Despite all our gadgets and all our attempts at organization, the world is complicated. And the more we pile on, the worse it gets. And, unless you have your own publicity team, writing and releasing a book only adds to the pile.
Want an example? Doing a web search for “How to Market Your Book” just produced 972 million results. That’s just crazy…and complicated. How do you know which one will have the best advice? How many sites all have the same information? How do you keep your head from exploding?
By keeping it simple.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT SIMPLE
Yes, you can Tweet and Facebook your pants off (please no selfies, ew!), but in the noise of social media, your voice, even if it is heard, may be ignored. Tell me honestly, how many books have you bought because the author said “Buy my book” on Twitter (or something similar)? My answer is one, and only because the author’s book description sounded like my favorite genre (Ancient Roman historical fiction).
That’s one book out of the hundreds of authors I get “my book” tweets from every single damn day. I’m not saying not to use Twitter or your favorite social media. They can bring people to your website and this can help with sales. But it is bloody time consuming…unless you get one of those ‘bots that post the same thing over and over for you (and if you think people don’t notice that they’re getting the same lame tweets over and over, you are sadly mistaken and you are annoying your followers).
SO WHAT WORKS?
What works for one person won’t always work for you (but keep reading this post anyway).
I have tried many forms of marketing advice that many people have said produced great results. This included KDP promos, Goodreads giveaways (good for getting reviews, not so great for sales), creating Smashword coupons, Twitter, Google+ and sending out emails to my mailing list. But sadly, these resulted in a very tiny uptick in sales.
What did get my sales moving was probably the most simple, almost old-school simple method of getting the word out.
Walking around in a sandwich board? No, although that does give me an idea…
The biggest sales boosts I’ve seen when actively promoting my books has been soon after sending out press releases.
PRESS RELEASES? REALLY?
Yes, press releases. They’re not just for news agents. Well, actually they are, because your book release IS news to someone (besides yourself).
But first, you have to write your press release…
Remember a few weeks ago when I had you write your super awesome book description? You can use the short description as part of your press release, so dig it out and start writing.
WRITING THE PRESS RELEASE
There are many sites that give you the formula for writing press releases, but here’s the basics…
- You need a title. Most sites advise using something catchy and clever and “newsy.” I find that a bit gimmicky and simply use NEW BOOK RELEASE: Book Title. After all, your book title should be catchy and clever and draw people in. After all, that’s why you chose it as your book title.
- You need contact info. After the title include your name, phone number and email address as well as the date you’re sending the release.
- You need an introductory paragraph. That 30-(ish) word blurb you wrote for your book description will work great here. This paragraph needs to hook people in and get them to keep reading.
- You need body paragraphs that describe your book. For this, take portions of your short description and work them in. You should also include a short quote from yourself about the motivation behind writing the book. If you have room, include a review or two.
- You need to let them know where your book is for sale. Don’t list every single place. List the major places where your book is sold such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ITunes and indicate if the book is in print and/or e-book format. You can also direct people to your website for more information in this paragraph
- You need the press release to be one page long or less and have ZERO spelling or grammar errors. Use those self-editing skills!
The team at Duolit has a great Press Release Template here that can help you out (plus many other free goodies for writers).
WHAT TO DO WITH THE PRESS RELEASE
Once you have your press release, now what?
You send it out, duh.
There are quite a few free press release services. For some reason these get poo-poo-ed by some people, but for those of us cheapskates I think they’re great. Here are a few of my favorites…
MORE PLACES = MORE EXPOSURE
But that’s only a few places. Where else should you send your press release? Think about your book. If it’s non-fiction, what organizations or magazines (local and national) might be interested in the topic?
If it’s fiction, what’s the genre? There are plenty of book clubs that focus on a specific genre such as horror. If you write historical fiction, why not send your press release to historical societies for the era/location in which your book is set.
Take at least 30 minutes to just jot down every single place that comes to mind. And don’t forget your own local media – newspapers, radio, morning programs, etc.
For example, with Going Native, which is focused on native plants and protecting habitat I decided to send my press releases to native plant society, habitat protection organizations, gardening magazines and even native plant nurseries.
THE EMAIL PRESS RELEASE…USE YOUR RESEARCH SKILLS & MANNERS
Now, when you send your release off to specific organizations, take the time to look up the website and search for a human to send your release to. Nothing is worse than just blanketing a bunch of places with a generic email that contains your press release.
Look through the contact information and the staff information for the name of the director, president, CEO, whatever. If the place has a newsletter, find the contact info for the editor as well.
Send your press release directly to the head honcho, then in the CC field add the editor and perhaps the generic contact email address given on the website (try to find two people to put in the CC field since head honchos tend to be busy. This helps ensure SOMEONE will see your email, just don’t spam the place by sending the email to every single person in the organization who has an email address listed).
As a subject, simply put PRESS RELEASE: Book Title
In the body of the email, say something! Don’t just copy and paste your press release. Begin with “Dear Mr. SoAndSo.” You only need to address the head honcho, the underlings will understand. If you absolutely cannot find a name, just say “Hello” instead and continue with the email (avoid using “To Whom it May Concern.” It sounds stuffy and impersonal).
Next. write just a couple sentences about why you’re sending him the press release and apologize if the email is unwanted…
“I found the I Love Plants listing in the Garden Lover’s Guide and thought, because of your work with native plants, that you might be interested in receiving this press release. If not, sorry for the intrusion and thank you for your time.”
After this paste your press release, DO NOT send it as an attachment. Few people are brave enough to open attachments.
DOES IT REALLY WORK?
I’ve only scratched the surface of the 150 places I found to send my press release for Going Native to and I’ve already had one phone interview, several offers to include the book in the organizations’ next newsletter or on their website, and a request to write an article for the North American Native Plant Society’s newsletter. Because the newsletters will reach many more people than I could ever dream of contacting, I’m essentially getting free advertising to a wide audience for only the cost of a simple email.
Simple is SO good.