Marketing, Writing and Editing

Book Promotion 101, part two

Last week I examined some of the hard truths about book marketing and promotion. From all these truths, I have come to the following conclusion: we need to promote our books if we want to sell them to anyone other than our friends and family. To do this in the most efficient and cost-effective manner, we need to identify the segment of the reading population most likely to be interested in our work. This is our audience.

In my case, this is women, ages 45-65.

We must aim our promotions at our target audience. Others may see and be influenced by them, but we should concentrate on the target audience. To do otherwise is to largely waste our time and energy.

Our best time to sell and, therefore, promote our book is the first six months after the book is released. But, in order to take full advantage of this six month selling period, we need to begin our promotion campaign six to eight weeks before the release.

So how am I going to use this information and my limited budget to create a promotion campaign featuring my upcoming novel?

First, I need to figure who, exactly, my audience is and where I would be most likely to find them. It will be difficult to get the message in front of them, if I don’t know where they’re looking. I need a profile.

Women, 45-65
Probably married, or have been married
Financial secure (more than a younger woman)
Settled in career; planning for retirement
Children, if any, are either grown or in high school
Owns own home
Eats out more often, but still in charge of household shopping

Conclusion: they will not be watching Nickelodeon or Disney channel all day like when they had young children. Nor will they be looking for deals on diapers, children’s clothing or cases of macaroni and cheese. They now have more spending money and the ability to spend it on things that interest them: gardening, the arts, and travel. However, they still do most of the grocery shopping.

Second, I need to figure out which of the available media would be the most effective method of reaching the audience.

Traditional media:

Display—billboards and the like


Internet website
Social media
Search engine

Guerrilla posters/fliers
Book fairs
Writing conferences

So, keeping in mind the rule that a prospective reader will need to be reminded of my book between five and seven times before buying it, how do I plan to use my money the most effectively to promote my book?

Television and radio advertising are too expensive for the possible returns. Television works if you can place your spot during the programs the target audience is most likely to watch. Unfortunately, running a spot just one time would cost me my entire budget. I can’t afford that, not at this point in my career. And radio doesn’t reach the target audience I’m aiming for very well. Now, if I was targeting teens and young adults…

Magazine and large daily newspapers are also too expensive for my purposes. A popular national magazine sells a quarter-page ad in one issue for several thousand dollars. While they are very good at targeting the proper audience, it’s too expensive to get the number of exposures I want. The large dailies offer much the same problem. They are just too.

Local weekly papers, on the other hand, are much more reasonably priced and specifically target a community or two. Often, several weeklies in adjacent communities are owned by the same company and allow the placement of a single ad in several papers for one price. In addition, the local weeklies are where folks go to find grocery specials and local events, especially my target audience. (They can also be interested in local-interest features. More about this later.)

Display advertising (the commercial variety anyway) is also too expensive and generic for my budget. A bill board over a freeway might be seen by thousands of people over its life span, but only a fraction of them will be my target audience. The rest is wasted and I can’t afford to waste anything.

In conclusion, the only traditional media I will consider using to advertise is the local, weekly newspaper. But I will only do that when there is another, regional tie to my book, such as the home town effect around my residence and a similar effect for the communities around the story’s location.

Online outlets. The internet goes just about everywhere and what is published there is there forever. Most internet advertising also has the added benefits of specifically targeting an audience and you don’t pay anything unless the customer “clicks” on the ad. This is much more cost-effective than traditional method of placing your ad and hoping someone sees it.

Most of my paid advertising will be on social media and another site that specializes in books and readers.

Another online promotion I will use is a blog or virtual tour. For a fee, a company will schedule a number of blogs to review your book or interview you over the course of a month. You could do the same on your own, making friends with bloggers and schedule your own tour, but I would rather do other things with my time. Either way, it will get people taking about my book, generate Amazon reviews and heighten interest. It’s well worth the fee.

Memes. Short, inexpensive displays of select quotes from the book. I will have multiple versions to post various places online and on social media to generate curiosity and interest.

Ground promotions. Most of these involve little or smaller expense than the usual advertising methods, can be just as effective. The primary drawback is that they can be very labor intensive (which means many hours of your precious time) and are geographically limited. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I’m probably not going to be handing out bookmarks in London much.

Giveaways. Bookmarks, postcard, business cards, anything with the book’s title, cover art and ordering information that a prospective customer will see every time they use it.

Posters, fliers. Hang them on public bulletin boards, particularly in places your target audience is likely to go: grocery stores, libraries, gyms. Just make sure you have permission.

Bookstore displays. Especially when coupled with local ground promotions. Small, local bookstores often welcome free publicity of having their name on the promotions. (“Buy it at Acme Books”)

Local news stories. Often local, weekly newspapers (and to a lesser extent radio stations) will be interested in carrying a feature about a local author, or a book about a local event or landmark. I will send them press releases. Make myself available for interviews.

Book/author fairs. A great place to present myself and my book to the public. A great place to spread some giveaways. I have a schedule for several within easy traveling distance.

Writer’s Conferences. Similar to book fairs.

Direct mail. This is touchy because many people instantly dislike any unsolicited offer coming through mail or email, but it is a tried and true way of getting the word out on your novel. Just keep in mind that marketing experts only expect a four percent success rate on direct mail, that’s four sales in a hundred mailings. To make it work, you have to send out a lot. (Or couple it with other promotions.) In my case, I will only send direct mailings to bookstores and libraries in my region and couch them more as informational than sales.

Since this post is already running long, I will leave it here. Next time, I will show you a schedule of how I plan to use the media to promote my book, each piece at its precise time. Until then, good writing to you.


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