‘Proactive promotion’:investing time, not money

I’ve just done an interview with Paul Teague for his forthcoming podcast series about self-publishing and it got me thinking about the challenge which faces all self-published authors – how to get people to notice your book when you haven’t got the budget for promotions that traditional publishers have.

Let’s assume that you have no money to spend on promotion: what can you do at no cost? First, there’s the local newspapers in your area. Every day, or every week, they have papers to fill with local news. They don’t have the staff or the time to sniff out stories of interest to their readers, and you can help by taking your story to them, in a form that they can use with minimum effort. If you have a tame PR person among your acquaintance, get them to show you how to write a press release, and then do one to send out. Alternatively, look at the newspapers and magazines that people who might be interested in your book would be most likely to read, and analyse the articles in there. How long are they, what kind of headline, and content, and style? Write something like this about your book, thinking of a ‘hook’ that might attract the interest first of the editor and then of their readers. Visual stuff helps too. Do you have a picture of yourself holding the book, or talking to a group about it? Is it of good enough quality to go straight into the paper alongside the article you’ve written? If so, send both the piece (with the word count in brackets at the end) and the picture to the features editor with a note explaining who you are, and ask if they could use it. In my experience, they will, and you now have a few hundred words and a picture in your local newspaper for nothing.

What about your local library? They often have readers’ groups, or do special author events. If you write or see the person responsible locally for organising these groups, tell them about your book and what you might enjoy talking about, and see if they’re interested. Don’t expect to be paid for the talk or your travel. This is a ‘loss leader’, but they will promote the event, again with a blurb and a picture around the area and probably online as well, and if you ask they will invite a photographer from the local paper to come and take the picture for publication with a short caption explaining what you were doing, what the book is about. That’s two promotion strategies in one shot, and again it costs you nothing but your time and travel.

Local radio? They need to find newsworthy local stories for hours of air time every day. Check out the presenters online, listen to what they do and then decide which of them and their listeners might be interested in your book. Write, email or call them and be persistent if needs be, without being a pain. Send your chosen person a copy of the book and a summary of its content, and some ideas about what you might talk about. The presenters often have a journalism background, so a well-presented press release would be familiar to them too. Radio is far easier to get access to than television. They might be wary of whether you will come across well on radio, so if you’ve had any prior experience in this field they would find that reassuring. They won’t pay, and might suggest that you go to the nearest studio and have your interview from there. My suggestion would be that you go to where the programmes is being made and have a face to face conversation with the presenter, which comes across far better, and you have then you have actually met the presenter, which will help if you want to go on the programme again with your later books.

All these approaches take time, but without them you may have a great book and no buyers. Doing any of these for the first time may seem difficult or nerve-wracking, but so it is with anything new, and your confidence grows with practice and experience. The second step is so much easier than the first. There’s lots more you can do: this is just a start.

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