10 Ways to Raise the Bar on Book Promotion

PJ Nunn

Book promotion today isn’t what it was 20 years ago. Or even 10 years ago. The industry keeps changing and evolving, making it increasingly difficult to get your book to stand out amongst the tens of thousands that are published each month. Once upon a time, that was the publisher’s concern. Today, that’s no longer the case. Authors now must excel in an additional arena, since writing a great book isn’t enough to assure record sales.

The good news is it doesn’t take a lot of effort to rise above the ordinary.

  1. Go back to the good old days. In today’s fast-paced, digital age of communication, there’s something to be said for a hand-written thank you note or a friendly phone call. Authors who take the time to say thank you after a signing event, book review or a broadcast interview are still in the HUGE minority. In a time when just about everyone I know has, at one time or another, been annoyed at too many emails or text messages, I’ve never once heard anyone complain upon receipt of a sincere “thank you.” Sure, you might say, that’s a nice thing to do, but does it really help promote my book? If you’re one of a handful of authors among hundreds who make a good impression by going that extra mile, who do you think that bookseller will remember favorably?
  2. Recognize your activities as a business, not a necessary evil or something that just has to be done. You may feel that way, and have every right to feel whatever you feel, but as my daddy taught me when I was small, you don’t have to tell everything you know. Sometimes, in book promotion, what you DON’T say can be as important as what you do.
  3. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
  4. Be active in popular social networking venues, but don’t spend all your time there. I’m for promoting books long after the pub date, but if you want a career as an author, there should always be something new in the works. That means your time has to be well managed.
  5. Shop around. You want independent booksellers to shelve your books and recommend them to their customers? Make a point of ordering from those booksellers periodically.
  6. If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done. OR if you want to keep getting what you’re getting, just keep doing what you’re doing. Either way, the point is that if you want to move up to a new level, you’re going to have to climb out of your comfort zone somewhere along the way.
  7. Make connections with others in the industry who get the kind of results you’d like to get. Ours is a very giving industry so don’t hesitate to ask questions, but it’s important to know the source. In other words, if you’re wondering how to make your book signing events more successful, don’t just ask at random. Ask authors who consistently have successful signing events.
  8. Study the craft of promotion and make it personal. What works for one doesn’t work for all. It’s important for you to learn your strengths, staff your weaknesses and improve any areas that are unfamiliar. If you’ve not had broadcast experience (and most of us haven’t), take time to study the art of giving a good interview. If you’ve only attended one or two signing events in all your life, attend more.
  9. Understand that in some ways, persistence is worth more than talent. I realize that’s not a popular opinion, but I have seen too many talented authors give up because of unrealistic expectations. Some of them aren’t writing at all anymore and that’s too bad. Of course talent is important, but who’s going to read your work and recognize your talent if they’ve never seen or heard about your book? Experts say it takes up to 14 times for someone to hear and retain a name. Repeat exposure is what pays off in the long run. Few, if any, people rush out to buy a book the very first time they hear the title or the author’s name. Schedule some activity that gets your name in front of a reading audience every month and keep doing that.
  10. Read a new book every month. I’m amazed at how many writers tell me they don’t have time to read anything but their own work. Bad mistake. First, I hope you’ll always make time to read for sharpening your own writing skill. Then I hope you’ll read to keep abreast of what type of books are selling in the current market. Lastly, I hope you will always squeeze time out for reading for pleasure. It’ll keep you fresh and satisfied.

One thing I’ve learned in this business – what works for one, doesn’t always work for all. There is no one size fits all promotional garment. Unless you’re looking for something that fits like a muu muu. It may take some tailoring to find the fit that works best for you, but it will be well worth the effort and the result, in the long run, will be increased sales. It may come slow and sure, but it will come with persistence and consistency. If I can answer any questions or help you in any way, you know where to find me.

PJ