On the last Thursday of the month, we round up off-the-wall book marketing ideas and serendipitous book promotion success stories that have worked for ALLi members. We hope these posts inspire you to try some of these ideas for yourself – and if you have more to add, please send them in for next month, or add them as comments to the foot of the post.
1) Wear something memorable
If going to a big writing event or conference, I find wearing a hat helpful for getting noticed, especially when at an event with lots of people or when speaking on a panel. I heard someone say after a conference panel session recently “I want to talk to the lady in the red hat”. I've even added “fond of berets” to my Twitter profile, and it's effectively turning into a bit of branding. Historical novelist Helen Hollick even has a specific author hat that she wears in her publicity pictures, and people recognise her straight away at events. While not everyone likes hats, there may be other items of remarkable clothing that you can make a bit of a trademark. I'll leave you to think up your own ideas on that one!
2) Chat up strangers on a train
I don't know whether or not he'd specifically trained her (groan) for this, but 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.
In a similar vein, I recently had a phone call from the landlord of a pub in a part of the country in which my husband was spending a couple of days with his best friend touring in our camper van. The landlord's opening gambit: “I don't know what his name was, but your husband was in here last night, he says you're the person I need to speak to about how to sell self-published books.”
Moral: keep your nearest and dearest informed about your books, because you never know when they might get the chance to be your ambassadors.
3) Use your car as an advertising vehicle
Leave your book or promotional material on public view as a conversation starter. Leaving the Cheltenham Authors Alliance meeting last month, I 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. (Alan had just joined our group.) It's a striking cover, and the rest of his car was immaculate, so my eye went straight to his poster. A helpful subliminal message was that he has a very smart car, so not only did it make an attractive backdrop for the poster, it suggested high sales! (Note to self: must tidy car.)
4) Pitch books to non-bookstores
Jump aboard the new trend for non-book shops to cherry-pick and display a few books that match the lifestyle they're selling to customers. Think laterally about your readers – where would they shop? What kind of specialist shops would they go into? For example, US novelist Karen Myers has been very successful selling her fox-hunting novels through hunting supplies stores. 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.
5) Find other places your target reader might shop
Irish author Lorna Sixsmith, who writes books about being a farmer's wife, I contacted a henparty online shop (www.henparty.ie). “They are now stocking my books (just ordered another twenty of each one), so it must be doing okay,,” she reports. “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.”
6) (Book)mark your territory
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!” There's definitely still a place for low-tech solutions in the modern author's marketing armoury!
7) Take up offers from volunteers
English children's author Julie Day says “My author client is also a children's author and takes his grandchildren to school now and then. He has offered to take postcards from me promoting my books to the school and hand them out to the parents who are interested.” Word of mouth recommendation – the best kind of marketing there is!
8) Run joint online events with other authors
Another English children's author, Chris Casburn, reports “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.” There's only one word for that: wow! Chris is kindly going to write a guest post giving more details of how to set up and run an online promotional event like that.