10 Book Marketing Dos & Don’ts For Authors

10 Book Marketing Dos & Don’ts For Authors

Posted on July 14 by Elinor Florence
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Let me begin with a pep talk. No matter how good it is, your book will not sell itself. If your aim is to sell books – either to make money, or simply to share your story with a wider audience – then you must become your book’s best friend, advocate, and business partner.

Through trial and error, I have discovered what works for me – at least, what I think works. There’s a saying that ten percent of all your marketing efforts pay off, but nobody knows which ten percent!


1. Do understand your publisher’s role

Dundurn Press is a well-respected traditional publisher, and that gives me two huge advantages. First, buyers know that Dundurn has confidence in my book. Second, my publisher has placed my book in stores across the country, and promoted it at trade shows and other venues. But please remember: after the initial launch is over, finding publicity and organizing events is the author’s responsibility.


2. Do prepare to open your wallet

People, there is just no way around it. If you want to sell books, you have to spend money on promotion. Australian writer Ian Irvine said it best: “What if you don't have the money for self-promotion? You could cut some of your discretionary spending (e.g. give up smoking, or drinking, or gambling, or non-essential shopping or travel) for a year, and use the money saved. Can't give up any of those things, even to succeed as a writer? Then maybe you don't want to be a writer badly enough.”


3. Do set up a website

Brace yourself. A professionally designed website can cost up to $5,000. I paid less to a Seattle-based designer called Bizango that offers a special deal called Websites for Writers. You can find it here: http://www.bizango.net.

For my purposes, designer Mark Figlozzi created a Home Page plus buttons for six other pages: About Me, Book Page, Blog Page, Events Page, Media Page, and Contact Page. He also provided instructions for maintaining my own site and posting my own blog entries. At first I was feverish with anxiety whenever I tried to change a photograph or add text. Eventually I got the hang of it, and now I only have to pester him about once a month for advice.

You can take a look at my beautiful website here: www.elinorflorence.com.

It isn’t hard to find a website designer. Throw a stick down the street and you’ll probably hit one. The challenge is to find one who gives you the design you want. Even the simplest website design will cost a few hundred dollars. At a minimum, you need one static page called a “landing page” where people land when they search for your name or your book. It should include a short biography, a professional photograph, how to contact you, plus information about your book and how to buy it.

DO check out free website templates, especially if you are reasonably tech-savvy, or have a family member willing to help. Some of them are very attractive.

There is a lot of good online advice about author websites. I like this one from Jane Friedman: A Complete Guide to Author Websites. (Insert hyperlink: http://janefriedman.com/2015/03/26/author-website-components)


4. Don’t start a blog

For the past two and a half years I’ve written a blog called Wartime Wednesdays. I started it because I had accumulated masses of material while researching my fact-based Second World War novel, so I thought it was a good way to share this information. Also, my wartime novel lends itself to subject matter that produces an endless stream of interesting non-fiction topics. And it paid off, because I know that many of my blog readers have purchased my novel.

However, I don’t recommend this avenue to others. My blog comes at an enormous cost of my time and effort. For most people, blogging is too much work. Everyone has about ten or twelve good ideas, and then they run out of gas. It is bloody hard work to keep coming up with good material, emphasis on good. Your time will be far better spent working on your own writing project, or marketing your book in other ways.


5. Do use free social media

You can create a free public Facebook page, post content of interest, ask people to like your page, and share your posts with others. Check out my page called Elinor Florence – Author to see the things that I post. I have another personal page for family and friends.

Every time I post something, Facebook suggests paying extra to reach more viewers. I’ve tried paying $5 or $10 a couple of times as an experiment. Then Facebook sends my post to hundreds of people, but I have never seen any bump in likes or comments as a result.

Having said that, a Facebook page is still a useful landing pad for people who want to know more about you. I also have a Pinterest board for my novel, I tweet once or twice a week, and I have a growing circle of friends on Goodreads. It’s all free, and it’s all part of my Author Platform. Every little bit helps.


