Ten Marketing Tips for Authors --- an Undercover Agent's Hit List

When Charlie Spillers started campaigning for his book, Confessions of an Undercover Agent: Adventures, Close Calls, and the Toll of a Double Life, we knew immediately we had a remarkable author on our hands. He learned like lightning, was a self-starter, kept us informed, and kept on conquering. We thought it would be a help to all first-time authors for Charlie to write about what he learned.

10 Marketing Tips for Authors

            Marketing a book is not about the book—it’s about people: potential readers, bookstore owners and managers, members of civic organizations, and the media.

            During the past nine months I have done more than seventy book events in three states, and many newspaper, radio and TV interviews. Those didn’t occur on their own.

            Marketing a book is the personal responsibility of an author. Although the publisher may have a marketing and publicity department, they are busy with other books and authors and can’t concentrate solely on your book. Only you can do that. Your primary tools are personal appearances at book signings, and doing media interviews. 

            The publisher and bookstores will arrange some book talks and signings. You should consider that the minimum and seek opportunities to arrange additional events that will increase the popularity of your book and generate sales. For me and my book, that meant doing these things.

            1. Bookstores. Identify other bookstores and contact them to arrange book events. For example, my publisher had never scheduled events for one small bookstore in a small town. I contacted the store and about fifty people attended the book talk and signing. That led to an invitation to do a book talk to a large senior citizens group. When store owners and managers become aware of your offers to do book signings they will place book orders. Those book sales likely would have been missed had you not pursued them.

            2. Support bookstores by signing stock. I regularly check with bookstores and sign their stock. And before going on a trip I’ll check with the bookstores along the route and offer to stop by and sign stock. While on vacation in Florida I contacted bookstores and offered to sign stock.  That prompted two stores to order book shipments. Autographed books help sales and bookstores appreciate that kind of author support.

            3. Arrange talks to groups and civic clubs. I spent many hours researching civic clubs around the state and in adjoining states.  Most clubs, especially Rotary Clubs, are always looking for speakers. I usually email the president or other officer and offer to speak. I include a brief bio, an image of the book cover and an author photo. I also mention any personal connection to the town, such as having lived there while growing up. If any stories in the book pertain to the area, I’ll point that out.

            4. Reach out to the media for coverage of events. When a signing is scheduled for a book store, I’ll ask the owner if he or she has media contacts that will publicize the event. I also offer to do interviews with newspapers, radio stations and TV stations. I research radio, TV and newspapers in the area and sometimes make direct contact, usually by email. As a result of those efforts I’ve done many media interviews that would not have otherwise occurred.

            5. Arrange book talks at libraries. Most have monthly books and lunch programs. I send an email offering to do a book talk. Libraries usually allow the author or a bookstore to sell books at the event. Even though I may have books I usually try to arrange bookstores to cover the library events. That has two advantages—more sales for the stores and the stores can handle credit card purchases. Libraries usually publicize the event through their Facebook page and with an article in the local newspaper.

            6.  Generate turnout for events. Get out word about book signings through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, radio, newspaper, TV and emails to friends and contacts. Prior to a book event I will email and text friends, acquaintances and contacts in the area to let them know I will be doing a book talk. Instead of sending group messages, I message each individual. Facebook has been my biggest platform in getting word out about events, and fortunately many friends share the announcements on their FB page.

            7. Share information about the popularity of the book. I did this when my book became the #1 New Release on Amazon, when it was repeatedly on the weekly top 10 bestselling list or was recognized in some other way. Even small recognition helps. When I stop by Barnes & Nobles stores to sign stock the staff always mentions that the book is selling well. I sometimes mention that on FB. When readers know the book is popular, that news confirms their opinion of it and their desire to buy it.

            8. At book talks at clubs and libraries pass around a couple copies of the book. People will be more willing to stand in line after the talk to buy the book if they have had an opportunity to hold it and look through it. It requires a leap of faith to stand in line to buy it, especially when they haven’t even seen it.

            9. Make book events special. I want readers to feel like they have something special and therefore I take time to write meaningful inscriptions in books. Following book signings and talks I often post photos on social media and mention the names of some of the people who attended.

            10. Coordinate events and media with the publisher’s marketing and publicity departments.

            Finally, enjoy yourself at book events.  My greatest pleasure in being an author is being able to meet people, make new friends, and visit with old friends.