Sell That Book: Building A Promotional Campaign From The Ground Up (I)

Sell That Book: Building A Promotional Campaign From The Ground Up (I)

I Have Been Spurred To Action

A good friend (thanks, Larry Anderson!) recently introduced me to another good friend of his who is also a writer who is in a similar position to the one I am in re: book promotion. Both of us have recently published books, but due to the other demands on our time we have found no time to market them — much less figure out the most effective ways of doing so in this brave new world of publishing, where there are too many options for everything.

Her name is Kathryn Burke and she lives in Edmonton. Her first book, An Accidental Advocate – A Mother’s Journey with Her Exceptional Son, has already been on several non-fiction best seller lists. She is working on her second book now; entitled Preventing Conflict In Special Educationit is likely to enjoy similar attention as it addresses the concerns of innumerable parents, teachers and students. Kathryn, who works part-time as executive director of the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta, is also the brains behind, a site that was designed “to help people affected by learning disabilities share their experiences.”

For my part, I have three recent projects that are available for sale:

  1. my third novel, The Whole Clove Diet;
  2. the Really Effective Writing suite of MP3 audiocasts – based on the grant-writing book Write An Effective Funding Application: A Guide for Researchers and Scholars – with one series customized for each of three groups: a) researchers and scholars; b) community groups and non-profit organizations; and c) writers and other artists; and
  3. ta-dah!! A new novel, co-authored with my good buddy, the endlessly fascinating lawyer cum writer John A. Aragon of Santa Fe, New Mexico (who is also too busy at the moment to do book promotion). It is entitled The Adventures of Don Valiente And The Apache Canyon Kid and it has been described by the noted Canadian writer of westerns and other fine novels, Fred Stenson, as a “bold and sexy chase from end to end.”

Promotional Challenges (Ones I Suspect Other Authors May Be Facing, Too)

For the most part, aside from subscribers to my blogs (not an insignificant number, but not millions of people either) and my friends and family, and a few others, hardly anyone knows that these products of mine exist. For the past few months–in fact for the majority of the time since The Whole Clove Diet was published and I completed the audiocasts–I have not only become very busy with freelance work, I have also been utterly overwhelmed by the range of possibilities that exist at this time in history the for promotion of books–and other communications products.

What do I do”? Do I attempt a traditional book-promotion strategy involving media releases, bookstore communications, the distribution of review copies with an author promo package? Or do I embrace the new media and devote my attention to Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn and other social-media platforms? Do I create a video or two for YouTube?

Maybe I need to consider entirely different tacks – invent a video game based on my grantwriting book for example (just a little joke) or turn The Whole Clove Diet into a reality television series (also a joke). Perhaps I should take a leaf from the late, great book-promotion schemer Jack McClelland and do something outrageous that will bring the media to me: indulge in guerilla marketing, in other words (I am not excluding this idea at all. It appeals to me enormously). Maybe I should just hire a damned publicist (although I’ve heard of too many who have produced disappointing results and I can’t afford it anyway. Besides, I really do enjoy the promotional part of my work.)

In this digital era, the promotional opportunities are endless, but so are the number of new writers out there vying for readers’ attention (and recent stats say that book-readership is going down as fast as the average quality of the writing that is being published. Pretty soon there will be more “writers” than readers).

The only thing that is limited – and it is severely limited – is time. How do I maximize the hours that I do invest in book and audiocast promotion so that I still have time to serve my freelance editing clients and maybe even write another novel? Not to mention hanging out from time to time with my kids, my grandkids, and my fellow.

Despite the fact that the prospects have been so overwhelming that I have done nothing much at all in a focussed way to promote the books and the grant-writing audiocasts I have mentioned, I really do believe in them. And what reviews there have been so far have been excellent. It is time to get serious about this.

Campaign Kickoff

Life has a funny way of helping out when you need something (not, I believe, because of anything magical, but because needing something makes — or should make — you open to recognizing and welcoming opportunities that are really always there). Thanks to this introduction to Kathryn, and our first Skype meeting to compare notes, I am now really eager to get going on this project.

