on promoting just your own book(s). Also, whilst a publisher might promote your new book for a month or so, you can go and on promoting it for as long as it is in print.
So, here are eight ways you can promote your book at no or low cost to yourself.
1. An Author Website
Every author should have a website promoting her books. You can see mine at http://www.sallymurphy.net/. You can include details of each book you’ve had published, including a blurb, the year of publication, publisher’s name and ISBN.
Your website should also include a bio of yourself, contact details (you can use a form or use a link rather than pasting your email address on the page) and links to places which sell your books online. It’s also a great idea to include some classroom activities for teachers, and/or some activities for young readers.
You can pay someone to build you a website (I used Jason Rhodes and loved what he did), or you can build your own. You can also choose to pay for hosting or use free hosting. If the latter, try to choose one which places minimal advertising on your site.
You should also consider purchasing a domain name. For a writer the best domain is yourname.com or yourname.com.au. This allows people to find you easily and not have to remember a convoluted URL. I couldn’t get .com because there are too many Sally Murphy’s in the world, so I settled for .net and it works well. If using a free host which provides you with a subdomain, try to use one that puts your name at the front of the URL – ie www.sallymurphy.writernetwork.com rather than writernetwork/authors/sallymurphy
2. A Blog
A blog is like an online diary or journal. You can post pretty much anything you like in your blog, and as well as text you can include links, photos, videos and more. Being greedy, I have two blogs– http://pemberthybear.blogspot.com/ and http://sallymurphy.blogspot.com/. It isn’t necessary to have more than one, but each of mine is very different from the other.
There a many sites which host blogs for free. I chose blogspot because it’s easy to use and is also owned by Google, which seems to help with getting good search engine results. My blog was showing on page one of search results within 24 hours, and with no promotion, though I’ve since done a little promotion of my own.
Your blog can be about writing, your books, or something quite different. Whatever you write about, you can include details of your books and links to your website.
3. An Email Signature
An email signature is the text and links that you set up to be automatically added to the end of every email you send. Mine includes my name, a cover image from my latest book and links to my websites and blogs.
Setting up a sig line (signature) is easy. Use the help section of your email program for step by step explanation of how it’s done.
Once you have a signature, you are promoting your book(s) every time you send an email.
4. A Business Card
If you do nothing else on this list, get yourself a business card and a business card holder. It enables you to pass on your contact details to anyone who asks (and the more you network, the more you’ll be asked) and again promotes your books.
Keep it simple – your name, what you do (mine says Children’s Author), your contact details, including email. My graphic is always the cover image of one of my books. That way, if I give out my business card to someone outside the industry I have a chance to introduce them to my books.
You can get free or low cost business cards from Vista Print, but I recommend that you play with the design templates and add your own graphic so that it is unique.
Book lovers love bookmarks. Many publishers (including the publisher of my two picture books) will have these made up as part of their promotional efforts. Mine have the book’s title and publication details as well as images from the book. If your publisher doesn’t provide them you can print some up on your own computer or get them made at your local print shop.
As well as giving them out at school visits and speaking engagements, you can leave them in libraries, community centres and so on. I also carry a few in my handbag and if someone asks for details of my books, I give them one. They can then take the bookmark to a book store when they request my book. It also serves a reminder to them – they’re less likely to forget my book if they’re carrying my bookmark in their bag.
Writing an article for a website, ezine or print publication can be a good way to connect with a wide audience and may even make you some dollars. You can write about writing, about the business of writing (for example, an article about 8 ways to self-promote) or about any topic that you know something about.
If you’ve written a fiction book about horses, why not write an article for a horse magazine? This gives you the opportunity to reach people other than other writers or booklovers. Your horse magazine reader may not buy a lot of books, but is much more likely to buy a book involving horses.
Most websites and ezines and many print publications give you the opportunity to include a profile and usually links to your websites.
7. Speaking Gigs
School visits, writing workshops and festival appearances are all excellent ways to promote your books, make some sales of stock and are usually well paid. If you are asked to speak at such an event, you should expect payment and should seek ASA Rates.
Whilst all these are good, you should also consider speaking to groups whose focus is not solely books or writing. Spread your fan base by speaking to any group who’ll listen. In recent weeks I’ve spoken to a craft group and a Rotary club. There were no other writers in the room on either occasion, but there were plenty of grandparents, aunties and uncles, any of whom are potential buyers for my books.
Tailor your speech to your audience and, wherever possible, have a display of your books in the room.
