MARKETING YOUR BOOK
Great! You wrote a book! Who wants to buy a copy? Your family and friends, and that's if you're lucky. I am sorry to break that to you. There are a lot of good books out there, and the odds of people finding yours are stacked against you. Think about all the books that are sitting in the bookstore closest to your home right now and how many of them you haven't read. All of those books were released by major publishing houses and each one had a marketing budget, some of them costing tens of thousands of dollars. Self-publishers, meet the competition. It has deep pockets. You might even think of self-publishing as "David vs. Goliath." Again, the major publishing houses have lots of money and resources and people on staff marketing their latest books. And you have... you. You will never be able to compete with them head-to-head. Instead, it's time to talk about what you do have. You have time, you have imagination, and you have a desire for people to read your book. Those three things can get you pretty far.
I am not a master at marketing, but I will be glad to share with you what I've done. Maybe you have some of your own ideas, too.
The first thing for each of my books was determine what my target audience was. For both Commodork and Invading Spaces, this was pretty simple. The target audience for Commodork was people who were interested in hearing stories about Commodore 64 computers and computer bulletin board systems. This group was further split into two more groups: those who remembered BBSes and wanted to reminisce about them, and those who did not remember BBSes but wanted to learn about them. As for Invading Spaces: A Beginner's Guide to Collecting Arcade Games, the title kind of says it all. That book was intended for those who were either interested into getting into the hobby of collecting arcade games, or were new to the hobby and looking for more information.
The next thing I tried to do was find out where those people were, and let them know that I was selling a book.
For Commodork, this meant traveling to retro computer/videogame shows. In 2006 I attended the Oklahoma Videogame Expo and, the following month, the Emergency Chicago Commodore Convention. The former show was 100 miles awak from my house and the second one was 800 miles away. I drove to both and paid all expenses out of pocket. At the first show I sold around 25 copies of Commodork. At ECCC, I sold maybe a dozen. More than sales, I made some great connections. My name and the name of my book appeared on the official ECCC page. At the show I met Robin Harbron (awesome guy!), who bought and later blogged about my book.
For Commodork, I made sure everything linked to everything. For example, I took pictures at ECCC and posted them online. When I posted them, I added links to my book's website. I went to video game shows and put up Commodore displays. Next to the displays, I had stacks of my book. I handed out business cards with links to the book. I joined (or started) Commodore-related conversations on forums and put a link to my book in my signature. Everything I did that was related to Commodore computers linked back in one way or another to my book.
Collectively, publishing companies spend billions of dollars advertising their latest books. I can only assume that if you are reading these articles on RobOHara.com, you don't have that kind of budget. That doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to promote your work. What it means is, you'll have to be creative in how you do it.
Here is a list of fourteen things I've done to promote my books. The majority of these things didn't cost me a cent. While you're reading this list, imagine yourself doing each one.
01. Website/Blog: I run RobOHara.com. I post new blog entries multiple times a week. I don't talk about my books every day or even every a week, but I do talk about topics that people interested in my books might also find interesting. I have links to my books on the front page of my site.
02. Newspaper Press Releases: Newspapers are dying for content, so why not give them some? Write up a press release in third person and e-mail it to your local newspaper staff. I've done this multiple times and every time I do it they run them.
03. Podcasts: While not for everybody, there is a large market for audio recordings. People love to listen to interesting things while at work, in the car, or while exercising. Take advantage of this market! Start a podcast about the topic of your book, or look for other people doing podcasts and go on as a guest host. All you need is a cheap microphone and a free copy of Skype.
04. Book Signings: I've done multiple book signings now, usually at related trade shows (for me, this means gaming shows). Book signings give you a direct audience of people who are interested in the top you've written about. People love to talk to authors and will often buy a copy of your book simply in exchange for your time.
05. Flyers: Flyers are cheap to make (and cheaper if you copy them at work). Don't waste them; post your flyers at places where people who might be interested in your work are located.
06. Book Store Consignment Sales: Local book stores love to help out local writers. I have my books in several places now -- mostly game stores, but a couple of book stores as well. Some independent book stores may allow you to sell your books for free inside. Others may want a commission. Either way, sales are better than no sales! Come up with a price that still allows you to make money and gives you exposure at the same time.
07. Give away the first chapter for free: I've done this with both of my books so far and it seems to be a big hit. People love to see what they're getting before hand. Put your best foot forward, save your first chapter as a PDF file and stick it out on the web for free. Make sure your chapter ends with a good hook that makes people want to read more!
08. Interviews: Just like newspapers, magazines and websites are constantly looking for people to interview. Throw your name in the hat! Provide them with a press kit and a reason to interview you. You'll be surprised how many people take you up on your offer!
09. Internet Forums: Forums are a great place to get the word out for your books, but be careful. Don't troll or spam -- you won't like the results. Also keep in mind that you don't control forums. If negative comments or reviews are posted, they're there for the world to see.
10. Public Appearances: In the past two years I've spoke twice about self-publishing, once at Defcon and once at Notacon. Not only does that allow me to help other potential writers, but it gets the word out about my own books as well.
11. Sending out Review Copies: People can only write about your book if they've read it. Find good reviewers who are interested in you book's subject matter and get a copy in their hands. It might cost you the price of a book, but the publicity is worth it ten-fold.
12. Writing Related Articles: I guess this section of my website qualifies as this. Write related articles, even if for free, and link them to your work. You'll be performing a public service and advertising at the same time. Win/win!
13. Make Business Cards: This will cost you a couple of bucks, but business cards are cheap. You can get 500 online for less than $10. You can also print your own at home. Hand out your cards to anyone remotely interested in your books. Give one away with each purchase. Leave them lying around places. Business cards are cheap advertising!
14. Make T-Shirts: You can design a t-shirt and have it printed through CafePress or other similar websites for less than $20. Again, not free, but I've worn my Commodork t-shirt to arcades and computer conventions all over the country and people always ask me about it. Make sure to list your website and email address on your shirt as well!
Above all else, keep in mind that you are an author! You must believe in yourself first before anyone else will believe in you!