Kathryn and I have  committed to hold Skype meetings one a week and to do something (anything! :) ) in the meantime that we can report on that relates to promoting our books. I am  feeling optimistic. And so is she. Already I’ve attended one webinar entitled “Be Your Own Publicist,” which was hosted by The Writers’ Union of Canada. I’ll provide details on it in my next post. And I have signed up to attend another one next week from the Wildfire Academy entitled How To Become A Bestselling Author, which Kathryn recommended.

Our books have nothing in common, really, but therein lies some of our strength. Kathryn and I are going to be finding out how to approach publicity and promotion in ways that should benefit all writers —- whether thy write fiction, non-fiction or poetry, whether they write literary or commercial books, whether they write for adults or for children. We want to sort the wheat from the chaff — not among books, but among ways of promoting them.

The most important part of this journey is going to be to share it. Not only with one another, but with our fellow writers (including Larry!). Hence this journal of our investigations, our findings, our observations and our conclusions. We welcome readers’ input as well: if a man can crowdsource healing of a brain tumour that the doctors haven’t yet been able to contain, surely Kathryn and I can find some helpful advice from those who have tried promotional ideas I haven’t thought of – or have found widely touted methods to be useless — or have applied traditional promotional methods with new twists. We can all learn together.

6 responses

    • Katherine, thank you. I’ll check it out and post my pin here as well in the next couple of days. I do have one: I just never think to use it. Now I will think to use it. Thank you.

  1. I shall dub this post my confirmation of the day. Confirmation that yes! I am moving in the right direction and yes! there is strength in numbers. Mary, you are one of the few bloggers/writers/icons of self-publishing I have stuck with for a couple years. As you say, time is SO precious and I have probably been a little too judicious in spending it. Hence, I read very few blogs consistently and almost never post responses. This is about to change. I have so much admiration for the content and quality of your posts (here and on the TWUC listserv). I have finally been able to create some space in my life to push the pause button on paid freelance gigs while I commit full-out to promoting my book (The Gift: Sharing Your Life Lessons with the People You Love Most) and hopefully, putting out invitations to team up with others who want to co-promote our self-published titles. Surely we have strength in numbers — and if not strength, then at least a lot more fun. I also attended the TWUC “Be Your Own Publicist” (last year in T.O.–perhaps we sat near each other!!) and came away with great new ideas. Alas, paid work pushed it all aside. We need to be each others’ cheerleaders. When one of us gets bogged down with paid work, then the others can team up and help keep temporarily unmanned blogs pumping, twitter feeds fed, etc. Can we all team up and create something wonderful with each other? Please tell me how YOU would like my help to promote you and Kathryn. And then you might be so kind as to return the favour. What say you all?

    • Christine! What a wonderful comment! I have just come in from a day of meetings and errands and I will respond when I have had time to consider your thoughtful and enthusiastic ideas — soon. In the meantime, thank you.

  2. Mary
    Count me in also. I love Christine’s bogged down (or is it blogged down) solution. I will cheerlead you, because you have given my life humor, my professional goals legs, and my sense of our writers’ fellowship substance. Thank you. Cheerleading is the most important thing we can do and as it goes “viral” we hope, it will work, as grass roots, word-of-mouth, always has.
    I suggest you also contact Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income podcasts/blog, etc. and see if you can be an interview on his podcast. I listen to him regularly, as do many thousands, and I believe he would cheerlead on this too. He will want to quiz you on how the Internet has aided you in making money there–he concentrates on building passive income (which you have), mostly on the Internet, or with apps, or promotions of your real world goods there. Let me know if you need more help on this. I get emails from him regularly.
    Thanks for your good guidance on self-publishing. I will be ready for that soon too.
    Merry Christmas.

    • Wonderful, Margaret. Thank you for this lead and for these great ideas. I will follow up asap. And thank you always for your enthusiastic support!

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