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Here's a super article from Anna Furtado explaining ways she goes about promoting her lesbian books. She provides us with some wonderful hands-on tips. Take notes!

Book Promotion 101

© 2005 Anna Furtado

Start Early
The ink is barely dry on the contract for your novel and now youíre faced with the daunting task of promotion. Yes, itís time to start working on selling that book, in spite of the fact that publication may seem as though it will never come. If youíre like me, youíll find yourself morphing into the curmudgeonly Doctor McCoy from the original Star Trek series. "Bonesí" famous Damn it, Jim, Iím a doctor, not an engineer or some similar epithet became my Damn it, Iím a writer, not a marketing guru. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the prospect of promoting your own book, here are some ideas to get you going.

Organize
Start with the big picture and general lists and work your way down to specifics. Promoting a book for the first time may seem intimidating, but taken in small increments, the task isnít so menacing.

The Internet is a good place to begin. I Googled my brains out looking for "book marketing" and "book promotions" articles, books and links. After accumulating a long list of books, I decided on two: Buzz Your Book and Guerrilla Marketing for Writers. My reason for choosing them was simple. They seemed to be very basic and touted creativity as key. "I can do creativity!" I thought as I dared my inner critic to disagree with me.

Buzz Your Book is an e-book written by MJ Rose and Doug Clegg. It seemed directed at the neophyte book promoter that I knew I was. I printed it out, and with a yellow highlighter and a pen, I began reading. Every idea that struck me got highlighted. Every question and inspiration that the copy evoked got jotted down in the wide margin.

As I write this article, Iím glancing through my dog-eared copy of Buzz with all those yellow highlights and scribbles. I was going to say something about how important it is to write down even the most hare-brained ideas and I went in search of one to use as an example. But I found that after doing the basics of promotional work for a year, none seemed so far-fetched or intimidating anymore. One idea I thought was totally off-the-wall was to create a virtual reality kind of environment via my web pages that would allow a visitor to experience Catherine and Lydiaís worldóa tour of the shop of Hawkins and Hawkins, or a stroll through Briarcrest Hall. It seemed outlandish at the timeóI didnít even have a basic web site. Now, I find myself thinking "What a great idea. Iíll bet it could be done." Write every idea downóno matter how crazy you think it is.

Once I got through Buzz Your Book the first time, I went through it a second time, making a list of the ideas I had jotted down and writing my questions on a separate sheet. Next to each question I wrote down the person or place that I thought might yield an answer. Finally, I ordered the list of ideas, putting first things first.

Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Levinson, Frishman & Larsen evoked a lot of the same ideas I found in Buzz. Those few new ones were added to my list and prioritized along with the rest.

Common sense is a good guide. When the suggestions made in Buzz or Guerrilla Marketing clearly didnít apply, I ignored them. Things like "Take out an ad in the New York Times" didnít seem very practical for my genre of lesbian romance, but this idea led to thoughts of other places and ways to advertise.

Establish Your Web Presence
My first priority was getting a web site up and running. The old adage, "everything takes longer than it takes," kicked in. My concern about paying for a web site almost a year before the book was launched proved unfounded. I decided to revamp my web pages and even renamed my site before anyone knew it existed. Technical difficulties that took weeks to get sorted out were also resolved before I made the site public. Time was on my side and the early investment proved to be a smart one.

If you donít know how to create a web page, ask some of your friends or other authors. They may be able to help. Itís also important to have a few people take a look at your site before you tell the world about it. Is it easy to understand and easy to navigate? Does everything work the way itís supposed to work? You donít want people leaving your site because itís too difficult to use or it doesnít work properly.

With a web site and associated e-mail address in place, I made a list of friends who were interested in the bookís progress. I e-mailed them every couple of months to let them know how the book was coming along. In return, they gave me feedback that was encouraging and supportive. It created initial interest in the book. This update has become a more professional newsletter that I send, not only to friends, but also to fans who have joined my e-mail list. My web site provides an invitation to join the list and a sign-up sheet is available at my readings.

Itís important to keep a web site up-to-date once itís created. After the book is released, signings and book reviews should be included on web pages to keep visitors informed.

Gather Your Promotional Materials
Postcards, bookmarks and bookplates, along with some business cards that included my web and e-mail addresses were the next order of business. This process is not as simple as it sounds. Finding a printer may take some time. A suitable high-resolution graphic file has to be transferred to the printer. I used my book cover graphic on everything but my business cards. The graphic was available to me a few months after the book was accepted for publication since the cover design was done early in the process.

After obtaining the graphic, the postcards, bookmarks and bookplates can be designed and finalized. Proofs must be approved. Only then does the actual printing take place. At lastóvoila! Your promotional materials arrive.

