When you self-publish, you are often putting up quite a bit of money to get your book from its initial state as an idea in your head to a finished product worthy of purchase. Because you are responsible for everything– from hiring the editor and proofreaders who will work with you on your manuscript to designing or hiring the graphic artist to design your cover– it can get overwhelming to even begin thinking of what needs to happen once the book is finally created and in hand, ready to read. Some authors think that the goal is to complete the book and have it published. But, if you are interested in having an audience for your book, then completing the book is only step one in a three-step process of getting your book out there. Here’s a quick look at the three steps you need to plan for.
Step #1: Book’s Finished. Give Away Free Copies
Yes, you read correctly. You spent time and money on your precious book, and I’m telling you to give free copies away to people you may not even know. What’s the deal, you ask. Well, here it is. You want feedback. If you are serious about your book and think it is something worthy of people getting their hands on and paying their money for, then you want someone– other than yourself– to give your book thumbs-up, too. Do you give copies of the book to just anyone? Of course not.
Now is your time to work your network. Do you know people who are published authors themselves or people in the media who have an opinion that people care about? Do you know someone who is an expert in your genre of writing that would give you constructive feedback and allow you to publish their feedback on your book’s website if it was favorable? If you have these type of folks in your network, now is the time to outreach to them and ask them to read your book for some feedback you’d like to use as part of your book’s promotion. If you don’t know people like this already, now is the time to outreach and get to know them, starting with a friendly, yet professional letter of request and explanation of what you are asking for.
My suggestion is starting with asking people you know first who are people with opinions that others care about. Your risk in sending out blind copies is that a blogger or journalist who may not know you and may not care for your book particularly may publish an unfavorable review without interviewing you to learn about your intention regarding the book and other information necessary to provide a fair balance when reviewing the book. Those close to you or at least those who know you may be more apt to quietly tell you your book sucks without writing printing a review that says the same thing and destroy your efforts to give it a chance to attract an audience. I’m of the opinion that there is an audience for every book and while some may hate a book, some folks may fall in love with that very same book. So, with that belief, I encourage you to find folks from your intended audience to give your book a thumbs-up as you prepare your promotion campaign.
Step #2: Pitch the Media
So, you’ve gotten some great reviews worth sharing and you are ready to let your intended audience know that your book is ready for purchase or almost ready for purchase, what’s your next step? Pitch to the media, of course! What are you pitching to the media, you ask. Well, the answer is that you are pitching two things: an opportunity to be interviewed to talk about your book and an opportunity for your book’s cover seen in an article for free.
When bloggers and journalists interview you or review your book, they are inadvertently advertising your book for you and helping you with spreading the word. You want as much media attention as you can get to get the buzz circulating around your book. At this phase, I would recommend attempting to get media coverage that will include an interview with you to talk about your book. At this early point, you may not want reviews about your book circulating unless they are reviews from people you have vetted and are apt to give you their feedback directly without publishing it. (see step #1)
Your press release is essential in this step. Craft a press release and attach an electronic press kit (EPK) if possible to promote your book to the media. While you can hire a publicist to handle this part of the job, you can start the process (which may be a bit cheaper) by creating the press kit that they will ultimately use to pitch to their media contact list.
As an entertainment journalist and blogger, I’ve seen a variety of methods that independent artists and their publicists use to promote their work and get a media hit. The press release is always the mandatory ingredient that gives the media contact an idea of what your story is about and why people will be interested in learning more about this by interviewing you. Research the web to find a press release template that works best for your book and create a press release that focuses on the theme of your book, it’s intended audience and some compelling background information on you. Make sure your contact information is correct and forward, with a jpeg of your book cover and a headshot of you to carefully selected media contacts that should include bloggers, book club websites, indie print and broadcast media and genre “experts” who may have a strong online presence on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Step #3: Execute a Book Tour
So, while this is step #3, understand that this should be planned while you are executing Step #1. Your book tour should be planned by Step #2 so you can talk about during your interviews and encourage folks to come out to your appearances as you promote your book. Your book tour can be simple or pretty large, depending on your budget and the intention you have for your book.
A book tour is simply a scheduled list of appearances you plan to make at multiple locations to promote your book. You can plot a tour based on trips you already have planned for your full-time job (i.e. you work as a governement worker during the day and have to travel to Baltimore and New York for your job for two upcoming conferences) or you can plan a tour of places you think your audience could best be found. In either case, find locations in the areas you wish to travel to where you can set up a table and talk about your book and/or sign copies while selling. Coffee shops, bookstores or kiosks, libraries, and art centers are places you may want to research first. You should also consider contacting area book clubs and organizations that seek authors to make appearances.
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Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a writer and editor of several books, including the anthology Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul. She offers editing, proofreading and creative coaching services to authors who self-publish. Contact her at KhadijahOnline@gmail.com for a free consultation.