Better late than never.
Bob O’Connor gave me a guest post months ago, before my shoulder surgery. I was a bit self-absorbed with shoulder surgery, getting a divorce, and a few other things that made me a little less than sane–like finishing the novel.
Poor Bob. He didn’t know all that stuff. He just knew his blog post didn’t appear. At last, here it is! And isn’t it funny how timely the message is!
The From Writer to Published Author Conference is coming up. My book is to be released in several weeks. Maybe fate had a hand in the scheduling.
I can say this–good things come to those that wait. Thanks, Bob, for providing one of the good things!
Being Your Own Publicist
By Bob O’Connor
You are a published author. Congratulations. Now you can sit back and bank your royalty checks. WRONG!
Now it is time to shift gears and start promoting you and your book. Here’s what you need to do. It’s a three-step process. It’s relatively easy, but it takes WORK.
- Print some business cards with the cover of your book on it. Think about all those people you talk to who are not ready to buy your book at that instance. How do they find you when they are ready to make the purchase? If nothing else, you need a business card.
- Set up a website. The business card should send them to a website where they can purchase your book. Look at mine at www.boboconnorbooks.com for suggestions.
- Do at least one thing every single day to promote your book.
That’s all you need for success. Any questions?
OK, perhaps I should elaborate. I published my first book in late January 2006. It is called “The Perfect Steel Trap Harpers Ferry 1859” and is a historical novel about the John Brown raid. Using steps one, two and three above, and lots of old fashioned WORK, I sold have sold over 3,000 of those books since 2006.
As of February 2012, I have written 7 books and sold over 7,000. Most I sold myself. The sales did not come from Amazon or any other place.
How does an old guy (I’m 66) who still works for a living (don’t quit your day job) and writes in the evenings and on weekends, sell so many books? The secret, now that I have a business card (for each book) and a website, is item #3.
Would you like some examples? Wherever I am traveling to on any particular day for a book signing, I check on the internet and find every library, historical society and book store en route, going one way and coming back another way. And I stop at every single one.
I had a meeting in Washington, DC on a recent Thursday night. On the way I stopped at book stores in Sterling, VA, Fairfax, VA, Woodbridge, VA, several in DC, and ones in Gaithersburg, MD and Kensington, MD. At the book stores I introduce myself, check to see if they have my books, signed copies if they are already in stock, convince them they need to stock all my books if they don’t have them already and offer to do a book signing for them.
That particular day, several stores ordered my book on-line while I was standing there. One asked me for dates I had available and booked a signing right then.
Another day I was attending a book signing in Gettysburg at 5:00 pm. I left the house at 8:00 am, stopped at book stores in Hagerstown, MD, a public library in Chambersburg, PA, Mont Alto campus of Penn State University, another public library, and Gettysburg College. At the schools and public libraries I was offering to give presentations, which I do for free, because they allow me to sell books.
On another night I had a ten minute interview on a local access cable TV channel. On the way I stopped at two book stores and two public libraries.
On other days I search the internet for Civil War Round Tables, book festivals, radio stations who specialize in interviewing authors, and any other opportunity to sell books. I check for Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions clubs, and other opportunities to speak to seniors and retired military groups. Many small towns have book clubs that are open to local authors. Use your imagination. E-mail them and offer to do a program. Keep the offers flowing on a regular basis.
I also look for non-traditional places to sell books. One of my most successful endeavors has been to hook up with Weis Markets, a grocery store chain. I do book signings in their regional stores on Friday nights with great success. They print fliers and put up posters in the stores. They surround me with samples of food from their party trays. Shoppers who are grabbing the free food get to hear me talk about my books. In one store, I sold 34 books in three hours. Grocery stores often sell books, but have a much smaller inventory than your major book stores. And the grocery stores also get good community reaction because they are supporting local authors.
In book stores, I use a pop-up display with my picture, the covers of both books, a sentence about each book, and in large letters –“Book Signing Today.” Many times in book stores, people have no idea I am an author or why I am sitting there. The pop-up sign has increased my exposure dramatically.
It is pitiful the signage that authors have even at major book festivals I attend. You would be surprised how professional a small sign from Staples print center looks and how inexpensive it can cost.
One author at the Philadelphia Book Festival was wearing a sandwich board to call attention to his new book. Be creative – he certainly was.
