Marketing your book

Whether you go with a commercial publisher or self-publish, you must commit yourself to marketing your book to make it a success.

Commercial publishers will usually limit their marketing to sending your book to the usual suspects for reviews, and perhaps taking a modest stab at getting you publicity. And even self-publishers all-too-often leave finding an audience to fate once they've published.

Fortunately, the most productive steps you can take to market your book are free or very inexpensive, as evidenced by Createspace's comprehensive collection of articles on book marketing, as well as articles on the web site of the Independent Book Publishers Association. In fact, paid ads seldom offer sufficient payback for the investment. However, make no mistake; even though marketing your book can be free or inexpensive, it takes a lot of work. Begin your marketing planning by exploring the comprehensive book marketing Web sites Marketing Tips for Authors, Selling Books and The Savvy Book Marketer and reading McCauley's Marketing Manifesto, a good general guide to marketing. Marketing consultant Carol White offers a useful book marketing checklist on her Web site. Also, book marketer Penny Sansevieri offers a comprehensive set of talks on book marketing in her Publishing Insiders Online Radio series. And here's an article by science fiction author Matthew Maher on his "SHAKESPEARE" system of marketing.

Marketing your book successfully means developing a comprehensive marketing plan and carrying it out. Once you list all the things you can do, the size of the plan may seem daunting, but even a massive marketing plan is doable. One rule-of-thumb is that if you do three things a day to market your book — breaking what might seem a huge marketing endeavor into chunks — you will be a successful marketer.

Your marketing should start early — in fact, before you have even begun to write your book. We science writers, myself included, have relegated marketing to an afterthought. We have traditionally first conceived of a book idea, tried to sell it to a publisher and then written it. Only as the book is coming out have we thought of marketing.

Wrong! The best advice I have heard is to start your book project by carefully defining your target audiences. The old standby assertion "Well, everybody will want to read my book" does not work. Figure out who has special reasons to read your book and what those reasons are. Defining targeted audiences is the only way to develop a targeted marketing plan.

Next, figure out what knowledge those audiences want and need that your book can provide. And importantly, figure out how you can persuade those audiences that they need your book to provide that knowledge. Only after you figure out those wants and needs — and how your book can supply them — do you even begin to outline your book. For example, my book Explaining Research started out only as a guide to media relations for scientists and engineers. But as I thought about the book's potential readers, I realized that learning to work with media constitutes only a small part of their communication needs. They really want to know how to reach all their important audiences — colleagues, donors, administrators, legislators, students, their own family, etc. And they want to know how to create the communications needed to do so — talks, lay articles, Web sites, videos, podcasts, etc.. So, from that modest beginning, Explaining Research grew into the far broader book it now is.

Your marketing plan should also include developing "sell" messages that attract your audiences. What do they desire most? What words portray those desires? For Explaining Research, I realized that by far the most important ultimate desire of researchers is to advance their work. They care little about working with media, educating lay audiences, or making videos just for their own sake. Hence, the subtitle "How to reach key audiences to advance your work."

The next step in marketing planning — which you can do even as you write the book — is to figure out how to reach those audiences. What publications do they read? What Web sites and blogs do they visit? What meetings do they go to? Figure out how you can place news of your book in those venues — whether book reviews, articles you write on your topic, news releases, video segments or audio segments.

You might assert that the brilliance of your prose means that such nuts-and-bolts marketing analysis is not really necessary. You believe that your sparkling prose will yield a cascade of critical praise that lures readers. But readers won't appreciate that brilliance unless you persuade them to buy your book. And they won't buy your book if they're not convinced you're giving them information they need.

Once your book is out, you and/or your publisher will of course issue a news release announcing its publication. Ask your publisher to post the announcement on such news distribution services as EurekAlert!, Newswise and Ascribe. But beyond this announcement, continue to produce releases pegged to a particular issue or event relevant to your book. Those releases can offer your unique slant on the topic or your expert commentary on breaking stories, mentioning that you are author of the premiere book on the subject. A good (and free) guide to producing newsworthy news releases is Trash Proof News Releases by Paul Krupin. There are many free press release distribution sites, notable among them PRLog, which has been reported to have news release show up quickly on Google News, and which offers many useful features.

To keep track of the news on your book topic, you can use Google Alerts to notify you of news stories containing relevant keywords or phrases. These alerts will not only tell you what's being written about your topic, but who is writing it; so you can send those journalists your news releases. One good way to advertise your expertise to the media is to list yourself on ProfNet and, both free services that connect journalists with experts whom they can interview for articles.

