Small Press Marketing Tips

This post, by Jim Cox, Editor In Chief of the Midwest Book Review, originally appeared on that site. Note that these tips are also applicable to individual authors. What follows are a wealth of specific hands-on suggestions from a host of small press publishers on promoting and marketing small press titles which I gleaned from the now defunct PMA e-mail list when it served as a premier source of "how to" information for its members. — Jim Cox

1. When arranging book signings, ask store for a list of media contacts, and when talking to media, ask for names of their favorite book stores! — Kathy Guttman

2. Include a separate "review form" with every book you ship. This way your customers are encouraged to send in reviews, which are GREAT for your ad copy. — Scott Bilker

3. Consider setting up a book signing in a local grocery store! To be sure, grocery stores get more foot traffic than book stores. (this may work best for regional or local books. It can depend on the book and the market. ) I once signed 300 copies of a book in 4 hours in a small town local grocery. Not all chain grocery stores will let you do this… depends on the town, the store, etc. But… I’ve seen it work well! — Rod Colvin

4. Don’t be afraid to contact radio stations that have already interviewed you to see if they’d be interested in doing another interview. I have been coming up with interview ideas that go along with the season; for example, my "Top 10 Funny Kid Christmas stories." I have contacted stations that had me on last spring and summer, and most have wanted me to be on again. The interviews are short; only 5-10 minutes. In February I will call back with my "Top 10 List of Funny Kid Stories Involving Love." Then it will be Easter stories, Mother’s Day stories, etc. Many self-publishers can invent some kind of seasonal twist for their books. — Grace Housholder

5. When you have a radio or TV gig organized — call the bookstores in that area tell them when they order 20 copies, you will plug them on the air. — Alvin G. Donovan

6. Offer a free information sheet for anyone that calls your 800# and requests it. I have a new two-sided piece. One side has "Ten Tips for a Better Adoption Trip" and the other "Preparing Siblings that Stay at Home." The tips were culled from my very successful international adoption travel planning workshops. Of course, those that call in for the tip sheets can (hopefully) be converted into sales. — Mary Petertyl

7. Mary, I tried offering a free tip sheet to a TV show audience in hopes that requests would turn into book sales. (Subject was romance.) I got 125 requests and spent $60 just in postage ($.48 Canadian.), after spending 4 straight hours answering and returning phone calls, and writing down addresses. Only two people bought books ($40 total); the rest were just after a freebie. A second mailing brought zero orders.

Now I SELL tip sheets (I have 20+) at $2 each which also covers postage. My most successful is my Writer’s Fortune Cookie Predictions: 42 separately folded messages from a bossy oracle to overcome Writer’s Block. My brochure/order info rides for free. Most are multiple orders which often result in follow-up orders for published articles ($4-$6), special reports ($6-$8), and manuals ($8-$20). I’ve learned that unless I attach a dollar value to my creativity/knowledge it doesn’t seem to be appreciated. It might be better to offer a free tip sheet as a prize only to those who call in with a question or story and talk to you on air. The rest of the listeners can order theirs by mailing you $2. If they’re really keen on the topic they’ll send $2. Just my experience; hope yours is better. — Andrea Reynolds

8. Talk to a new publisher — one-on-one/person-to-person every month, you’ll become invigorated and marketing will begin to take place through some sort of contagious osmosis type process, or if you don’t like that one write an article for a local paper about local small presses (including yours) in your region, state, city. — Steve Semken

9. When you call a bookstore to ask questions or arrange signings they may want to transfer your call. Before they do, find out where you are being transferred. Ask nicely, "To whom will I be speaking?" That way if they screw up and send you to the wrong extension, you’ll know the name of the person you were supposed to speak to and can get back on track again without too much fuss. — Tara Calishain

10. For those of you who have never found out who is linking to your site. This is an easy way to find out the good and the bad. Here’s how: Go to the Alta Vista search engine (Publetariat Editor note: Google works too). Input your URL (Web site address). Alta Vista will then search and report back all the sites it is linked from. For those of you who have embarked on link campaigns, you may be fairly astounded. I was. — Paul J. Krupin

11. Don’t take out display ads in major newspapers. A few weeks ago, my friend took out an ad in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune Book Review section (to the tune of $2142). Six books sold. And his name is recognizable around Chicago. He’s the founder of Oil Express Lube shops, Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, multimillionaire, you name it. These ads don’t cover their costs. — Raimonda Mikatavage

12. I have an author getting 20 to 30 hits a week on her information Web page. I had her add some e-mail hot buttons to the page where a person could ask the author questions about the subject, they don’t have to order. We get early reader feedback, and gather e-mail addresses to approach when her book is ready. I do this on the Web page for my book. — Welmon "Rusty" Walker, Jr.

13. Make yourself newsworthy and seek out media attention as often as appropriate (GuestFinder is a big help with this, by the way). Do a lot of speaking, live and on radio — and promote your appearances. Help others and they will help you. And finally, remember to have fun! — Shel Horowitz

14. When you are doing a book talk or signing leave postcards of your book announcing the date and time you will talk at the bookstore cashier a week or two before the event so they can be put in all bookstore transactions or just picked up for anyone interested. — Pam Terry

15. When you send books to a bookstore send a press release to the newspaper in their town with a short cover letter mentioning that the book(s) are available at (bookstore). — Sue Robishaw

These are just the first 15 in a list of 42 tips…read the rest of the article at Midwest Book Review.