Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Your Very Own Best Book Promoter - Boers

Several years ago I conducted an informal book promotion experiment. Speaking at events I often set up a table and tried to sell my books. But I felt bashful and usually did not refer directly to them. I arranged them attractively and then assumed that they spoke for themselves.

But I grew curious. So I alternated my approach. At one event, I said nothing about the books. At the second event, I mentioned them, not saying much, just acknowledging their availability and how they connected to my topic. At the third occasion, I would be quiet again. And so on. The results were predictable: I consistently sold more books when I mentioned them.

That’s how I learned that I must promote my own books.

In the months after The Way is Made by Walking, mostly I arranged book signings at independent and chain bookstores (four within 20 miles of my house). A funky independent bookstore 45 miles away gladly hosted an event. I had many engagements that involved travel and so I arranged signings in B.C., Michigan, Pennsylvania, Montana, as well as Ontario. At the most disappointing event, one book sold. But several occasions sold 30 or 40 copies. (Book-sellers tell me that they often expect to move only half a dozen or so.) A few times, bookstores sold out. Happily, I always carry extra copies. (Always, always bring books. At one store, the manager had not ordered any books at all!)

I promote book-signings in several ways, overcoming my aversion to self-promotion. I invite everyone I can think of in the area: friends, former congregants, fellow church members, colleagues, relatives. I encourage contacts to invite others. I email local churches that I have some connection with, especially from my denomination. Sometimes I email all area churches and explain why my book is of interest (local author, Canadian content, Christian writer … whatever seems most applicable).

Local media can be a big help. I and my publisher send press releases. The press often need several nudges. Local angles should be mentioned. I pointed out to one paper that I was born in their city; to another that I went to its university and lived my first year of marriage there; to others that I pastored in their town; and to another my Bruce Trail connection. If you have contacts, use those. I once wrote articles about a famous Canadian writer who happily linked me with a prominent newspaper columnist. I asked a friend about his local paper and he mentioned a reporter that would like my ideas. I emailed that columnist and – voilá! – he did a great piece.

My best media coverage came through recommendations. I appeared on Canada’s “100 Huntley Street” because someone heard me guest preach and liked what I said; she knew a producer at the show. My appearance on CBC “Tapestry,” amazingly enough, was the result of a reader (whom I had never met) taking the initiative and emailing the program about my book.

I approach magazines and pitch article ideas related to my book and write or adapt pieces accordingly. I encouraged various friends to review my book in magazines. I gently (and repeatedly) invite editors to have my book reviewed. I review related books to establish myself as an “expert” in that subject. With everything that I write I include information about the book.

As I plan trips, I consider whether there are churches where I might have a connection and contact the pastor and offer to preach. While planning a trip to Winnipeg Manitoba to speak at a conference, I managed to add a radio interview, a reading and a signing at a nearby university.

Finally, BookTour.com allows writers or publicists to set up a web page. You can post information about your book/s (with photos), links to your own or other relevant websites (e.g. publisher) and a detailed list of where you will appear in the future. BookTour.com subscribers get notices of when authors are in their area. Or they can subscribe to your page and follow your progress. They can also contact you through the site. The service is friendly, thorough, and free.

My small book promotion experiment converted me into someone who is not exactly bashful about promoting his own book. If you’ve done the hard work to write something that you are passionate about, then you should not be bashful either.

Arthur Paul Boers
Author of The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago


Peter Black said...

Thank you for sharing your journey from reluctant book promoter to unabashed book recommender (forgive my labelling).
Hmm. Now I'm all the more red-faced at how little promotion I've done (although grateful for the variety of venues and uses my book has reached).
The insights shared from your experiment and experience are enlightening and inspiring.

Marian said...

Thanks Arthur,

Lots of good insight here. I think until you become an author you don't realize self-promotion is an essential part of the package.

Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks so much for your article, Arthur. My book was published April 30 and I am trying to learn all I can about marketing it. I have come to understand how important that is and was grateful for what I learned in reading your post.
If you want to know my book is More Questions than Answers, published by Resource Publications, which is an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers of Eugene, Oregon. (Didn't you say to mention you book whenever possible?) I am learning from you.

violet said...

Good advice here. I always tell myself, when confronting the inner hesitation to offer my slim volumes for sale, that I appreciate knowing when someone else has a book available. I am doing a reading this Tuesday. Your article gives me the push I need to do that little bit of low-key publicity it's so easy to talk my way out of.

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