KEY ELEMENTS OF
by Lorna Tedder
Before you get started:
A. Define your market.
What's your book about? Who needs to read
it? Who might be interested in it because of the subject matter, who
the author is, something in the author's background, something in
the characters' backgrounds, or where the book is set?
If you know your market, you won't waste valuable
time, energy, and of course dollars on people who won't buy your
B. Make a plan.
Concentrate on getting the most for your time. Sit down with
your calendar. Allow yourself enough time to have fun occasionally,
enough time to write if you're working on a subsequent book, enough
time to nurture your own soul by enjoying family, reading, and
hobbies--all the things that give nourishment to your talents.
C. Make a budget.
Concentrate on getting the most for your dollar. Set a budget
and stick to it. Don't be afraid to comparison-shop for services
such as printing.
There are many, many ways to promote
your book--you don't have to do every one of them. Pick what fits
your budget and your calendar.
Key Elements to any Promotion
Plan (Pick as many as you like!)
1. Educate your customer.
People are begging to be led to buy your
book. Think about it. When you walk into a bookstore, you don't want
to spend a couple of hours pouring over the bookshelves, only to
plunk down your hard-earned dollar for a book that doesn't hold your
interest. You want to read a good book, right? You want to be
entertained or informed, right? So do your prospective readers. So
do the booksellers. They want to sell your book. They want to take
customers by the hand and lead them to a great book and a sure buy.
To get the most for your time and money, don't go
directly to the reader with your promotions. Instead, go to key
people who can get the word out to potential readers about your
2. Reverse the risk. (applies
moreso to self-pub and small press)
reader sees the risk as being entirely on him when he buys a book.
Offer a money-back guarantee. This risk-reversal takes the pressure
off the reader. If they don't like the book, they can bring it back,
right? But very, very few ever do.
3. Seek publicity.
Getting publicity is a matter of tying in what you have to
say with what's going on in the world. Make your story timely and
say something unique. If you're writing a book set in a certain area
and that area is having a centennial celebration, make the most of
Hey, this is the FREE (or almost free) stuff! Send
press releases or news stories to every newspaper, radio or tv
station, magazine, and organization you've ever had anything to do
with. Give your press release/news story a hook--that could be that
you're a local resident, your profession, your age, your ancestor
who was the Pastor to the Pilgrims in Holland, something unusual in
your background. When the nearest big city newspaper does its
stories on Grandparents' Day and if you're a grandfather, make sure
they know about you! Make a connection they can't resist!
4. Create host-beneficiary
booksellers don't appreciate what you do for them unless you tell
them. Educate your distributors, booksellers, and potential readers.
Offer them your services—offer to do workshops that will bring
people running. They provide the space and you arrange the workshop,
publicity, suggested books to buy on the craft of writing, your
subject matter, etc.
When you start filling their need, rather than
yours, they'll see how much you have to offer. They'll remember you
when your next book comes out, too.
5. Offer extra value, not
Sales and discounts
rarely work for any business. How many times have you decided not to
buy something because you knew it would be on sale in a few weeks?
What that tells a customer is that the product is
worth only the sales price. Discounts devalue your product. What
does work is a bonus. Make the customer feel they're getting
something extra for their money. They want to think they're getting
more, not that they're buying something worth less.
6. Maintain a core group of
It's easier to sell to
your existing readers than to find new readers. If you've got a
mailing list, keep in touch with the people on it. Not just a
Christmas card, either. Everyone should have a newsletter. Or write
personal-sounding letters so that the readers and booksellers are
familiar with you. Do not get so caught up in expanding your
readership that you neglect your old faithfuls.
Who bought your last book? Have you kept a list of
fans' addresses? Call on your last contacts, whether they were
distributors, booksellers, or readers.
7. Make buying your book fun!
Make it easy. Give them an 800 number and
the name of a mail-order bookstore if they're out in the boonies. Be
a delight to the bookstores--offer to help them, chat with them,
8. Get quotes or recommendations.
Referrals are probably the biggest source of
sales. How can you get your existing readers to refer your book to a
friend? To a bookseller? Why not have your readers tell you where
they bought the book or nominate a bookseller for an award? Then
market to that bookseller. Or send copies of your last book to
libraries and reader groups and ask for feedback? They'll be more
likely to read your next one.
