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50 Ways To Reach Your Readers: Book Promotion Ideas From ALLi Members

Book Expo BEA 2017 IAF LogoThis post is part of Book Expo Indie Author Fringe, an online author conference that showcases the best self-publishing advice and education for authors across the world — harnessing the global reach of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ network. Our self-publishing conference features well-known indie authors and advisors, for 24 sessions over 24-hours, in a one-day extravaganza of self-publishing expertise straight to your email inbox.

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Symbol Indie Author Fringe CircleOn the last Saturday of each month, members of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) share creative, thoughtful, unusual and sometimes plain off-the-wall book marketing tactics that have effective promoted their self-published books on the ALLi blog.

We’ve gathered together the top 50 of the most recent tips to inspire indie authors everywhere. 


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  1. “Have a copy of your book sticking out of your bag,” suggests Sue Johnson. “When you go to the supermarket, choose the longest queue. Usually people get so fidgety they start chatting (providing they’re not focused on their phones). I’ve sold a few books like this.”
  2. Fiona Cameron reports: I did a book signing (one book!) at the car dealer’s when picking up my new car (the salesman’s wife had a copy of my latest book).
  3. ALLi’s children’s author advisor Karen Inglis: “A sash window company just came to quote to upgrade the windows in our house and towards the end of the visit the guy asked me what I did. When I told him, he asked to see my books. He then took photos of them and ordered two of each to be posted and signed for his kids who are home-schooled! In fact he beat me to it when he asked what I did, as I had already planned to ask if he had kids. So the message for all of you children’s authors: make sure you have your books around the house when tradesmen or women call and, if they don’t say anything, ask them if they have kids and see where the conversation goes.”
  4. “My street had a party on Sunday. Got talking to a couple of neighbours. Gave them a few postcards promoting my latest children’s book. One lady said she would hand them out to her gym and look at it online for her granddaughter. The other lady said she would come to the book launch.” Julie Day, British YA author
  5. “My CV includes a mention of my writing. At a job interview last week, two of the three interviewers took an interest in my books.” – Anonymous (to safeguard the author’s current job!)
  6. The wife of Welsh author and ALLi’s technical manager David Penny recently sold copies of his medieval Spanish crime mysteries to American tourists to whom she’d got chatting on a train journey. When they asked what she did for a living, she said “We’re retired, but my husband writes books” and proceeded to give them an enticing summary. “That sounds like just our cup of tea!” came the reply, as they pulled out their ipads to make an online ebook purchase. That was their holiday reading sorted.
  7. Debbie Young: “I keep a copy of one or two of my books in my handbag even when I’m not sure there’ll be a marketing opportunity. I just gave a copy to a fellow guest touring the Ingram plant when we got chatting about what we write, and another to a famous author who was by chance sitting next to me by chance at a story night. I know that was giving rather than selling, but I count it as cheap and useful marketing, as each book only costs a couple of pounds to me.”
  8. Thomas Shepherd, England: “I was sat in near stationery traffic for 4 hours on a bus on the A34 due to nothing more than out of phase lights and people’s inability to roundabouts… I got talking to someone reading a book on her kindle on her Paperwhite. Managed to sell her my then debut novel and preorder my forthcoming book.”
  9. “I’m writing in The British Library in London today. I brought along a copy of Killer’s Cut for legal deposit as the one I had mailed had gone missing in the post. The two women behind the information desk said they loved the look of the book. Could they read it before it went in to legal deposit.” Scottish crime writer Wendy Jones.

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  1. London book designer Rachel Lawston threw car door magnets into the mix, saying “I was once asked to design one of my indie authors to promote their new book and website.” Australian author Ryn Shell agrees: “I used car door magnets for decades. I found them effective.” And Lousie Walters takes it a couple of steps further “I have decals on my car, advertising my forthcoming book. I thought it would be an easy and cheap marketing ploy. I also have flyers with the same design with a quote from the book on the back which I’ll pop in with all my mailings from now on, including Christmas cards.”
  2. Leave your book or promotional material on public view as a conversation starter. Leaving the Cheltenham Authors Alliance meeting last month, we spotted local author Alan Moyes’ poster for his book on the back shelf of his car, carefully placed on the pavement side where people would walk past and see it.

