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January 2009 - Article: Marketing Tips for Less - By the bookhitch staff

Economic woes and the effect on your book, strategies to boost awareness of your book for little to no cost. What to expect in the upcoming year.

Recession, depression, what does this mean for you in the book publishing industry?

There is no such thing as a recession-proof industry. Fields like the medical industry, entertainment, and education weather the bad times better than others and indulgences of certain products such as toys, chocolate, alcohol and cigarettes feed steady money into companies to keep them afloat.

The book industry, however, is not recession-proof and already we have seen major companies retrenching and integrating their operations: closing down publishing arms, and laying off staff due to slowing sales. If you thought that being an author was hard in the past, then this year is going to be a wake up call and tough on the bottom line. As prices soar, it is going to cost more for you to produce your book. Gas prices are on the rise, transportation costs are up, and paper is more expensive, therefore affecting your bottom line. There is already a tough balance between maintaining some semblance of profitability, and keeping the price of books for consumers down. But, in 2009, you could be walking a finer line.

So, what can you do?

Do something everyday to market your book.

Send one copy of your book out a week, or even a day. Personalize a note, and send it to someone as a gift. Is your book medically related? Maybe there is a newspaper article congratulating a doctor, send out a copy with your congratulations too. Is it a self-help book and you read about someone going through a trying time? Send out a copy of your book, and ask if there is anything you can do to help. There are ways to help other people that will help you too.

Do a free workshop at a local venue once a month, tip off the press, and sell some books. This will allow you to perfect speeches, and will gain you notoriety to the point that people may pay you for a speech or two.

Write. Write short pieces or articles. Post them online, or submit them for publication newsletters. Voice your opinion on relevant and current issues. Take a look at writing competitions locally, and on the web. Always providing references to your book and directing people to your website.

Subscribe to e-mails from the website www.helpareporter.com. Register your name and e-mail address and twice daily you will receive a list of media outlets, and contacts that are looking for help with articles they are writing. It may be a month before you can honestly help a reporter with their story, but it may be the break that you are looking for. Warning: This list does not mean contact a reporter everyday and stretch your expertise to fit in with a story…this is how you will be blacklisted!

Join social networks and network with fellow authors. Websites such as LinkedIn, are a great place to keep in contact with friends and co-workers within the industry and keep tabs on what everyone is doing. You can also use less formal websites such as myspace and facebook to create author, or book pages. You just have to be careful of who befriends you and who you allow to view your pages: make it professional, or make it personal, there should never be a mix of both if you are using it for marketing purposes.

Network. Don’t just use social networks online, use your close friends and co-workers to help spread the word about your book.

Review other people’s books, and they may do the same for you: Tit for Tat.

We asked a few authors and experts to give us their feedback on how to market a book for next to nothing: what has worked and what hasn’t.

Here’s some advice to adhere to that just solidify the points made above… now you know we just don’t make it up (most of the time)… and that you can put these same tactics to work that have worked for others.


One author, whose first two books previously sold 5,000 and 2,000 copies, respectively, hired a new graduate to help market his book.

Will hired me to do his latest marketing, a recent graduate school grad. He wanted more bang for his buck (in theory), so he decided to hire a less senior freelance person to do his marketing and publicity for a significantly lower retainer. He has to be more involved in the process, but the money he is saving is pretty significant.

The book is called "Rhyme" and it is a children's book about a pig in politics. It was written by William Marks, and his other books include children's book "Lawrence and the Laughing Cookie Jar" and cookbook "No More Mac and Cheese, A Bachelor's Guide to Cooking with Ease." All of these titles were published under Will's publishing company MPC Press.


One award-winning author and publishing consultant emphasized the importance of events.

I strongly encourage authors to take advantage of businesses they patronize in order to get an event--as long as it makes sense. For instance, if an author has written a book about animals, whether it's a children's book or an adult book, fiction or non, see if the local pet store will host an event. The author will help promote the event and bring in more business for the pet store and it will be a built in audience of animal lovers.

As a personal anecdote, a hair salon that I have been patronizing for years was participating in the town's street festival while giving a percentage of sales to the American Cancer Society because the salon's owner was fighting breast cancer. I suggested that they let me set up a table outside their shop during the festival while I would give a percentage of my sales to the cause. That day I ended up selling about a total of 25 copies of both titles I published, but more importantly, it helped spread the word and I was contacted later by some of the festival attendees since they then selected my novel, "Without Grace" to be their book for their discussion group. “

Carol Hoenig knows both sides of the publishing business as an author and was a National Event Specialist for Borders


Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books, and she gave us a lot of suggestions (some already stated above) on how to market your book at a low cost.

  • Publish interesting articles along with an author bio that mentions your book and website. Find sites that reach your target audience and accept article submissions and submit your article as a free reprint (you can repurpose the same article dozens of times). You can also make your articles available for reprint through sites like www.ezinearticles.com and www.ideamarketers.com.
  • Be a guest on podcasts, teleseminars and Internet radio programs. The benefits are great: the host will promote you to their entire network, you will often get up to a full hour to talk about your book, and most programs archive the data on their websites indefinitely for ongoing exposure. Locate shows that reach your target audience through sites like www.wsradio.com, www.blogtalkradio.com, www.itunes.com.
  • Find online communities where your target audience looms and make a name for yourself by sharing information. If you really want to stand out, start and lead a group. A good place to start is http://groups.yahoo.com/.
  • Sites like LinkedIn.com, Facebook.com, Twitter.com and countless others are ripe for finding and building an audience. Create an interesting profile and get active in social networking communities. The biggest cost here will be in your time so spend it wisely and identify the best opportunities to expand your reach. Hint: Host or join groups on these sites to gain additional exposure.
  • Build loyal fans for life by publishing an interesting electronic newsletter with content related to your book(s). My first newsletter went out to a whopping eight people several years ago. Today it goes out to thousands of subscribers. Get started with www.ConstantContact.com or www.iContact.com.”

