Nicole Melanson ~
Once upon a time, I was a college student in New York City. Like every other English major on the planet, I thought it would be great to intern as an editor. Unfortunately, I missed out on a publishing gig and landed on the Promotions & Merchandising team at Interview magazine instead. My plan was to move across to Editorial as soon as there was an opening but that never happened because I LOVED working in Promotions. Here are some tips I’ve picked up about promoting people and products over the years:
People access media for two key reasons: to be entertained or to be informed. Most book marketing takes the informative angle. This book is about… This book is on sale… The problem with this approach is that you’re offering information you want to provide, not that readers want to acquire.
Think about how your promotions can actually enhance your readers’ lives. Maybe one of your characters has a green thumb and a passion for gardening pervades your novel. It makes sense to appeal to readers who also love spending time in their gardens. What if your newsletter contained seasonal planting tips? Or if your hand-outs included a seed packet? By the same token, if your character’s an obsessive baker, go ahead and share recipes. Keep things interesting, and when in doubt, at least make someone laugh!
Think about where you can anchor your work in your community. For the book with the gardener, could you approach a local greenhouse and offer to do a reading as part of one of their workshops? For the baker, could you ask a nearby cupcake shop to display your book in exchange for a shout-out on your social media accounts? Organize a giveaway that benefits you both – a book basket from their shop, a box of cupcakes from your website.
Do the Drop
A lot of authors like to play “Book Fairy”, dropping copies of their book into the wild and hoping to be discovered by new readers. I’m never going to argue against sharing art in public spaces, but from a marketing standpoint, a targeted drop makes more sense. Romance set in a B & B? Ask the little guesthouse up the street if they’d like a copy for their common room, or maybe you could work something out where they include your book as part of a “Romantic Getaway” gift package. Think you’ve written the next Sex and the City? Find some salons and see if the stylists will loan your book to someone sitting through a lengthy treatment. Medical angle? Try a doctor’s office. (I recommend choosing a specialist as I can personally vouch for their waiting times and there’s only so many times one can peruse pharmaceutical brochures.)
Use Your Assets
No, I don’t mean those assets. I’m talking about connections. There are lots of negative stereotypes about women but here’s a positive one: women know how to network. Let that work to your advantage. Do you know someone throwing a backyard birthday party for their five-year-old? Save them the cost of a magician or superhero and offer to run a storytelling session. Friends of yours own a café? Ask if they’ll provide a copy of your book to the person who wins a free coffee by solving their puzzle of the day; your book will be on display until it’s won.
Yes, we’re writers and we like to hide behind our screens when we’re creating, but we need to use our feet when we’re promoting. Get out there and talk to people. Be proud that you wrote a book! People love to ask writers questions – let them ask! It’s not about selling – it’s about shining a light on the creative process and enjoying an opportunity to talk about books with people who may or may not be regular readers. If you’re aiming for a more professional relationship as above, you should still make that connection. Deliver your book in person wherever you can and introduce yourself.
(If you can’t get out there due to geography, disability, or because you’re extremely introverted, then make phone calls. If you can’t phone people, then send personalized notes. Jeannine Hall Gailey has tons of great suggestions for writers promoting from home. See here and here. You can also pick up a copy of her book PR for Poets from Two Sylvias Press.)
I graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a customized degree in Creative Writing, Literature & Language. I had friends who specialized in things like Musicology & African Drumming, Anthropology & Ritual, and so on. All around me, I saw people smooshing subjects together in new and exciting ways. It was engaging and inspiring. This is the way you want to approach promotion. Here’s an example of someone stepping waaay outside the box to sell her book. And check out how Lauren Chater at The Well-Read Cookie designed cookies inspired by cover art; when her own book was launched this year, her creativity came into play closer to home.
I hope this post has been helpful. Please stay tuned for Part Two!
— Nicole Melanson