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  1. “I have my books on sale at a local art gallery. I rely on people being intimidated into buying something, and £8.99 is a lot less than the price of the art.” Jane Davis
  2. This month Irish author Lorna Sixmith, who writes books about being a farmer’s wife: “I’ve started by contacting a number of farm shops that sell gifts as well as food. This started in November, and, to date, my books are stocked in seven farm shops and by the Scottish charity, RSABI. I supply on a sale or return basis and I pay postage if they take a full box (30 books) and try the books for at least 3 months. So far, two stockists have ordered a second box with one book selling particularly.”
  3. “I went into a local convenience store and, just on a whim, asked if they would sell my book. They said ‘sure’ and put it near the counter! All I could think was why didn’t I ask before?” Anne Richardson American author of Celebrating Grandmothers
  4. “Obviously, as we all know, it’s really hard getting books into bookshops, but I have been trying other businesses. A lovely dress shop in Shoreham, Apres Chocolat‬, is selling Who’d Have Thought It? very successfully,  mostly because the owner and her staff loved it. Also Shh!, the wonderful women’s sex shop and emporium in Hoxton is selling it, and we are going to do an event there on dating in mid-life. I have also got Southwold Summer Theatre selling it, mostly because they’re mentioned in the novel.”  Christine Webber
  5. Kathy Joyce did a signing in the foyer of Waitrose, her local supermarket, one Saturday morning and sold more there than at any other signing despite the title misleading one or two possible customers. A comment of ‘I make my own’ could be forgiven given my Lit Fiction novel being entitled Thicker Than Soup.
  6. “My local ‘gift and all sorts of lovelinesses’ shop stocks my books and actively promote them too.” Anne Stormont
  7. Debbie Young: “I’ve sold my Christmas collection of short stories via gift shops before, and I was thrilled to spot my stories of love and marriage, Marry in Haste, not only in a wedding-themed window display at Kondi Gifts in Bristol, but also prominently displayed on a table inside. Strong covers can work as handy accessories for window-dressers. Ask yourself what shop window your books would look at home in.”
  8. Karen Myers: “My first series has a tie in with the foxhunting crowd, and I sold far more books in the local shops that cater to those people than in standard bookshops.”
  9. Shelley Wilson: “I did really well last year when I signed up for a string of craft fairs. At each event I was the only author and that was my USP! It helps to think outside the box when marketing your novels.”
  10. Wendy Jones, Scotland: “I was part of a craft fair in a local shopping mall. I was at the bottom of the escalator between floors. I dressed up my book table with a purple tablecloth, a hangman’s noose, some syringes and some bullets. As people came down the escalator they were looking at my table. I, dressed in my christmas jumper and a santa hat, said This is your chance to get your crime books signed by a smiling Santa. It worked as it made people laugh, and most of them came over and bought books.”
  11. “We collaborated with Cafe Coffee Day (the Starbucks equivalent in India) to provide in-store branding for the book, have sample copies available for people to browse, as well as provide people a discount code for the book.” Ritesh Kala, India
  12. Elizabeth Ducie, England: “The most successful outlet for my first short story collection was the petrol station on Halden Hill on the A38 in Devon. They put the stand by the till and it sold out very quickly. I reckon it was holiday makers on the way to Cornwall, anticipating wet weather.”
  13. Irish author Lorna Sixsmith: “I contacted a henparty online shop who are now stocking my books (just ordered another twenty of each one), so it must be doing okay. I guess people look for fun gifts that will give a laugh at a hen party, and the price point of a book works too.”

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  1. There’s something exciting about using your books to commit random acts of kindness by quietly leaving them somewhere readers might find them. British novelist Janet Pywell, who lives on the Kentish coast, turned one of her books literally into a beach read: “Last Easter I left twelve copies of my book on the beach and around Whitstable for people to pick up, read and pass on.”
  2. If you’re ever quoting another author on the front of back cover of one of your books, or in the acknowledgements, it’s worth considering sending that author a jpeg of the appropriate image, so they can share it how they think fit. (Plus of course an actual copy of the book would be courteous, so they can physically show people and tell them about your book too – it all helps you reach more readers.
  3. “In one of my novels I had the idea a detective would set his morning routine by listening to the local BBC radio programme. I included the actual presenter and the real programme. Then I sent them a copy and said, “You’re in a book…” Next thing I was being interviewed on BBC Radio. I must admit it all worked out rather well. The host reviewed the book on Amazon and liked it so much I sent her the second in the series as well, which she also mentioned on air. All in all a very good result.” – Ian Andrew, Irish novelist

