Written by A Guest Author October 24th, 2019

Three Unusual Ways to Market Your Books

By Phil Bowie

If you’ve exhausted all the usual ways to promote your books—having a nice-looking website, presenting an energetic social media presence, taking part in blog tours, seeking reviews, giving talks to civic and writers’ groups, doing traditional bookstore signings, and so on, here are three easy low- or no-cost unusual promotions that have worked well for me and can be effective for you, too.   

One:  Libraries are, of course, big book buyers. My four-novel suspense series is set in North Carolina, so I downloaded a list of NC libraries with addresses and librarian names, used my Publisher program to make up an attractive 5” x 7” postcard with color thumbnails of the titles, a few condensed reviews, and a brief appeal, had 100 of them printed on glossy stock at Staples for minimal cost, and mailed them all over the state at the cheap postcard rate.

If you aren’t comfortable with creating graphics, you could instead compose a brief but appealing one-page letter to do the same job.

My local library, for example, has 10 of my books in circulation through its branches, each book helping to spread my name and serving as a no-cost ongoing ad to multiple targeted readers, and some of them will buy new offerings in the series.

Two:  Another good way to target readers is through book exchanges. Country Inns, for example, have small libraries in their hotels. The books are each labeled with the company logo and a note to take the book, enjoy it, and return it to some other hotel in the chain down the road. I downloaded a list of such hotels in NC and adjacent states, selected those close to beaches or other attractions where vacationing guests are most likely to be looking for leisure reads, and sent each hotel a free signed book at low media postal rates, asking each manager by name to please include it in their library, again serving as ongoing comparatively low-cost advertising to multiple readers, prompting them to buy other books in the series.

Another little-known book exchange network exits in marinas everywhere. Many retired or vacationing boaters are readers, and they often like to borrow a book and leave a book at a marina exchange. I’ve either left free signed books in my travels, with brief notes inside to please pass them on, or mailed books to marina managers by name.

Three:  One of the most effective promotions I’ve done is to set up my own unusual outlets. Much of the action in my series takes place in the western North Carolina mountains. A popular independent restaurant there for residents and tourists has a tiny gift shop attached. Several years ago, I talked the owner into trying a few of my books. She had not stocked any books at all and was initially reluctant, but I promised her a money-back deal for any that did not sell and provided a free stand-up 8½” x 11” promotional display, which I created on my computer. (Clear plastic stands are available at office supply stores.) She and members of her staff liked the books, so they began recommending them to guests. When she places an order, I in turn order books from the publisher at my generous author discount, sign them, and send them on to her at low media postal rates. To date, she has sold over 600 books and we’ve both made a nice profit. The big benefit here is my books have only minimal competition among just a few titles by other regional authors she has since included. Other mountain outlets I’ve set up include a gift shop offering high quality Cherokee art and craft items, also with little competition from other books and enthusiastic help from store personnel.

In my eastern NC hometown, a productive outlet has been an old-time hardware/general store that’s a popular stop for tourists. I supplied a free promotional display, and again I’m up against only minimal competition.

Other unlikely but lucrative outlets have been regional farm-and-craft markets. I can rent a space with a table in my hometown market for just sixteen dollars a day, and the browsing traffic is heavy, especially during tourist season. To make my titles pop, I invested in a black tablecloth and skirt from a party supply. I create my own promotional displays. It’s an enjoyable and profitable way to spend a Saturday. I’ve developed a simple brief, cordial spiel that begins with, “Do you like to read suspense?” If the answer is yes, I hand them a book and let them read the cover blurb. Often enough, they’ll buy. I then invite each buyer to provide an e-mail address in a notebook on my table for future book announcements.

You’ve been creative in crafting your work. Be creative in promoting and marketing it.

Bio: Phil Bowie is a lifelong writer with 300 articles and short stories published in magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, and Yankee. He has four novels out in a suspense series and a collection of short stories, including an award-winner begun by Stephen King. Visit him at www.philbowie.com


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