I ALWAYS send a press release to the local newspaper before any appearance. I send a listing to their calendar of events too. And it is not a generic press release. I tell the newspaper readers how their readership is tied into the story of the book. It helps that my story is historical fiction and includes only characters that are real and were really part of the actual event. And that my appearances for my first book were only in the area within about 100 miles each direction of Harpers Ferry.
And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have books with you at all times. One day in the summer several years ago I stopped in Hagerstown, MD at the visitors center to see if they had books I hadn’t signed. The lady behind the desk was in a panic. She said two busloads of people were out in the parking lot waiting for a mechanic to fix one of their two buses. She asked me to entertain them.
I stood on the curb and talked to 90 people who were on a Robert E. Lee tour of the area. What a coincidence — Robert E. Lee happens to be the man in charge of the capture of John Brown, the main character in my one book! I held up my book and talked for about ten minutes, and then sent them into the visitors center to purchase the book. The lady there sold out of her 15 copies in minutes. But others wanted to purchase the book and have it signed too. Not to worry. I ran to my car, drove to where they were already waiting in line, parked and opened my trunk. I sat on the rear bumper, signing books. I sold another 21 books, throwing the money in the trunk because they were coming at me so fast. It helped that I am a former Boy Scout who believes in the motto “Be Prepared”.
I have met authors who sell a couple of books each year. When I ask them what they are doing to promote their book, they kind of hang their head and admit they haven’t been “real busy” lately. As you can see, I have been “real busy”! I am startled to find out that many authors I meet don’t even have a simple business card that you can print with any computer in ten minutes with a box of business card paper from your local business supply store.
I admit, I did 108 appearances in 2011 (check my website for suggestions, there’s a calendar of my appearances from 2006-2011 on my book signing page). The average number of appearances I would say other authors I have met this past year have made to promote their book is about five a year (and there are certainly some exceptions).
I don’t tell you that to brag or to try to be better than you. I tell you that because if I can do that, you can do that. You can do that if, by chance, you want to sell books!
In June every year, I go to Illinois to attend Heritage Days in Danville, IL where the character of my second book lived. I drive and have appearances and book signings going and coming home.
Last year I was scheduled for book signings in public libraries, book stores, and even a senior citizens facility. I was gone 12 days to Danville, and did 11 appearances. I checked with clubs and organization in the cities I would be in to find out which ones have meetings on the day I would be there. I called book stores and Chamber of Commerce and libraries. Most were thrilled that they are getting a free program. Several paid my overnight accommodations in their city.
I look for magazines and newspapers and write articles that their particular readership might like that relate to the subjects of my books. A recent article in Battlefield Journal (a publication for Civil War enthusiasts) was about the main character in “The Virginian Who Might Have Saved Lincoln.” An article I wrote about the seven men who escaped the John Brown raid appeared in the Appalachian Trail Magazine, because their escape route followed what today is the Appalachian Trail. I look for publications that would be interested in my particular books. Obviously publications like Field and Stream and Science Digest are not within my target market, so I will not be contacting them. But those publications certainly might be within the target readership of your books.
I also use Google search with key words such as “John Brown” to find out when events are taking place I can connect to. A recent play called “Robert E. Lee and John Brown” was playing at the Wayside Theater in Virginia. I contacted them and got four book signings and an opportunity to go on stage after each presentation to talk about John Brown with their “John Brown” actor.
An author friend wondered out loud the other day what her publicist had done for her lately. One thing he had done was to get her an interview on a radio station in the Midwest. I asked her the call letters of the radio station where she was going to be interviewed, and contacted the radio station myself. (A simple “google” function on the internet gave me the station contact information.) I now have an interview scheduled with the same radio station I set up myself.
I don’t have to ask, because I know what MY publicist did for me today! That’s because I am my publicist.
Even writing this article, I am promoting my books to persons who might not otherwise know about them and sending those authors to my website for more information.
Am I getting paid to write this? No. I don’t usually get paid for my articles. But they let people know about my books and the articles all list my website where there is information on how to purchase my books.
Where I live people are amazed that I get so much publicity. I teach a Publishing Class at the local Adult Ed Program. I sent the newspaper a press release that I was teaching the class. When the article appeared, other instructors wondered why the Adult Ed people only promoted my class. They didn’t promote my class. I did.
I get publicity because I work at it. You can do it too, but it takes effort. You have to decide if you are “real busy” doing other things or “real busy” seriously promoting your book.
So I have to ask you — when are you going to start seriously selling your book? Do you have a business card? A website? Look at mine at http://www.boboconnorbooks.com. What did you do TODAY to promote your book? Got questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Happy book selling.