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  1. ALLi author Russell Phillips, who writes about military technology and history, was on the receiving end of another author’s tactic. “A friend of mine wrote a short story featuring an alternate version of me, as a thank you. Being the narcissist that I am, I shared it on social media.”
  2. Julie Day has flagged up her intention to take advantage of a national event to promote her recently published children’s book about living with Asperger’s Syndrome (which Julie has herself), by tapping into National Autism Awareness Week at the end of March. “I plan to do a library event to raise awareness of it along with my book.”
  3. Wendy Jones: “I approached my local paper to ask if they would like to do a story on me and my unique angle: ex-Army officer turns to a life of crime. They loved the hook, interviewed me and sent a photographer round leading to a full page feature. Sometimes crime does pay. It’s worth thinking outside the box for an angle.”
  4. Lorna Sixsmith, Ireland: My most successful press release was entitled “5 Ways to attract an eligible farmer at the ploughing championships” (which is Ireland’s biggest agric event). The event gets lots of publicity so the journalists were delighted to talk about something humourous and quirky. I was sick of talking about the different types of wellies and how they attract different farmers by the time I was finished!! but it worked – was quoted at length in an article in a national farming paper, got a national radio interview, about 6 local radio interviews from all parts of the country and about 3 local paper features. I was selling the book at the event so it was great.
  5. Crime writer writer J J Franklin: “I invited folk to enter a competition to have their name in my next book by filling in a slip with their name and email and putting in a tin. I started this at my book launch for Echoes of Justice in Waterstones in Stratford-upon-Avon and a few other places. The competition was to have their name in my third book in the DI Matt Turrell series, of which the working title is Moment of Death.”
  6. English children’s author, Chris Casburn: “Our local group of indie authors are running a #‎summerreads promotion on Facebook.  It’s a mix of book promotion and writing tips. I sold 90 books from my Creatures of Chichester series at my last one.”
  7. “My historical novel based on a real journal of a Michigan pioneer woman is sold in two local museums in the area.” Cindy Rinaman Marsch
  8. “I was doing a book signing at a Christmas Fayre. They had Disney characters and Superheros. I took photos of Elsa and Spider-Man with my books and posted on social media.”  Wendy Jones

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  1. Russ Phillips: “My wife got her children’s book mentioned in her employer’s internal newsletter. They’re always looking for stories, and were very happy to give her a mention.”
  2. Derek Murphy, Taiwan: “Pretty easy one: Google your keywords – you’ll probably see one of Goodreads’ lists on page one. Add your book there and get your followers to voted it up. Easy to do and long lasting.”
  3. Christine Nolfi, USA: “I set up a link in Book Funnel for Second Chance Grill (Book 1 Liberty Series; Women’s Fiction). Then I sent out a Goodreads Events invite to 3400 readers offering 200 free copies to celebrate the February arrival of my new Wheaten Terrier. I also linked to a blog post about losing Nala in December, and Lucy’s impending arrival. I’ll hit the 200 download limit today or tomorrow. More importantly (and this is important because I’m between heavy promoting months), I’ve seen a surge in downloads of the other Liberty books in the US, Canada and UK. Equally important, I received a flurry of comments from readers on the GR event page and in private message. Clearly I struck a chord with WF readers. I’ll now expand the promotion to my newsletter this week. Take-aways: 1) People buy from people. The more “human” our author persona, the more readers with whom we’ll connect. Those readers will then remember us–a critical consideration, given the abundance of books available. 2) The best promotions aren’t necessarily the ones that cost money to implement.”
  4. Finnish author Helena Halme’s tweet to local papers in two towns in which one of her novels is set led to a super article in the Helensburgh Advertiser (hundreds of miles from where she lives)
  5. Ann Richardson, an American author living in London, highlighted that she’s landed a great gig that will enable her to subtly plug her book Celebrating Grandmothers – a regular column on a blog that reaches 30,000 subscribers aged 60+. Given that her bio at the end of the piece includes links to both her book and her website, she should be gaining lots of new readers this way.
  6. British novelist Lynne Pardoe, who says “I joined my university alumni association and listed myself as an author of social work fiction.” If you discovered that someone you were at college with was now a published author, wouldn’t you want to know more about her books, and maybe even give one a try? This has to be a low-budget option worth pursuing.

