Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ruthless Self-Promotion

On Monday evening, I took a class at Grub Street (local creative writing center) called "The Bestselling Author's Guide to Ruthless Self-Promotion," taught by Jenna Blum. Why does Jenna know what she's talking about? Because her debut novel, Those Who Save Us, was published by Harcourt in 2004; four years later, in October 2007, it jumped onto the New York Times paperback bestseller list, and then it stayed there for over a year. The woman hustled.

Now, I'm not going to give away everything I learned in the (3 hour!) class, but I am going to share one big idea: the book business card/postcard. This is something that I firmly believe any writer can do, no matter how shy, no matter how much they think that selling the book isn't their job. Get little business cards or postcards (I like VistaPrint for their low cost and ease of uploading images) with your book cover on it, and whatever other information you think is important -- author contact info, your blog url, the book's publisher and release date -- and hand them out like Tic-Tacs. Today's post over at Pimp My Novel discusses the importance of face time and suggests that authors go make themselves known to their local bookstore proprietors at the very least. I realize that some authors are reclusive enough that even this seems like a big deal. But imagine this:

You go to your local bookstore. You ask to talk to someone in purchasing. You hand them a postcard and say, "I'm a local author, and I've got this book coming out soon. I wanted you to know about it, and I'd be thrilled to sign any stock you might have coming in." If you're more social, I'm sure you can do more, like perhaps asking about doing a reading, but I have to think that even the most retiring wallflower can hand out a card with a picture of a pretty book on it.

"But I'm not published yet," you say. "What good does this information do me?" Well, I'm not published, but I made myself some "writer" business cards with my name and blog address on them. I handed them out at the class on Monday to the other students and to the instructor (although I now know to keep a lot more of them on me at all times). And, I made postcards (100 for free at VistaPrint) just for kicks with a cover that a friend designed for me. No, it won't be the final cover. Heck, it might not even be the final title. But when I get an agent, I'm going to send them to my friends to let them know that I wrote a book, and that it might eventually hit the shelves someday. And then they can eventually take my postcards to their local bookstores...

Writers, how do you feel about self-promotion? Do you have any plans for marketing your book, either before or after it comes out? Share!

ETA: there's some kind of hive mind thing going on today. There's also a self-promotion post over at The Swivet.


  1. Self promotion is terrifying to me, but I think you are right. I could do the business card thing. And I think it's absolutely necessary to promote yourself these days.

  2. Yes! Yes! Yes! Couldn't agree more and in fact have been collecting postcards that I see for similar purposes for JUST THIS REASON.

    Yes to Vista Print! So easy and so cheap. My plan is absolutely to get some printed, and then ask local businesses that perhaps cater to women (being that I write women's fiction) and ask to leave them there by the cash register.

    Also, in your own neighborhood, mail out postcards -- you know the addresses by looking at the numbers and knowing the street. Always have these on hand so when anyone asks you about your book, you can whip one out.

    This is absolutely a must and I definitely agree with the blog address on materials, too.

    I also plan to have several signing and book parties with friends in order to spread the word. With appetizers and wine.

  3. I've found that used bookstores are often the best to work with. They are much more supportive of the non-megastar authors...most of them are VERY avid readers themselves. If you write romance especially, you'll get a ton of support from them.

  4. My blog is my biggest pre-book self-promotion thing I've got going. As much as possible, I try to make it similar to my books, so you know that if you like my blog, you'll enjoy reading the books. I think a lot of people don't maximize their blogs, and it's an awesome FREE way to start some buzz. Of course, you have to eventually branch out from there, but it's a good way to start!