One aspect of publishing many struggle with is marketing and promotion. It’s hard to know how to put you and your beautiful new book out there. Here, Rochelle Melander shares some tips and strategies to get you focused, build a team, and launch your book into the world.
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Congratulations to Anitha Kuppuswamy, winner of a limited edition art print and signed bookplate from Helen Wu!
Marketing Your Book by Rochelle Melander
Some authors lament the pressure publishers put on them to market their books. They say, “It didn’t used to be this way.”
I published my first book in the late 90s, and I’m here to tell you: authors have always had to market their own books. But things have changed. The cuts at publishing houses—fewer staff to market more books—has put more pressure on authors. Social media makes marketing more transparent. Agents and editors can evaluate your platform before they buy your book. For authors who are new, not well-known, or publishing with a small house—marketing your own book is essential.
Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing is my 12thpublished book and my first book for the children’s market. The book tells the stories of people who changed the world through writing and presents writing exercises to help children do the same thing. It connects to my established platform as a writing coach—but I knew that to market the book, I would need to connect with a new audience.
Mightier Than the Sword debuted as #1 new release from Amazon and within months had sold out of its first printing. Here’s how you can use my strategies to market your book.
Create a website. Since 2001, I’ve had a website for my business, Write Now! Coach. But websites work best when they have a singular focus. People come to Write Now! Coach to read my blog or look for a book coach. I worried that adding children’s book author to the mix might confuse visitors. I asked my website designer to make a special website for my children’s writing career.
Look at your current website: will it work to market your book? If so, how can you update it to highlight your new release? If not, create a simple website to promote your book.
Pro Tip: Make promoting you easy for influencers: include a page with a downloadable photo, bio, press release, and other resource information. Don’t forget to include contact information: I’ve often given up on potential blog guests because I cannot figure out how to contact them.
Define and expand your platform. When writers toss around the word platform, they usually mean expanding their Twitter or Instagram following. But truly, your platform is anyone who pays attention to you online or offline. List everyone you know and connect with who might be interested in your book (don’t forget local educators, librarians, and booksellers). Then, research people who could be influencers for your book. Are there groups you could join (like SCBWI and 12×12)? How can you build relationships with them online or offline?
Invite blurb writers. I’m not sure that seeing a big-name writer quip “Thrilling” about a book sells it, but it doesn’t hurt. Work with your publisher to develop a list of potential blurb writers. Think about the people you know who readers respect and admire. Then ask. (Confession: This was one of the scariest parts of the process for me. I got through it by bribing myself with chocolate.)
Create a launch team. My publisher recommended that I compile a list of influencers who could share about the book on social media, write reviews online, and request it from their local library. Remember the list you made of people who might be interested in your book? Dig that out and use it to develop this list. Remember, these people don’t have to be super influencers—they just need to be readers who will love and celebrate your book online and offline.
Join a promotion group. Through 12×12, I met Adria Karlsson and together we created a debut group, New Books for Kids. We developed a website, built a social media presence, and promoted each other’s books. We’ve written group blog posts and shared each other’s successes online. If you can’t form a group, find a few friends who have releases coming out and figure out how you can help each other. I also wrote blog posts with two authors who had anthologies featuring changemakers to promote our books, Rachel Sarah (Girl Warriors) and Aileen Weintraub (We’ve Got Game).
Do a blog tour. Even before COVID, blog tours supplemented traditional book tours. When my National Novel Writing Month book, Write-A-Thon came out in 2011, I paid someone to set up a blog tour for me. This time, I did it myself. I scoured the internet for blogs that featured books like mine and contacted them. Of the 80 or so queries I sent, I landed about 20 gigs.
Create a spreadsheet of blogs and podcasts that feature guest posts, reviews, and author interviews. Develop a query letter template. (I created three: pitching guest posts, pitching reviews, and pitching guest interviews.)
Pro Tip. It helps to pitch specific blog topic ideas. I made a list of general ideas. After researching each blog, I crafted and pitched ideas that fit with their audience.
Make and share promo materials. I developed an activity packet for my book and asked the publisher to lay it out for me. (They offer it for free on their website.) I asked my publisher to design bookmarks, which I had printed. I leave them at bookstores and coffee shops and use them as business cards. (People tell me that they’ve held onto my previous bookmarks for years—so I count this as a sound investment.) I also ordered 500 postcards. All summer, I spent evenings writing notes to bookstores, museums, and libraries around the country who I hoped might carry my book. (Here’s where to find a list of bookstores: https://www.newpages.com/independent-bookstores) What promo materials will help you promote your book?
Plan a launch event. I invited my friend middle-grade author Jane Kelley to interview me for the book launch. Because my book came out in the middle of COVID, we did this online. Plan a launch that will celebrate you and market your book. Boost your launch by inviting a local organization to cosponsor the event with you. Before the event, they promote your book to their market. At the event, they get a few moments to talk about their work.
What have you done to promote your books?
Don’t forget to leave a comment below to get in on the giveaway for a 30-minute consult with Rochelle! AND we’d love if you’d share one of your favorite practices or marketing strategies, too! (Winner announced 5/27/22)
Rochelle Melander wrote her first book at seven and has published 11 books for adults. Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing is her debut book for children. Mightier has won the CYBILS Award for Middle Grade Nonfiction and the Council for Wisconsin Writers’ Tofte/Wright Children’s Literary Award. She’s a professional certified coach, an artist educator and the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for young people. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and blogs at writenowcoach.com and rochellemelander.com