Sunday, June 10, 2012

Low Cost Book Publicity

by Bill Johnson

As the office manager for a writers group with over 1,750 members, I'm often asked by newly published or self-published authors, what do I do to promote my book in my local area?

First, it's easier to get an announcement about a talk into a local newspaper than a lone author doing a book signing. Many authors have some lifetime experience they can speak about at a local library. And some libraries also allow book sales for a nominal commission.

If you can't arrange a talk through a library, local community colleges often rent rooms on weekends for a small fee, and such locations generally offer easy parking and access.

Using a space at either a library or school also lends some status to your talk.

If these spaces aren't available to you, many communities have arts organizations, some that meet in publicly subsidized spaces. They can also be a resource for renting a room to hold a talk.

Retirement communities also will host speakers (or performers in general).

My most dependable resource for getting the word out about these kinds of events has been a local alternative weekly (most major cities have one). These weeklies generally have a bulletin board in their print editions that anyone can put notices in for .95+ cents a word. (Online bulletin boards are vastly cheaper, but you get what you pay for).

If you have an event, always keep fliers about it in your car. Bookmarks and post cards are also good resources that you can distribute; Avery provides templates for creating them. There are online services that will print small quantities of inexpensive business cards that can include the cover of your book and info about an event.

If you are near a community college, see if they have a continuing education program that offers non-credit classes. Such programs are frequently open to instructors with new class ideas. Teaching a workshop at a community college will help raise your newsworthy standing.

If you are determined to do a book signing at a book store, I suggest you set up a signing with at least three other authors who write in a similar genre. I've known authors who banded together to set up a signing at a table in a mall during a literary-themed time (like a national poetry month).

I advise new authors to think long and hard about putting down money for table space at another author's book fair, unless money is not an issue. If you choose to be involved in a book fair, look for one that is part of a larger event that generates foot traffic.

If you do want to do a book release party, contact a local book store and see if they can accommodate you. Many book stores are set up to handle authors giving short presentations. This is where a well-designed media kit can make a great first impression.

I've never had great success with free PR services that distribute announcements. Some of these services send announcements to link farms that are set up to automatically post every announcement received, so don't be fooled by promises of wide distribution if you'll just sign up for a service that costs hundreds of dollars.

If you can't get a response from a major newspaper in your area, contact someone at your local neighborhood paper. I've known a number of authors who have been interviewed and featured in smaller, community papers.

Does your town have a local public access radio station called Golden Hours? See if you can get interviewed about your book.

Whatever kind of event you set up, NEVER depend on anyone else (including book stores, loved ones, friends, or fellow authors) to send out your event/meeting/workshop PR. Always do it yourself to be sure it gets out. And if you send out notices to local papers or magazines, make the effort to read their submission guidelines. A third of the PR notices I receive are deleted because the authors didn't bother to find out my guidelines, like someone sending me a website link and telling me I can go there and write an announcement for them.

Ask your extended family if anyone has any media contacts or would be willing to do a book review and post it online. In general, the more relevant links you have on the web, the higher your search engine rating (some search engines discount links posted on link farms).

Authors Den now offers contacts for people who do inexpensive book reviews.

Writing a book is a creative process, but marketing a book requires a different kind of mental focus, determination and planning. But if you put yourself out there in the world, you'll come across avenues to promote your book you never knew existed.


Bill Johnson is the author of A Story is a Promise and The Spirit of Storytelling, a writing workbook. Spirit is now available on Amazon Kindle, He's teaching a workshop on narrative tension at the Willamette Writers conference on Sunday, August 5th.