6. Don’t spend much time on traditional media

As a former print journalist, I feel sad to write this. But the fact is that when my book was released, I spent weeks sending out more than one hundred individualized press releases. I was interviewed by several small media outlets, but only a few people showed up at my book signing events because they had learned about me from a newspaper or radio interview. I’m inclined to believe that my time is better spent connecting with people through social media or writing guest blogs. You can see my complete list of media articles and guest blogs on my Media page here: www.elinorflorence.com/media.


7. Do spend time on your contact list

Start harvesting email addresses well before your book is published. Fortunately I’m one of those people who likes to stay in touch, so I already had a circle of high school friends, former colleagues, and extended family members. And over the past year, I’ve made new friends with people who are reading my blog, and met many interesting folks at book signings. I did one mass email when my book cover was revealed for the first time, and another one several months later when my book was released.

Now when I plan a book signing, I send a personal invitation to everyone in the vicinity, and ask them to invite their friends. You will find a handful of acquaintances who really love being part of your adventure, and who will go out of their way to help. Thank them profusely, and give them an autographed book.


8. Do press the flesh

Although I consider myself to be an introvert, I can show up if necessary. I have visited book clubs (these are great, because I’m preaching to the converted), libraries (less productive for sales, but I still love public libraries), and bookstores.

Although I prefer to support independent bookstores, and will continue to do so, my highest sales have been at Chapters-Indigo. There is just so much more foot traffic in the big stores. But don’t overlook other types of gatherings – my most successful event was my local Christmas Craft Fair, where I sold sixty books.

You can’t sit behind the table – you simply must walk around and engage people. I have found this to be the best opening line: “Hi, I am the author of this new book. May I tell you about it?” Most people are pleasant and even if they don’t buy the book on the spot, they will take my bookmark and wish me good luck. I wear my wartime vintage outfit – including hat and seamed stockings – which is also a good conversational opening!

Selling your book is tiring. If you are an introvert like me, do not stay overnight with friends. You will sit up until midnight chatting and drinking wine, and feel drained the next day. If I spend the evening relaxing in a hotel room, I’m much bubblier at my book event the next day. If you are an extrovert, however, you may feel invigorated by company – and staying with friends is certainly less expensive than a hotel.

For a list of my upcoming events, please visit my website’s Events Page: www.elinorflorence.com/events.


9. Do find a group to host you

My novel is about a Canadian woman who joins the air force and becomes an aerial photographic interpreter in Second World War. So I prepared a one-hour Powerpoint slide illustrating my inspiration for Bird’s Eye View. I talk about the wartime airfield where I grew up, the story of how Canadian women finally got into the armed forces, and the importance of aerial photography to Allied Intelligence.

In several cases, groups have invited me to be their guest speaker, and then sold tickets as a fundraiser. For example, at the Commonwealth Air Museum in Brandon, Manitoba, almost one hundred people paid $30 each to have lunch and listen to my talk. The museum earned money, and afterwards I sold about fifty books. This was an easy event for me, because the museum volunteers did all the work!


10. Do buy bookmarks

I was conflicted about this initially. Does anyone need another bookmark? I know eBook readers certainly don’t. But I broke down and printed 1,000 bookmarks, because they are cheaper if printed in volume, and they have been immensely useful. It’s a great icebreaker to walk up to someone and hand them a free bookmark. They reach out their hand, they have something to read while you are talking, and then they walk away with a permanent reminder of your book. I like to think that some of the people will take it home, check out my website, and possibly buy a paperback or ebook later. And when you are sitting at a table, you can fan out your bookmarks attractively and make the table look pretty!

Please do not design your own bookmark and print it off at home. It will look tacky. And people will assume that if you have a terrible bookmark, you will have a terrible book. I know it doesn’t make sense, but there it is.

I hired a graphic designer, Harrison McKay of Smoove, based in Vancouver, to create my book cover, business cards, and bookmarks. He did a great job. Here’s a link to his site: http://www.smooveweb.com.

Elinor Florence

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014
Elinor Florence photo

Elinor Florence

Elinor Florence is an author and journalist. Before publishing her bestselling novel, Bird’s Eye View, she edited several daily newspapers and wrote for many publications, including Reader’s Digest Canada. Elinor lives in Invermere, British Columbia.