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  1. “My book tells how I traced the origin of a mysterious string of beads. In the book I describe how I commemorated the person who gave them to my grandmother by weaving a new string of beads. A lady in my knitting group read the book and asked me to teach her to head-weave. Next month I’m going well-equipped- loose beads, loom, the original string of beads – and several copies of the book.” – Katrina Kirkwood, from Norwich.
  2. “A few months ago I was having a clear-out before moving from London to Rome. I came across a battered old pair of mountaineering boots I was unlikely to wear again. I write books about mountaineering, so instead of putting them on eBay I decided to run a giveaway on my blog. A few days later I received an email from the winner to say thank you. He was an armchair explorer and said there was no chance of him ever needing the boots, but he did read books about mountaineering and it was the first time he had ever won anything in a competition. The giveaway landed me 100 new sign ups to my mailing list in just a couple of days. Some of them may have been mountaineers who were just after a pair of boots, but nearly all of them are still subscribed, so hopefully most of them are readers too.” – Mark Horrell, British author of non-fiction

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  1. Welsh author Karl Drinkwater: “Put stickers on everything, promoting your books. Particularly on parcels. They may get seen by various people. One of those people could see the sticker and buy the book and become a lifelong fan. So stick them on everything, really. Not the cat though. She doth protest.”
  2. English author Julie Day uses her promotional postcards in a creative manner, such as the following: “When I get round to sending used postage stamps to a charity, I might put in one my postcards as a compliment slip.”
  3. Jay Artale: “I use business cards that have the front cover of my book as the front of the card, and a universal book link on the back of the card. This creates eye-catching brand awareness, and they’re easy to carry around to have on hand to give out or leave on cafe tables.”
  4. “I had already come up with the idea of turning a couple of short festive stories into Christmas cards last year – it’s just about viable to print a slim book for the price of an upmarket greetings card via CreateSpace. But I missed a trick with my wedding-themed book until a reviewer kindly contacted me out of the blue to say she was planning to use Marry in Haste as a wedding card too! It’s already stocked as part of the wedding gift range in a couple of local gift shops, but it’s slim enough and cheap enough (£5/$8) to use as a card too.” Debbie Young
  5. British author John Lynch goes to events wearing a hat and t-shirt that not only had one of his book covers on the front, when he turns round the QR code is on the back.
  6. “I’ve put bookmarks in a few local cafes.” Maggie Christensen, and US author Ky Owen loves the power of the bookmark. “I leave bookmarks at places like my dentist’s office,” he advises. “I’ve sold at least one book that way, which is one more than I’ve sold through Twitter. And if you see me, ask for a bookmark. I always have some with me!”
  7. Helen Kara, England: “When people tweet or email to say they’ve bought one of my books, I offer to post them a signed bookplate for it, free of charge. I commissioned the bookplates from a professional artist and, while I have no way to calculate the return on investment, they seem to go down well. Some people tweet pictures of them, and I’m sure they promote conversation about my books and my work.”

 

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Do you have a book marketing technique to share? Let us know what tactics you use to promote your book.


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4 Responses to 50 Ways To Reach Your Readers: Book Promotion Ideas From ALLi Members

  1. Janice June 4, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

    I am glad to see that I fit in amongst the group using quite a few of these tactics. Thank you for the mishmash of ideas. A few I would have never thought of and can try.

  2. Catherine June 3, 2017 at 11:33 pm #

    Most of the books I self publish are practical metaphysics. Since the hubby and myself are professional psychics, we add a table to our tent at renaissance faires and sell them there

  3. Robinne Weiss June 3, 2017 at 11:22 pm #

    A great list of ideas! I’ve had great luck doing live insect programmes that segue into my MG books (only one of which is entomology based, but all of which use biology). The bugs draw families in, and afterwards the kids BEG for a book from their parents. I’ve had programmes where every single family attending buys a book.

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