Another area that stymied me was the mysterious "promotional packet." What was in it? I hadnít a clue. Back to Google, but everything I found was vague with some information mentioning press releases and others talking about data sheets. Talk to your publisher about these. Fortunately, my publisher has a terrific publicist who was very helpful in providing a data sheet for me. As soon as you have an ISBN number, a cover and a publication date, a data sheet can be done that includes this key information. The final copy can be printed at an office supply or copy service on good quality paper for inclusion in your promotional packet. Mine were ready about five months before launch date. We also included an introductory letter from the publisher in my packet. To this, I added my own "letter from the author," a bookmark, a postcard and a bookplate. These all went into those nice presentation folders you can buy at the office supply store. Use the folders that provide a slotted area for business card insertion.

To potential book reviewers (more on this later) I mailed a promo packet and a copy of the book. To bookstores, I sent a promo packet and the first chapter of "The Heartís Desire" printed on high quality paper.

To make the folders look more professional, I cut the cover graphic from a bookplate and put one on the front of each presentation folder. Since the bookplate had an adhesive back, this was easy to do.

Compile Your Lists
One of my early questions in the margin of Buzz was "How do you find book reviewers?" An Internet search for lesbian review sites yielded a list. To ensure that the sites were pertinent and still active, I visited each one. Guidelines had to be noted or people had to be contacted to learn how to submit a book for review. Internet writersí groups proved to be a good resource. Whenever anyone mentioned a review site (or a bookstore) that I didnít have on my list, I added it. A spreadsheet was great for keeping track of everything, including the date that a packet was mailed.

One thing of note about this process: People responded quickly and were very cordial, encouraging and helpful. Most people were happy to learn more about the book, and if they couldnít review it, they often referred me to someone who could.

Once the review copies were out, I started compiling a list of all GLBT and GLBT-friendly bookstores. The good news is that once you have a list (reviewers, bookstores or newsletter recipients), itís just a matter of keeping them up-to-date.

Brand Your Work
Meanwhile there were other tasks to be completed like coming up with a "buzz line." After trying several that didnít fit the Buzz branding intent, I finally hit on "The Heartís Desire Ė Have you found yours?" It went everywhereóon stationery, on mailing labels, into my e-mail signature and on my web site and business cards.

Customize Your Mailings
Iíve sent out two rounds of postcards to bookstores in 3 months. The first batch introduced the book. The second mailing, done in early January, suggested that "The Heartís Desire" is a great romantic read for Valentineís Day. Itís a challenge to get a really good message with plenty of punch in the very small space allotted on a postcard, but it can be done. I use 8-1/2 by 11 labels with several repetitions of the postcard message on them. I scale the message to fit the postcard, cut the label to size, and stick it onto the postcard. The message seems to be printed directly on the card, and I can customize each one. For example, I give postcards to bookstores to hand out just prior to readings with the event info on them.

Include a handwritten note (albeit a very short one) on the card telling bookstores within traveling distance that you are a local author and that youíd love to speak to them about doing a reading. This has produced some e-mail responses inviting me to do readings before I could even follow up. (My web site and e-mail address are pre-printed on my postcards.) If you donít hear from them, however, a follow-up phone call may be all thatís needed to get the ball rolling.

Be Creative
When I was looking at the possibility of advertising in a local gay and lesbian seniors group newsletter, my correspondence with the director of the group led to an invitation to donate an autographed copy of my book as a drawing prize for an annual event. This is classic Buzz Your Book strategy and I went for it. An autographed copy, sent with a bookplate and a bookmark, made a nice package. Hopefully, the person who won the book read it, loved it and is buzzing about it to others.

Be Grateful
Little things mean a lot. Always thank a reviewer. They appreciate it. And when a fan writes, I always answer. It might be no more than thanking them for their interest or their comments. If they ask a question about the book, Iím more than happy to answer it. It takes only a few minutes to write a quick e-mail and it can generate a lot of goodwill.

In Summary
In summary, I would say this about book promotion:

  1. Start early (planning is necessary for successful promotion)
  2. Research and organize (these are key)
  3. Have patience, but be persistent (things often take longer than you think they will)
  4. Make lists and use spreadsheets
  5. Use your creativity (youíre a writeróitís in your nature)
  6. Remember the "thank youís"

Keep in mind that one-time activities are interspersed with those things that must be done repeatedly.

Most important, maintain a sense of humor and perspective. When it all seems overwhelming and chaotic, thatís what will get you through the day.
_____
Anna Furtado
Author of The Heartís Desire Ė Book One of The Briarcrest Chronicles
Web site: http://www.annafurtado.com
E-mail: annaf@annafurtado.com
Distributed by: Starcrossed Productions (www.scp-inc.biz)
The Heart's Desire - Have you found yours?

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