Pretty much everyone has heard the story of how the late E. Lynn Harris promoted and sold his first book, INVISIBLE LIFE. He quit his sales and marketing position with IBM, sat down and wrote the book. He had it published and then sat around with them in a storage unit, waiting for the world to clamor for his story. When that didn’t happen, he loaded his car trunk with copies and went out into his neighborhood.
In the process of getting to know his neighborhood, Harris visited endless beauty shops, restaurants and snack shops, along with every Mom and Pop grocery he could find, and accomplished several things along the way. First, he established himself as an earnest writer with a genuine story to tell. Secondly, he met people, who told people, who bought his book, and then referred it to other people. And, he ultimately sold so many books that he was approached by a major publisher, and the rest (as they say) is history.
Harris did not start out looking to publicize himself. Instead, he set about branding his voice and his subject. Every stop he made on the way to selling more than a million copies spoke to his writing and his topic, and left readers waiting for the next book in the process. The lesson here is clear – every time you write an article, short story, a review, or sign into a website, you need to sign off with your tagline. Put it on your business cards and use it on all of your printed book-related handout materials.
What’s a tagline? It is the signature you will use for everything you write. It should contain your name, your book title, your email address, and your website.
And now that you have a signature, take another page from Mr. Harris’ book and get to know your neighborhood.
Within sixty (60) days of your book release, you should be acquainted with ALL of the independent booksellers in your community and have your signage and/or bookmarks in each of their stores. Independent booksellers will be more likely than larger chain stores to allow you to place books in their stores, and allow you to come into the store for signings. Or, at least they will be if they know about you.
Getting to know your bookseller will take more than a form letter. Send the letter, but also take the time to call and make an appointment to go by the store – it helps to put your face with your request. Once you have the chance to go to the store, be ready to talk about your book – briefly. Have definite answers ready regarding book length, cost, and availability. They will also want to know about returns, so be sure to have a plan already in place.
Similarly, you will need to sit down and make a list of all the independent and public radio and television stations in your area. Review their schedules and locate the names of the hosts and producers, then contact them to find out what you need to do to appear on their programs. And remember that while an email may be nice, it will not take the place of a more personal telephone call and follow up appointment. Your book is depending on your ability to fill your signing and appearance calendar.
When you are invited to appear, remember to be a gracious guest. Bring copies of your book, or at least the cover if the book is not available. Bring copies of all your promotional material and answer all questions fully. ALWAYS leave contact information, and even if you are not scheduled this time, make it clear that you can always be contacted for future events and programs.