Promoting Your Book Beyond the Bookstore

When it comes to promoting your book, you need to think beyond the ordinary book store reading.

Really, you should think beyond the traditional book tour. Your goal is to get your book into the hands of as many potential readers as you can. But people don't find out about books only on the bookstore shelves anymore. There's the Internet, and blogs, and weirdo subcultures, and niche groups, all to tap into. It's a whole new world out there. So take advantage of it.

So what works? I'll be teaching Guerrilla Book Promotion on Friday, March 18 from 10:30am-1:30pm (space still available!), where we'll learn more. But here are some tips I'm happy to pass along to you now.

These are all things you can do yourself. You don't need a publicist or a publisher's PR person to open doors for you. Get on the phone, send out some emails, press the flesh, and get your promotional campaign rolling.

Think outside the bookstore. Bookstore readings are fun. But if you can appear at more targeted organizations related to your book, all the better. If your novel is about World War II, then send out an email blast to related book groups, Meet Ups, organizations and their various and associated conferences and hoedowns that specialize in that time period. If your book is about kids with allergies, find specialty shops, natural food stores, and parents' groups where you can appear.

Go back to school. I've had a lot of success appearing at high schools, colleges, libraries, teen centers, youth groups, writing centers, and adult education centers. I offer a variety of talks -- sometimes regular readings, but sometimes PowerPoint slideshows, writing workshops, "what it's like to be a writer" Q&As, etc. 

Be an expert: Any speaking engagement where you can appear as an expert in a topic related to your book is good. Same with moderating or being on a panel, or pitching yourself to local media (TV, radio, or as a op-ed contributor) to weigh in on some trending issue or news item.

Don't just read. Book events are more fun when your event is as much a party or performance as it is a reading. Partner with musicians, or fellow writers. Rent a back room of a bar, or offer prizes or discounts for anyone who attends. Ask a related local business, school program, or club what they think would attract people to your event. 

Scale your presence. Sometimes you'll be asked to speak in front of 500 souls. Sometimes your "event" is just five people sitting in a circle. Sometimes you're given a table to sit at with a stack of your books, and you'll need a big splashy banner, a "Meet the Author" sign, and basket of goodies to get people to stop by.

Be prepared to present. Make preparations for the variety of appearances you'll be wanting to make. Type up bullet-point lists of topics you want to make sure to hit during an interview or a lecture. Pack your PowerPoint with interesting images related to your memoir, novel or idea books, and prepare a few versions: one long, one short, one for adults, one for kids. Come up with flexible plans and props for each potential situation.

Hit the Internet. For every niche topic that relates to your novel or nonfiction book --- video games, Korean cooking, PTSD, New Orleans --- there's going to be leading blogs, reviews, journals, and other publications. Make sure those editors know about your book. Ask if they'd review it, or offer to write a guest post.

That's just the tip of the proverbial promotional ice cube. Guerrilla Book Promotion on Friday, March 18 and we'll help each other brainstorm other out-of-the-box, custom promo ideas that match your book.

Happy promoting.

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About the Author

A GrubStreet instructor since 2005, Ethan Gilsdorf is a journalist, memoirist, essayist, critic, poet, teacher, performer and nerd. He is the author of the travel memoir investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, named a Must-Read Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards. His essay "The Day My Mother Became a Stranger" was cited in the anthology Best American Essays 2016. His fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, The Quarterly, Exquisite Corpse, The North American Review, The Massachusetts Review, New York Quarterly and dozens of other literary magazines and in several anthologies, and he is the winner of the Hobblestock Peace Poetry Competition and the Esme Bradberry Contemporary Poets Prize. Gilsdorf got his start in journalism as a Paris-based travel writer and food and film critic for Time Out, Fodor's and the Washington Post. He has published hundreds of feature stories, essays, op-eds and reviews about the arts, pop, gaming and geek culture; and media and technology, and travel, in dozens of other publications worldwide including the New York Times, New York Times Book Review, Boston Globe, Boston Globe Magazine, Boston Magazine, Wired, Salon, WBUR's The Artery and Cognoscenti, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Art New England. A regular presenter, performer, and event moderator, he frequently appears on programs such as NPR, The Discovery Channel, PBS, CBC, BBC, and the Learning Channel, and also lectures at schools, universities, festivals, conventions, and conferences worldwide, including at this TEDx event, where he nerded out about D&D. Gilsdorf is co-founder of GrubStreet's Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), and teaches creative writing at GrubStreet, where he served on the Board of Directors for 10 years. A GrubStreet instructor since 2005, he teaches essay, memoir, journalism and other workshops, and is also the instructor of GrubStreet's 8-month Essay Incubator program. He’s also the lead instructor for the Westerly (RI) Memoir Project. He has led writing workshops for non-profit social justice organizations and also teaches writing and Dungeons & Dragons classes for younger students, in schools, libraries and community centers. He had also served on the Boston Book Festival Program Committee and as a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He received his BA from Hampshire College, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Louisiana State University. Follow Ethan’s adventures at ethangilsdorf.com or Twitter @ethanfreak, and read his posts on Grub's blog, GrubWrites.

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