9. Test everything!
Just because you have a mailing list doesn't
mean you have to send something to everyone on it. Test it. Send one
type of promo to 10%, change a word and send it to another 10%, add
or delete your photo and send to another 10%. If something works,
then you can send to the rest of the mailing list.
How do you know if your promotional campaign is
working? By testing. Don't use the same exact ad or flyer for
everything. Change one word. Change the headline in an ad. Change
the format. Change seven or eight different things. Then see which
one draws the most attention.
It's been said that 50% of the advertising dollar is
wasted but we don't know which half. But we should know. If you can
track what works, that's where you can concentrate your dollars. If
you get 80% of your sales from referrals and spend only 5% of your
promo budget on referrals, you're wasting a lot of money.
You should be looking for ways to stir up more word
of mouth so you can increase your referrals because that's something
that's already working. And you're not putting a lot of money into
When you test, don't worry about the size of the
market you're testing. Go ahead and test in small markets. It's
cheaper that way. When you test, you're asking the market to vote on
which approach works best before you put a lot of money into it.
A test here might be changing a word in your
promotional material. Like "fulfillment." Some people are seeking
fulfillment, others are seeking prosperity, self-confidence,
self-validation. See which word has the greatest draw for your
10. Follow-up on your past
Follow up on your
contact with readers, booksellers, and distributors. One mailing
might or might not hook them, but 1 out of 4 will "buy" on a repeat
mailing. Haven't you ever received a letter and put it aside or
forgotten about it and then been reminded of it when you got a
second follow-up letter? Your follow-up could even be a thank you
letter or a how- did-you-like-the-book letter.
11. Make sure your ads demand a
It costs just as much to
run an ad whether one reader/bookseller responds or 20,000 respond.
It takes just as much time, energy, and money to produce an
effective ad as it does to produce an ineffective ad.
Most ads do not work. Flip through a book magazine
and look at all those ads that look just alike. Somebody won an
award. Somebody's a bestseller. Here's a picture of the cover. So
what? What does that do for the reader? Hone in on the book's
benefit to the reader. What need does it fill? What is the reader
looking for? Know what need your book fills and use that as your
hook. Always have a headline in your ad.
Ads that simply show a cover and a couple of quotes
are called institutional ads and the only good they do is to flash
your cover. They do not call for any action on the reader's part.
Think of the real estate ads where a real estate agent has his
picture and a blurb about how many millions of dollars of homes he's
sold this month. Who cares? So what? He's saying, "I'm here, I'm a
big shot, hand over your money." The other type of ad is a direct
response ad and it requires the customer to do something. I t could
be a coupon, a write-in offer, a contest, etc.
12. Sell your
Let me clarify. Your
back-end is the residual part of your business. Don't be surprised
if you lose money promoting your first book, but you should be able
to make it up on future books.
With future books, tell readers about your
back-list. Send them to used bookstores to look for what's no longer
If they collect all your back-list, then they're
more likely to buy new the minute your new book hits the shelves.
Your next book may not be out for another 3 months, but by the time
it comes out, they've been reading your old stuff and they're dying
It would be even better if your publisher could
offer your backlist and an 800 number in the back of your book.
Okay, those are the basic elements that suit any
promo plan, and really for any business. You won't find these
written exactly like this in my newest book, but you'll see how
these key elements are used again and again and in some very
© 1996 by Lorna Tedder
Dr. Lorna Tedder is an award-winning, best-selling author who
routinely shares her writing and marketing expertise at national
writers' conferences, online, and through her writing guides. Her
non-fiction guides for writers include BOOK PROMOTION FOR THE
SHAMELESS, BOOK PROMOTION SAVVY, and RECLAIMING THE MAGIC: A
WRITER'S GUIDE TO SUCCESS. All three books are available at