Book Promotion - The Stuff Bestsellers Are Made Of?

Author shares guidelines for successful book salesmanship
Book promotion: it's perhaps the most misunderstood topic in getting your book off and running. While many do understand its importance, most don't know where to begin in getting a book promotion plan up and running.

Left on its own, a book that is listed in a publisher's catalog without any person or thing driving it into the market will not likely go far. What gives a book momentum are promotion and distribution. Of the two, promotion is one area where an author can make a significant impact.

Search the web and you'll find much information about book promotion. You'll hear things like send out press releases, pitch editors, write promotional articles in ezines, build a website for your book, become an expert, speak to local groups and organizations and many other key tactics that are very good ways to promote your book.

Many things challenge authors to do these things. One is the know-how and salesmanship required to pound the pavement and get the word out. But another, most important one is time. Most authors lead different lives and can't dedicate their entire life to promoting the book.

What time they do have, needs to be focused and approached in the same way a small business owner follows a business plan. A systematic approach of building a prospect list and using good tools, tactics and guidelines to reach the list is a sensible way to get your promotion effort going.

As a new author of Net Know-How. Surviving the Bloodbath. Straight Talk From 25 Internet Entrepreneurs, I set my own guidelines for promoting my book that I'll share with you.

1. Build A Media And Contact List In A Spread Sheet Format. Originally I wanted to send out a press release blitz, but I found that it would be time consuming and costly. I gathered up 94 names of book reviewers and editors that would be a logical fit for the title. This list should be central to your promotional efforts. You can add to it as you gather new contacts. The list doesn't have to be enormous to start out. Think of it as a working document and tool that will serve as a basis for contacting and tracking your contacts with key spheres of influence. Start small and grow it.

2. Don't Sweat The Press Release. I sent out the book and a release to each of those contacts. While many work on a press release ad nauseum, I believe that most spend too much time on it. At a minimum it should contain contact information and salient facts about the book. I also like to write it in a bare bones font that can be easily pasted into email text. Keep it simple and transportable.

3. Prospect Daily. I try to keep a disciplined approach by contacting 5 persons by email each day. If I'm in a real rush I send a press release or form letter. It has to become a habit.

4. Follow Up. I've heard of following up by phone, but I just can't do that. I do follow up by email. I have landed many sales and successes - not on the first contact - but on the seventh or eighth. It is so easy to not follow up and write off the contact as being unresponsive, when they just needed a reminder. Any response warrants another response. For any email that comes back to you, always keep trying and responding. Try to end the email in a question and get the contact to reply. Try to have them always owing you a response.

5. Look For Niches To Promote Your Book. I started a niche of contacting technology columnists of major newspapers. I would read their column, find something I liked about the column, and then tell them how much I liked it. I'd also put a keyword out of their column in the subject line of the email address. This gets attention as they probably received more disagreement and criticism than "atta-boys". They also appreciate the fact that you actually read the column and liked it! I prospected to 5 columnists per day. I found that one out of 5 responded and requested a copy of the book. Reid Goldsborough is a technology columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and is syndicated in over 100 publications. He responded and wrote a column about the post dot-com culture that focused solely on me and my book. A PR agency would have charged $10,000 to get the same result! No magic worked - just following a systematic plan of attack.

6. Develop A Tool Kit. A tool kit is a document that has two things: factoids to support your book, and "ready-to-use" quotes for the journalist to grab and insert. A tool kit provides tools to use for a journalist, editor or writer to draw from in building and creating a story. When I was in the Philadelphia Inquirer column, the journalist used some of my factoids about Internet start-ups to lead into the column. Factoids might include statistics, findings of recent studies and any other pertinent data that can support your topic of focus.

7. First Get Interest Then Follow On. I had always done the reverse, in that I would want to send information when it wasn't requested. I do send out books to an initial list, but after that I try to get people to request the books and request information about the book and me. A valuable lead in public relations is one where the party requests something from you. This gives you the building block to create a relationship and possible coverage. The same goes for my tool kit. I don't send it out until I've gotten their interest. This avoids bombarding them with information and allows me to cement the relationship as interest develops. Once I do get interest, they become a key contact to follow up with and continually communicate with. Every time you communicate with them again, even if to send them a trivial piece of information, you are strengthening your relationship with them.

8. Always Try To Personalize The Email. Finding a specific person requires work and effort, however, the value of a targeted email to a specific person is worth about 20 untargeted emails (if not more). If I have no specific message, but am just pitching the prospect, I'll put their name in the subject of the email by saying "please forward to John Smith". This gets attention and gets read.

9. Have Faith In The Law Of Averages. Even a lousy PR pitch will get results if it goes out to enough contacts. It is a numbers game, and if you don't play the numbers it's difficult to play at all. You may have a great book, but you just haven't hit the right press outlet to let others know about it. On average, there's someone out there who would love to tell their audience all about your book.

10. Sell The Subject And Slip The Book Into It. There's a tendency to pitch an editor on featuring your book - in a review, or other feature article. Instead, try to pitch the editor on how palatable and timely the subject matter is. Relate it to their column and their readers. There's not always room for a book review but there is often room for a feature story about a hot new topic. In helping a journalist or reporter shape a feature story, act as the expert or authority and use your title as book author to be quoted for comment.

Book promotion should be approached systematically. Have a plan, tools, and tactics. Systematically use your tools and tactics to work your plan. Follow up often and keep listening for opportunities to let others know about you and your book. It's the stuff many bestsellers are made of!


Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Virginia and author of Net Know-How. Surviving the Bloodbath. Straight Talk From 25 Internet Entrepreneurs. He has interviewed and profiled a Native American who started his own medicinal plant company; developed a feature article about juveniles in a state prison in Gainesville, Texas who are training to become Cisco Systems Network Administrators; and interviewed and featured an Italian farmer who lives in Italy near the Swiss Alps and restores antique European tractors.