Her books include: “The Author’s Guide to Building an Online Platform: Leveraging the Internet to Sell More Books” (Quill Driver Books, May 2008).


Jennifer Nelson is a public relations specialist at Hannibal Books, a Christian evangelical publishing company in Garland, TX. Her advice? Social networking on and offline as well as events:

“The key to marketing your book for next to nothing is putting yourself out in front of people. The authors whose sales do the best are usually the ones who have a constant stream of events: a book launch, speaking engagements, book signings, from the moment, and even before, the book is released. These basically cost nothing for the author other than time and possibly travel costs. Although, if you're smart about your schedule, you can plan to host events in cities where you have relatives or friends with which you can stay. All it takes is a little bit of persistence to find locations to host these events. Of course, having these events also helps get the media interested in running a story on or doing an interview with the author - all of which is free. One just needs to pitch the event and story wisely to media who would be interested in your topic or location. And, in today's technology-driven world, authors can't forget about social media - blogs, forums, facebook, online book review sites, etc - which is again free. For those who aren't familiar with how to use social media for promotion, a ton of information exists on the Internet on this specific topic. Last, a final tip is to network. The more people you know, the more people you can invite to an event, send a link about your blog, etc.


Another author also suggests utilizing social networking sites to further your marketing campaign:

“I used LinkedIn and an email campaign to launch my book along with the marketing from the publisher.

I've also now broken out onto Twitter, Facebook and some of the "lesser known" sites.

80% of my marketing costs nothing. Lots of time, but no hard costs.

MySpace did nothing for me.

My advice: get on one or two social networks that you understand make them work for you. Once you've got those figured out, then go to the other sites and repeat.

Always be nice. Always be helpful even if it means not making a sale.”

You can find Gary Unger, author of How To Be A Creative Genius (in five minutes or less), on… surprise! LinkedIn.


The next author sold over 30,000 copies of her first book.

She sent some tactics to market a book without spending money, or close to nothing (as she put it):

“ HARO! Getting preview endorsements from key organizations that then want to promote themselves to their members and thus your book Webinars – especially though companies that paid me to do them! Contributed articles to trade publications/newsletters Speaking at related associations and networks Amazon book lists (other people’s) Discount codes included in articles, speaking closings, etc. Old fashioned pitching to target pubs and Bloggers

I am releasing my second business book this week, No Time Marketing. I am combing the PR tricks from my first book with some new ones that I’ve learned or better apply now. My first book has sold 30,000 copies so far since being introduced in 2003. Not bad for a very niche market (“Software Product Management Essentials”). I expect the new book to do better given its broader appeal. “ - Alyssa Dver


Ian Coburn, Author of "God is a Woman: Dating Disasters", was unknown when he wrote his book. He offers numerous insights into what worked for him.

“Here's what I did:

  1. Told all my friends. They spread the word, after I created a website.
  2. Sent out a press release, making myself avail as a dating expert and interviewee, etc.
  3. Released the book officially on a date w/a tied-in event--Valentine's Day '07. This enabled me to get on TV, and I'm in a big market--Chicago.
  4. On their own, readers mentioned the book in reviews of other books on Amazon. (Released shortly after "The Mystery Method" and that helped a lot.) The book got linked to other books that had big budgets and coverage.
  5. Handed out bookmarks at Chicago events, especially Printers Row Book Fair. Only author who did this! Couldn't believe it! (Noticed sales jump on Amazon for the following two weeks each time.)
  6. Wrote columns and got on places like HARO, where I could get leads and answer questions as an expert. (Became the columnist for Lifetime's "Ask a Guy" and for The Bachelor Guy's site, etc.)
  7. Maintain[ed] a blog and interview similar bloggers on similar topics. The goal is to inform and help while entertaining, regardless of sales numbers.
  8. Continue to update and modify site as work on new projects.”

Here are the results:

“…it hit #1 on Amazon.ca in humor (#66 over all), and other categories on all the different Amazons as #1. On Amazon.com it was in the top 1000 for March and April in 2007. It was in the top 1100 on B&N for a while, too. It sold over 8000 copies and was translated into Russian (very rare for the humor genre). The media attention I got landed it on store shelves. Great accomplishments, considering most books never get shelved, let alone small press books. I'm only finally starting to get bigger media coverage--have a review coming out in the next issue of "Hooters" which is the perfect audience for the book and got a Midwest Book Review.

As Ian told us, this cost less than $1000, but he put a great deal of time into these marketing efforts.

As stated in our article, and the examples above: If you are willing to put the time into your book, and do something everyday to raise awareness of you and your title, then you can achieve a great deal.

***With special thanks to the authors and experts who shared their own experiences.***


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