8. Press Releases
Your publisher will probably write and distribute press releases (along with review copies) to relevant publications before and immediately after the book’s release. However, they are less likely to target your local media. Local papers, newsletters and radio stations are always looking for local angles and are usually happy to run one or more pieces about your book, your book launch, your speaking engagement and more.
If submitting to a local paper, write your press release as an article (in third person), because very often they will simply reprint whatever you’ve submitted. Include quotes from yourself and attach good quality digital photos if emailing.
If a radio station is interested, they will likely want to interview you on air. If you are close to the station they may invite you in, but otherwise they might interview you over the phone. Although you need to think about speaking clearly, don’t be too nervous – it really is just like having a chat with a friend, and the interviewer will use questions to guide you.
Using some or all of these eight promotional tools can really help to get the word out about your book – and to keep the buzz going. These aren’t the only things you can do to promote your book – but they are eight that have worked for me. I hope they work for you, too.
Today, Barbara Turner drops by to share her seven answers to seven questions.
1. Tell us a little about your publication credits. If you have none, tell us about the genres you prefer to write, and your current projects.
My latest book is a middle grade NF biography called Women of Granite: 25 New Hampshire Women You Should Know, written with the 6 other members of my face to face critique group. The book contains 25 biographies of NH women from the 1600’s to the present. There’s a short bio, a timeline, interesting tidbits about each woman, a read more section and a glossary. We did 3 or 4 bios each.
The book has received very good reviews and was just chosen by the NH Center for the Book to represent the state of New Hampshire at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. (Just got back. It was this past weekend.)
We are also just finishing up Women of the Bay State (Massachusetts) and there are several more in the works (Texas, California and New York) The publisher hopes to do all 50 states.
I’ve also published two other books, A Little Bit of Rob, (Albert Whitman Company) and Out and About at the Orchestra (Picture Window Books) as well as short stories and poetry.
2. How long have you been writing for children?
I’ve been writing all my life, but 1991 was when I actually started to get serious and submit.
3. How much time do you spend each week writing and/or revising? And how much time on other writing-related tasks such as promotion, researching markets and so on?
I probably write about four hours each day, maybe 6-8 on the weekends. I don’t spend a lot of time researching markets. My biggest failing as a writer is that I don’t submit as often as I should. I generally don’t do much promotion either, but for my latest book, I’ve been doing a lot, only because the other women involved are into marketing. We’ve spoken at libraries, done tv, radio and newspaper interviews, attended the National Book Festival, spoke at the New England SCBWI conference, and done book signings. I never would have done any of these things if I had written the book myself, so being involved in the group has helped me considerably. (thewritesisters.com.)
4. How much time do you spend reading children’s books? And what are you reading right now?
I probably read one new book a month, although I read at least one book a week. I read books I’ve already read just to analyze them. I’ve just finished Madapple by Christina Meldrum, a YA kinda paranormal/mystery. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
5. What advice would you give other would-be children’s writers, or share with other professional children’s writers?
Find a good critique group. It’ll take years off your journey. And if you can find a group where you’re at the bottom of the totem pole, that’s even better, because if everyone in the group knows more than you, you’re going to get tons of good help/info. And read as much as you write. You’ll learn writing techniques without even realizing you’re learning them.
6. What is your favourite online resource for children’s writers? Why?
I don’t really have one. I’ve reached the point where I spend more time writing than reading about writing. I do use the web though on the rare occasions when I do submit to check out publishers’ web sites and guidelines.
7. Do you have a website or blog? What else do you do to promote your published works and/or your writing skills?
I have a website and blog with the other members of my group. Again, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have either. Which is another good reason to have a good critique group. Marketing is a big weak spot for me, but my work is getting out there because it’s not a weak spot for the other members of my group. The URLs are:
thewritesisters.com and thewritesisters.blogspot.com
Thanks so much for dropping in, Barbara.
If YOU would like to answer these seven questions and be featured on this blog, drop me a line.
Australian author Christopher Cheng, who is also a literacy ambassador for National Literacy and Numeracy Week has started a new blog, newkidsbooksinoz, which highlights new children’s book releases.
Notes From the Slush Pile is a UK-based blog which reports on all aspects of the children’s book industry, including marketing and promotion. Lots of useful information, and plenty of time wasters to click on and enjoy.
The Cybils – the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards – are now open for nominations. Nominate your favourite children’s or YA book published in 2008, or simply browse the nominations (and comments) for some reading recommendations.