Jonathan Kellerman's latest book is being released with ads that include graphics, hype and sizzle. Here's some news: yours won't be.
Authors learn early on that these days nobody promotes a book much except the author. To be fair, many publishers try. You get an announcement in the proper publications, but it's one among hundreds for that month. You get review copies sent out and maybe some follow-up, but nobody has the time to chat up reviewers and sell them on choosing a particular book. If you're lucky you get a great cover that attracts the readers' attention. Other than that, you decide what will best sell your book. So what works? I can't give any sure-fire methods, but here are some suggestions.
Bookmarks or something similar. Some use postcards, some buttons, some business cards. Understand that you need something to hand out wherever you go (and also where you don't go) so people walk away with your information. If they decide later to look at it, you've done what you set out to do. It's best if the object has another purpose, which is why bookmarks are popular. Yes, everyone gives them out, but people like them and use them.
Personal contact works, at least it does if you can be personable. Librarians and booksellers receive ads every day, and there isn't much reason to notice a particular book. But if you stop by it makes more of an impression, and you become someone they "know" as opposed to a sheet of print. Of course you're going to wait until the place isn't swamped with people. You're going to keep it short and businesslike. And you're going to try to get to the manager, not the part-time college student chatting up her boyfriend on the phone. (Watch it, though. I once assumed I had a college student when I was actually speaking to the manager, who wants to be a writer. We had a great chat, and I"m booked for a signing there.)
Repeated contact is necessary. The world is a busy place, and we don't remember everything the first time around. I like to drop of my initial sell-sheet, wait a week or so, and then go back with a follow-up. Not a "Did you buy it yet?" but more of an addition. "Oh, by the way, here's a discount from my publisher if you book a signing." Now they've seen me twice AND they have a chance at a discount. These don't have to all be personal visits, but at least one is good. Make sure you get a name so you can contact the person who "knows" you.
Promoting means making it easy to get the book as well as making the book known. Bookmarks, sell-sheets, and business cards should help the receiver find the book in whatever way is easiest for him. At public events I hand out bookmarks that say my book is available on amazon.com. To librarians and booksellers, of course, I give the ISBN and other ordering info for those in the book biz.
There's more, of course, much more. I'll make a list and come back to this subject in future posts.