Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Joan Price: What I've Learned About Book Publicity Since Wasting $1,000

My friend Joan Price shared with me an article she wrote for the American Society of Journalists and Authors about online marketing. She thought that members of my writers club might benefit from this and she allowed me to share this with others as long as I kept her words and her links intact.

The only changes I made was to make some of her links into hyperlinks for this blog post.



What I've Learned About Book Publicity Since Wasting $1,000
By Joan Price

When Seal Press published my book, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, at the beginning of 2006, the small publisher could only allot $1,000 for a publicity budget. I had been invited to speak at woman-friendly sex shops in the Midwest and Canada -- I live in California -- and I thought, what a perfect way to get my publicity and book sales rolling!

It wasn't. Although I got some good newspaper publicity at several of the cities I visited, attendance at my events was pitiful, and sales were underwhelming. I returned home knowing I had wasted Seal's $1,000 publicity budget.

Seal’s publicist continued to assist me with her admirable skill and a portion of her time for the first few months after the book’s release. The Seal team explained that our goal was to position me as an expert on senior sexuality rather than just promote the book itself. The book would only be “new” for three months, but my credibility as an interview source would make me the go-to “senior sexpert” for months or years. This proved to be true, and I think it applies to all of us who write nonfiction. At three years post-publication, I’m still interviewed regularly on a variety of aging and/or sexuality topics, and each time my Amazon sales and blog traffic spike.

I've become an eager student of book publicity and author self-promotion, reading the most recent books (because they give full attention to online opportunities) and attending conference sessions. I'm convinced that self-promotion in this new world has to be targeted at the Internet first. That’s the fastest, easiest, and most efficient and far-reaching way to get in front of readers, and it doesn’t cost a thing… except, of course, time, at least a few hours a week.

Here are some tips from my experience and that of other ASJA authors that can help you jumpstart your own book publicity and keep it alive for years.

1. Aim your efforts at pumping up your online presence. Have an attractive, professional looking website for the important information about you, your book, and particularly how readers can benefit from your expertise. Also create a dynamic blog filled with compelling information on your topic. Don’t fall into the seductive trap of using it for random ramblings about this and that – stay on topic, and make your blog the place your readers will want to keep visiting because the quality of information drives them there.

2. Be sure your blog is topical to attract media, and make it easy for media to find and contact you. When ABC Nightline was seeking an expert on senior sexual health, they Googled the topic and found a blog entry where my readers and I discussed this controversial topic in detail. This led to my appearance on the show and in fact I was shown blogging and reading readers’ comments, my book strategically placed by my computer.

3. Find the other experts in your field and treat them as your valued colleagues and allies, not your competition. When I find an expert in an area of senior sexuality that would interest my blog readers, I ask for an interview, include a photo and bio, and link to the person’s website or blog.

4. Review other books on your topic on your blog. When I hear about a book that might interest my readers, I request a review copy (publicists are eager to provide review copies for active, on-topic bloggers, I’ve discovered), blog about the book, send a friendly note to the author with a link. Frequently this leads to a link to my blog from the author’s website, or a reciprocal review. Even when it doesn’t, my blog becomes a better and more credible resource for my readers because I’m not just promoting my own book.

5. Read other blogs and websites on your topic, and contribute thoughtful comments. I find most bloggers welcome comments and don’t mind that I identify myself with my book title and blog URL, as long as my comments are specific to their topic and beneficial to readers.

6. Increase readership of your blog by finding major sites that already attract your potential readers (in my case, http://www.SuddenlySenior.com and http://www.ELDR.com) and offer them a column or the opportunity to co-publish your blog. Be sure they agree that you retain all rights to your content, and each entry they publish will carry your bio and byline and link back to you.

7. Subscribe to HARO (Help a Reporter Out, http://www.helpareporter.com ), a free service that emails summaries of reporter needs to publicists and experts.

8. Subscribe to several Google Alerts : your own name, your book title, and your topic and its variations. You’ll get emails with links to any online mention of whatever words you selected. You’ll find out, for example, when an interview with you was syndicated in another newspaper, or when your book was reviewed by a freelancer, or when someone blogged about your topic (when that happens, do #5 above).

9. Even if your book release was long ago, let your publisher’s publicists know whenever you score any publicity. They’ll be grateful, and might be open to small requests from you, like continuing to fill review copy requests so these don’t have to come out of the books you’ve purchased.

10. Read books about book promotion, particularly those written or updated in the last few years so that they cover online strategies adequately. Here are some that have helped me particularly and are filled with Post-Its for future use:

a. Penny C. Sansevieri http://www.amarketingexpert.com , Red Hot Internet Publicity: An Insider’s Guide to Marketing Your Book on the Internet. Indispensable guide to making your website and blog work most effectively to attract customers and sell your book.

b. Patrice-Anne Rutledge, http://www.websavvywriter.com , The Web-Savvy Writer: Book Promotion with a High-Tech Twist . Whether you’re just starting with Web promotion or you think you know it all, you’ll find suggestions you can put into action immediately.

c. Sandra Beckwith http://www.buildbookbuzz.com, Build Book Buzz Publicity Forms & Templates workbook. This eBook gives you templates for do-it-yourself publicity: press releases, tip sheets, virtual book tour, and much more.

d. John Kremer http://www.bookmarket.com, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, 6th ed. Although this 700-page book has only 80 pages specifically about online marketing, it is so full of helpful information that you’ll find plenty of tips that apply to your book.

e. M.J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy, How to Publish and Promote Online . Although the authors both insist that this 2001 book is outdated, I found plenty of marvelous strategies that I hadn’t seen elsewhere.

More tips for online publicity from ASJA authors:

· Tina Tessina (http://www.tinatessina.com) gets good results by listing with PRleads ($100/month) and ProfNet, which have led to “a whole lot of press,” several paid columns, and free PR by answering questions on Yahoo!Personals dating site, and being a Redbook Love Network Expert. Tina has a huge online presence, including her blog, website, advice columns, psychotherapy and author listings, Amazon Connect, Facebook, and LinkedIn. She recommends several books that have helped her develop her promotion strategy: Author 101 by Rick Fishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman; The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson; and Blogwild! by Andy Wibbels.

· Jean Fain (http://www.jeanfain.com ) reports that her YouTube videos, especially her "Why A Twinkie?" video and a press release about it to her favorite editors got her coverage in her local newspapers, including the The Boston Globe , which then got syndicated nationwide. “From that, my audio CD sales increased, and I had to start a waiting list for my private psychotherapy practice,” says Jean. “And The Twinkie video keeps on giving. The Globe is making a video about my very interesting job as a hypnotherapist and including footage from the Twinkie video, which I expect will do more of the same to my burgeoning business.”


Joan Price (http://www.joanprice.com/, email joan@joanprice.com) is the author of Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty and The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book: 300+ quick and easy exercises you can do whenever you want! Joan would be really happy if you’d visit her blog at http://www.betterthanieverexpected.blogspot.com and comment on any topic that interests you. (Yes, of course you may mention your book title and link back to your own blog or website.)