People ask me-”How do you promote your books?” Let me be the first to say that I am no marketing genius, but publishers expect that authors will work very hard at promoting their books, and sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone. The things that inhibit me may not be the same for anyone else, there are countless walls that people have to break through sometimes in order to “put themselves out there”. But these are my big three.
I am not a great mingler. I have not had a lot of practice-I stay at home, I care for my disabled child, but mostly I hope to get to bed early. Another thing I haven’t had a lot of practice at is self-promoting-surely I’m as dull as my kids tell me I am! The last thing that really impacts marketing is the financial aspect….things add up. So, what can you do??
Here’s how I’m addressing the first thing-mingling. My ideal mingling would be a impromptu game of pool or getting to know the people sitting next to me at a baseball game. These kinds of things come with “implied comraderie” to me, I feel comfortable in those situations. But when afraid, you have to grab the bull by the horns so to speak, and so when I was asked to speak at “Words, Wit and Wisdom“, the annual fund-raiser for We Can, in front of 350 authors and writers, I agreed. Not because I was overly anxious to share my personal story to a room full of strangers, but because I realized I was really afraid to do so and We Can, an organization that assists women in transition, had really helped me personally and I wanted to return the favor. In the end it went great and since then I’ve had an easier time of being able to say to myself…”Go there, talk to people”. But you still have to practice.
When each of my books came out, I picked a place for the first reading/signing/craft that I was familiar with and comfortable in. I think this is super important. For me that place was the Centerville Library. But you can be creative! A book about pets? Well, then how about your first reading at a pet store that you go to a lot? Write about baseball?? Set something up with your kid’s coach. Does your company have a daycare center? or maybe even where you send your kids. This will really boost your confidence. If not a lot of kids show up, the disappointment is easier to handle and you’ve gotten some experience. For me, I have now done several readings/signings at the Centerville Library, but also street fairs and Yellow Umbrella books. That my book was well received gave me the confidence to tackle the second obstacle-self promoting.
Self-promoting and financial constraints go somewhat hand in hand for me and so not only do I have to say “Hey, I’m Great, My books are Great!” in a way I feel comfortable with, I have to do it with very little capital. Everyone says “Make postcards!” I think this is a great idea and there are some very low cost options like VistaPrint. But, this just isn’t me (yet). But I do like flyers. A simple flyer introduces the reader to me, my books and their inspiration. It was fairly easy to make and the trial few I made up were gone in a blink of an eye at my recent “Meet the Author” event at Yellow Umbrella Books. Here it’s important, when writing up a bio, whether for a flyer or postcard, to use your name instead of “I” This is not from you it’s about you and your name matters.
I find email to be very impersonal, but at times it is unavoidable, when you simply can’t get to the people you want to meet. But after trial and error, I think emails should be targeted and not a blanket email (same one sent to everyone). Just like you wouldn’t send every publisher/agent your manuscript, don’t send you fairy book to a sports store. Go on-line and look for places that lean toward what your book is about. For instance, “Grandma, Tell me If You Can” is all about mermaids. Some bookstores and gift shops cater to a clientele that are interested in mermaids, so I went on line and contacted them. Those that were interested, I sent a copy. At least two gift shops are picking up the book. This was self-promoting and free other than the cost of the books I sent out. But it’s far less expensive to send books to people you KNOW are interested vs all those you hope WILL be interested.
In regards to self-promoting, I feel that you have to do what you feel comfortable with, and the more often you mingle/go to events or host events, the more you will be willing to go just one more step in marketing yourself. Some people have no difficulty with this at all. They’re out there-”Here, have a flyer” “Come here let me show you my new book”, “Like Baseball, oh this book of mine is a homerun for sure.” I respect them, I admire them…that will never be me. But what I CAN do is give away a book to a child whose mother fishes for change, or to a disabled child who reminds me of my daughter, or to the old woman who nearly gushed, tears in her eyes, when I handed it to her. I can put together a craft to do at readings/signings and put no pressure on the parents to buy since their child got to paint a shell. When in a conversation about the Hyannis JFK Museum, I will mention my poem “Echoes” that hangs in there. I’m just not an in your face kind of person.
In the end all of my inhibitors to marketing can be summed up in one word-Fear. Fear that I am not the “same” as the other authors I meet, with their 84 books under their belts, fear that no one will come to a signing, or that I’ll be boring, not a single copy sold, and the fear that this will not amount to anything. And like the bicycle or horse you fall off of, I guess you just keep trying and hoping that it’ll all work out in the end and you will race ahead.