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Spend a little time around published authors and you’re certain to hear this common lament: Regardless of how you publish, it’s tough to get your book noticed. Once the launch window passes—generally within three months (or less) of the book’s release, reader and publisher interest wanes.
Authors are a tenacious bunch, committed to seeing a project through to its finish, drafting and revising and revising again. So it’s no surprise that we don’t give up on our books once they’ve launched, no matter how tough the going gets. We want a shelf life of more than three months for our books. There are readers out there who’d love to connect with our work—if only they could find it amid all the noise of new releases and celebrity titles.
In a desperate effort to get their books noticed, far too many authors throw good money after bad: Self-funded author tours in second-rate venues where only a handful of people show up for signings; expensive ads to the wrong demographic; for-hire social media campaigns that amount to little more than shouting into the wind.
It doesn’t have to be that way. During a delightful weekend with Susan McBeth of Adventures by the Book, we chatted about the many ways that published authors can promote their books long past the launch. Here, a few ideas that won’t break the bank:
Ticketed Book Events: Team with an event planner for a ticketed event designed a target audience eager to hear about you and your work. If your work is of real merit and you’re a lively speaker, the event planner will be able to set ticket prices in a way that covers her efforts. The benefit to you: book sales at such events are typically much higher than at plain-Jane bookstore signings.
Fundraisers: If your book is themed toward a cause that matters deeply to you, connect with a nonprofit devoted to the cause. If your book is of merit and you’ve got an engaging program, team up for a fundraising event in which you provide the program and donate a percentage of the book sales. (Click here to see what author Marivi Soliven did.
Annual Event: In 2010, I launched a simple plan through 49 Writers, a nonprofit I co-founded to support the artistic efforts of Alaska authors. We designated the first week in October (conveniently timed to coincide with Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend deposits) as Alaska Book Week, to remind readers everywhere about the incredible books written by Alaskans and about Alaska. That year and every year since, the Governor has issued a formal proclamation designating the first week in October as Alaska Book Week. And each year, authors are invited to complete a simple participation form in which they can express their interest in addressing audiences about their books. To complete this form costs nothing but a minute or two of the author’s time. The payoff: the author joins forces with other Alaska authors in a weeklong celebration of their books. Why not join forces with other authors to create an annual event to celebrate books like yours?
Collaborative Blog: Blog tours for your book can be tedious to organize and carry out, and most bloggers are only interested in your books when they’re brand new. As for your own blog—well, it takes time to build a strong readership, and in the meantime you may feel as though you’re shouting into the wind. But if you join forces with other authors and offer them opportunities to showcase their good work, everyone benefits from the increased readership. Through the well-read 49 Writers blog, we offer a Spotlight on Alaska Books feature, where Alaska authors can share their books, old and new. We also offer Alaska Shorts, a venue for authors to publish their creative work (or an excerpt from a longer project). And of course, we’re always interested in guest posts that are relevant to our readership. A collaborative online presence expands everyone’s reach and shows readers that you’re actively engaged with the literary community.
Before you utter another complaint about how hard it is to get your work noticed, make sure you’ve considered these opportunities to engage with readers. The only cost is your time - and not much of that!
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored sixteen books. Her most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; What Every Author Should Know, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and promotion; and Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier.