Thursday, July 19, 2007

Book Promotion...Part One

I've been promoting my books and myself since 2002 when my first book came out, so what have I learned? Well, first the negative...

One of the mantras one hears from publishers is that advertising a book in newspapers, magazines, on the radio, or on the air does nothing but waste money. After all, who ever heard of a person buying something they saw advertised...? The problem is, of course, that the publishers know this to be utterly false. They spend plenty of money on print advertisements when they have a potential bestseller on their hands. Frankly, how else are consumers to know what is out there? They don't generally read Publisher's Weekly or Library Journal. They definitely do read newspapers and non-trade specific magazines. Yes, I could travel the country going from door to door introducing myself personally, but have you any idea how many people in this country would be terrified by the sight of a Puerto Rican on their doorstep asking for a little of their time to talk about murder?

They say a certain number of impressions must be made upon a potential customer before they are remember you. Some say as little as three. I think it's higher like seven or ten. Still, the thing of advertising (especially when it comes to books since there are so many out there) is that it helps to create those impressions. Sure reviews do that for free, but how many reviews can you get? How many is a potential customer likely to read?

Now for some positive. Remember the image of the Puerto Rican on the doorstep? It turns out this is a way to promote sales. Not the doorstep, per se, but the local library and bookstores. (Churches or other public spaces may also have programs where authors can come in to speak depending on the nature of your book, etc.)

I spoke at the DeKalb Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system last night. There were about a dozen people, maybe fifteen. Had a great time. The interaction was lively. We laughed a good deal. I got to read precisely one page of my work. The conversation- their questions - is what drove the hour and a half. It went by quickly and I feel they got to learn what they wanted to about the book business and about me. Sold seven books. Won't make me rich, but it is about a 50% sell through rate. If every event got me that rate, I'd be very happy with my sales. So would my publishers... (Thanks Zeslie! Keep at it, Nicole! Thanks for the support, Ray! See you in the movies, Chris!)

Fielded a lot of questions about The Concrete Maze. Didn't have a single copy, but I gave out coverflats and told people about Amazon and about talking to their local independent. (Not sure there is a local store in East New York...) Anyway, this personal connection with people who love books, works. Not in-your-face-buy-my-book selling, just conversation, teaching, letting people know your book is out there and it might be right for them. I was also pushing Dope by Sara Gran last night. (Pun intended...)

Anyway, more about what works and what doesn't later.