Promoting YOU is Business
By Natalie Bright
When my story “The Race” was selected for Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul, I realized few have heard my name, but everyone knew about this international series. Following is a list of tips for organizing a promotion in your town or neighborhood.
1. Compile a mailing list NOW.
Gather addresses for a mailing list, or email list, into a database that is user friendly now. Don’t wait until you need it. It should be versatile for printing labels or for sending email notices. Everyone you meet is a potential consumer of your work either at the present time or in the future. Continually add and update names to keep your list current.
2. Think outside the bookstore.
Consider holding a book signing in unique places that have a direct connection to the work you are promoting. Our local Wal-Mart was so excited about hosting a local author, they even provided fresh flowers and goodies for the table. We scheduled the event around Mother’s Day. Other different kinds of stores might be willing to host an autographing. What about scrapbook store, floral shop, or espresso bar?
3. Plan a merchandise tie-in.
Inexpensive give-aways to coordinate with your book are fun and will add a unique component to your event. My toddler, eating nothing but fish crackers, inspired my story in Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul. The store manager contacted a vendor, who agreed to provide free crackers for the autographing.
4. Remember holidays.
Does your anthology relate to an important retail day or holiday? Schedule an autographing the day of or prior to that special day. On the day before Mother’s Day, the time of my event was set during the busiest traffic being after lunch through middle afternoon. My table was located on a main aisle in front of the book department. I had a steady stream of shoppers the entire time.
5. Spread the Word.
You’d think that most locales would do everything they can to promote the events they’re hosting. In reality, that is not always the case. Never depend on the store to do all of the promotion. They have other deadlines, work duties, and they’re as busy as you. I know the truth stings a little, but your event might not be a huge priority on the list. Instead, you might have to make it easy for store owners to help you sell books by providing flyers, press releases to the local newspaper, etc. Never underestimate the power of “buzz”. Your family, friends, and fellow writers will generate talk about your event. Social media is FREE so take advantage of the medium. Ask people to “share” or “retweet”.
I’ve been an organizer for several author events and I’m always shocked at the number of people who don’t feel they need to help with promotion. A post on Facebook, linkedIn, quick email or several tweets is so easy these days. Why would you not want to tell all of your social connections when and where you’ll be signing your book?
6. Get personal.
I think personal contact is crucial to a successful promotion on the local level. Contact bookstore managers, provide them with the ISBN number, and outline your plans to promote the book. I was turned down by the manager of our local bookstore chain because he couldn’t find the Chicken Soup title in his computer, however because of someone I knew who knew the Wal-Mart Manager, my event came together. Store managers may require several memory joggers because your event is not the only issue in their busy day. Be considerate, but be persistent. For example, after a telephone conversation follow up with a letter outlining the specifics of your event. In addition, always do what you say you will do. Build a cooperative reputation right from the start and don’t take anything personal. It’s business.
If you hit stumbling blocks, and you will, remain professional. One neighbor could not believe I had a story published and told me I had too much time on my hands. On the other hand, our city’s mayor bought a copy for her and her daughter when I was seated next to her in a local eatery. Always carry extra copies in your car. You may be surprised how quickly word about your writing buzzes around your town.