By doing a three-month crash course on marketing and promotion and publicizing, I figured I would be prepared for when my first children’s novel, THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED, came out last month. These past decades, I’ve focused on becoming a better writer, and each new story, I feel I accomplish some better piece of literature. But marketing is new to me. It’s like learning a foreign language. I’ve learned enough over the past four months, that each morning when I wake up, I check my pillow, certain things leaked out of my ears overnight.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be prepared, but so far these are the things I’ve learned:
1) Get over yourself. In other words, talk about your book whenever you can. After all, it’s an awesome book! Share about it with others, even if you are the author. Personally, I find it simple to be social and can easily talk to anyone and nearly about any subject. What I find difficult to do is talk about my book and me. I reiterate: Get over yourself.
2) Get your domain name, web host, and website up so you have something to point to for curious or interested parties.
3) Bite the bullet and plan on doing a lot of freebies A certain American soda pop became very popular about one hundred years ago because in the beginning, the majority of income from the product was reinvested into advertizing. How does this translate to a self-published author? Do free school visits, donate copies of your book to both schools and public libraries, advertize free Kindle days with Amazon, etc.
4) Get reviews. Ask for several — like from the people you’ve given your free books to — and expect to have a few do it. If you have the money, pay some of the big reviewers to do it.
5) Aim for a book promotion once a month, e.g., a book launch, a book signing, a blog tour (with book giveaways), making a book trailer, and certainly use your free Kindle days under the KDP plan.
6) Start locally, and then spread out. Locally may include newspaper, magazines, radio and TV, as well as schools. (Keep in mind point #1 when you do this.)
7) Contact places relevant to themes in your book. For instance, if your book involves horses, contact riding stables, camps, horse supply stores, etc. to see if they would stock your book.
8) Prepare presentations for various ages or various topics. For me, as a former literacy teacher, teaching about writing comes naturally. My book also deals with history and ecology issues. I have eight separate presentations for kids K-8 and one for teachers. The talks, of course, vary with the age group. Plus, I like to ask the teachers ahead of time what they would like to see presented to their kids. I also give the teachers a presentation evaluation sheet so I know what worked and what didn’t. Just as with writing my stories, I also need to revise my presentations.
9) Make reasonable goals: contact X number of bookstores to stock your books; contact 100 schools in a year for author visits; follow-up on every bookstore and school you contacted. Realize that this goal is only the number contacted, not the number who agree.
10) Do not neglect contact with your fellow writers. The nature of writing is to do it alone, but we are not alone. If you are not already a member of a writing organization (like SCBWI, RMA, etc.), join one. Learn from those who have gone before.
And always remember, you are a writer. You may give yourself permission to take a writing break in order to learn new things, like researching the marketing field, but do not neglect that next story which you are sending through your critique group. Keep on writing.