Besides generating hard news, also develop a list of feature story ideas relevant to your book. Post those ideas in the media section of your Web site, and pitch them to journalists covering your field. If you have a video and audio production capability also create video segments and podcasts on your book and its topic, posting them on your site and on YouTube and podcasting sites.The reference pages on the Explaining Research site contain many resources to help you produce videos and create blogs, podcasts, webinars and other online communications.

You can also capture and share your PowerPoint talks on Slideshare, myBrainshark, Slideboom, and other services that enable you to upload slides and synchronize them with narrations. For example, I produced a slidecast of my AAAS talk "Using Multimedia to Advance Your Research", and it has received more than 3,000 viewings as of this writing. Note that the presentation includes a subtle pitch for the book: the second slide in the presentation shows the book and a link to the Web site. See the Explaining Research resource section for further information on such sharing services.

To reach avid readers directly, register as an author on the reader sites Goodreads and LibraryThing, and offer copies of your book in their giveaway programs. Here's the Goodreads page that tells how to promote yourself and your books on the site. Many authors have found that they get a boost in book sales when they give away free copies of their ebook as part of the Kindle Select Program In this program, authors offer their book to the Kindle Owners Lending Library and to readers for free for several days, generating buzz for the book. One catch is that you have to restrict the book's availability to Kindle during that period. The free ebook offer works especially well if you have more than one one book published, and interest in one book will lead to sales of your other books. Importantly, you must widely advertise the free book's availability through social media and other outlets, to get the most downloads. One way to do this is through the service Ebook Booster.

If you've published your book in ebook form and made it available free on Amazon for a limited time, here are 15 places to promote your ebook for free. Here's another good list of other sites to promote your free ebook.

You can make "personal" book promotion appearances from your home, or anywhere else, using Skype. Just buy a quality webcam, set up a well-lit area with a nice backdrop, and advertise your availability for video talks to book clubs and other groups of customers.

Book trailers are also a good way to promote your book. And although there are many places that will create a book trailer for a fee, here is a good article on how to do it yourself for free.

Such online communications should be an important part of your marketing plan, both because they are inexpensive and because of their enormous potential reach. (See also the articles Building a compelling writer/author Web site and Blogging to promote your book.) One good source for marketing guidance is the book Social Networking for Authors, by Michael Volkin. Also, here's a good article on social media for authors and ten social media tips from Guy Kawasaki, author of APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur) How to Publish a Book.

Reaching audiences directly can also include promoting your book by writing free articles for online e-zines and article sites. The two major sites are and Ezinearticles. Articles should be 500 to 2,000 words in length, and remember to include the URL of your book Web site in your byline. You can get more free publicity by writing news releases in which you peg the content of your book to a news story. You can distribute news release to appropriate media and post them on such sites as EurekAlert! and Newswise.

And your marketing should include taking full advantage of the marketing tools on Amazon, as outlined in the article Marketing on Amazon. The publicity firm Direct Contact PR offers a good outline of creating and executing a book publicity plan Also, see Midwest Book Review's book publicity and marketing link list.

Of course, book reviews are a critically important part of your marketing effort. Actively help your publisher identify review prospects. And if you are self-publishing, understand the process of getting your books to reviewers. For example, some book reviewers want ARCs (Advance Review Copies) as much as six months before publication, while others will accept newly published books. Midwest Book Reviews offers a comprehensive list of book reviewers. Other information on book reviewers and their requirements can be found in the reference list below.

Importantly, publishing gurus advise you to think of your book as only one component of a broader strategy for making money selling your ideas. You can use your book as a springboard to paid consulting gigs, speeches, webinars and seminars, as well as spinoff products such as pamphlets and CDs. The Web site of Sue Collier exemplifies this broader marketing strategy. It also exemplifies the principal of offering extensive free resources to attract people to their sites, so that they can sell these products and services. For example, when my publisher Oxford University Press asked me to trim the length of Explaining Research, I extracted the section on working with public information officers and posted it on the Explaining Research Web site as a service to researchers and PIOs, as well as self-publishing it as a print booklet.

Finally, consider your marketing plan not as a quick route to a blockbuster, but as a long-term strategy aimed at building a steady market for your book and other products for many years.

While you can carry out your marketing plan yourself, you may want to work with a marketing company, which is covered in Using a publicity/marketing company. In any case, your marketing plan will be helped immensely by reading books on book marketing. Given the rapidly changing marketing scene, perhaps the best strategy is to search Amazon for books on book marketing, and choose those that are highest rated and cover topics relevant to your marketing strategy. Also, here are marketing books that are considered relatively evergreen:

Also, the two major self-publishing books have good sections on marketing, besides constituting comprehensive guides to self-publishing. They are

October 17, 2008

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