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.
A GrubStreet instructor since 2007, Ethan Gilsdorf is a memoirist, essayist, critic, journalist, poet, teacher, performer, and the author of the award-winning memoir 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. Hundreds of his personal essays, articles, reviews, cultural commentaries, profiles, opinion pieces, short stories, and poems have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Esquire, Boston Globe, Wired, Salon, O the Oprah Magazine, National Geographic, Brevity, Electric Literature, Poetry, The Southern Review, North American Review, The Massachusetts Review, among other publications. Twice his work has been named "Notable" by The Best American Essays. At GrubStreet, Gilsdorf is co-founder of GrubStreet's Young Adult Writers Program (YAWP), and served on the Board of Directors for 10 years. He teaches essay, memoir, journalism and other workshops, and leads GrubStreet's 10-month long intensive Essay Incubator program; he also leads writing workshops for non-profit social justice organizations. 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 presented the TEDx talk "Why Dungeons & Dragons is Good for You (In Real Life).” He studied filmmaking and creative writing at Hampshire College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Louisiana State University. A former editor for Frank magazine and New Delta Review, Gilsdorf is the winner of the Hobblestock Peace Poetry Competition and the Esme Bradberry Contemporary Poets Prize. He has taught at LSU, Emerson College, and for LitArts RI. A regular presenter, performer, and event moderator, he’s been featured on NPR, The Discovery Channel, PBS, CBC, BBC; and in the documentary Revenge of the Geeks. More info: ethangilsdorf.com, Twitter @ethanfreak.See other articles by Ethan Gilsdorf