So now you have it. That book you’ve lived with, sweated over, and suffered birth pangs for is ready for the world. What now?
Many writers give little thought to the selling part of their job, meaning that when their books are finally finished, they must consider how to market them and it’s a daunting task. This applies to traditionally published, self-published and e-books.
Of course all your friends and family want a copy because they know and love you. There may even be a few who don’t but they buy a copy for more nefarious purposes, like proving you don’t know what you’re doing! So you sell a couple of hundred books. Now what do you do?
10 Ways to Find Readers
(I’m going to use historical fiction here but you can easily apply these ideas to your own work.)
- Find the history buffs in your area and offer to speak to them. I have been lucky enough to speak to local historical societies, re-enactors, and history groups. I always ask if I can sell books there and they are delighted to accommodate me. Plus, speaking to people who love your subject area is just thrilling for their insightful questions and general love of the topic.
- Tell everyone you meet about your new book. People who have known me for years and those I’ve just met tell me how proud they are to know a published author. When I have my hair done my stylist buys a copy of my book. My financial adviser emailed me asking for a copy and prices if he buys enough to give to all of his clients for a Christmas gift. My neighbor, who is an acquaintance, not really a friend, comes to buy two books and, once she sees the quality, buys four for Christmas gifts.
- Always have books with you, easily accessible, to show if people ask. If they don’t buy give them a bookmark (mine are awesome!) with your website on so they can find you. This also lets them see what a professional you are, an especially important part of your image with those who’ve known you for ever as well as those who have just met you.
- Talk to people. On a bus trip to Toronto I chatted with a woman who turned out to be a librarian. Of course I gave her a bookmark. A couple of months later she emailed me and engaged me to speak to their library book club and even paid me to come. All because we chatted on the bus.
- Set up book store signings wherever you can. I agreed to do one in a store an hour from my home and it was disappointing for its lack of promotion and subsequent dearth of attendees. There were four people listening to my reading: 3 were related to me and 1 was a stranger. Well, that stranger, a writer herself, and I chatted a lot and she wants to host me at her writing group. It’s not always about the sales.
- Learn to know what about your book will be interesting to the people you’re talking to. My famous faux pas was speaking to a men’s group with my novel cover on screen much of the time and never telling them that The Loyalist’s Wife is both Lucy’s and John’s story. I needed to tell them about the structure of alternating chapters with John off fighting the war and Lucy on her own trying to hold on to their land. I sure wish I could do that talk over again!
- Have book launches. So far I’ve had one for this novel but I know of authors who have them in various cities over the space of a year to launch their latest work. The important thing is to make them open to the public, not just your friends and family, and you’ll get all sorts of people interested in the event. I had guest readers and I read myself for a total of about 25 minutes. The rest of the time was for chatting, drinking coffee, eating cake, and book signing. It was great fun. Many people said to me, “I’ve never been to a book launch before!”
- Hand out free copies where they will do the most good. I donated a copy to a coffee pub’s library shelf because their whole focus is on creating a place for customers to sip coffee, chat, read, borrow books that are on the shelf, and just relax. I loved the ambiance and if I lived closer, I’d be there a lot. I also attended a Friday night function at a nearby church and donated books for their draw. The hostess kindly asked me to stand and tell the hundred women or so about my book. How awesome was that!
- Every day, along with your writing, do a few things to promote your book and yourself. Today, after I finish this blog post and my three pages of The Loyalist’s Luck (book 2 in the series), I’ll be creating a letter for libraries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area here in Ontario. Why that area? My books are about the Loyalists who ultimately settled in Ontario, their continuing ties to the United States, and the forging of two great countries. (Many Loyalists went to Nova Scotia but my books focus on Ontario.)
- Just be open to whatever might come along. It helps if you like people and have spent a lifetime teaching and performing, I’ll grant you, but everyone can do these things. Find your comfort level and work from there.
I’ve listed ten ideas here but how writers attract readers is an unending list, isn’t it? Think of your genre and the events and activities that relate to it. How can you be part of those things? For instance, if you write children’s books, link up to the local library and offer to do an event for children and parents and grandparents.
And if you’re one of those treasured readers of historical fiction, contact authors and tell them what you like about their books. Then ask them to speak to your group. After spending years writing we authors love to get out and talk to people who appreciate our work.