..can be a full-time occupation. The big publishers employ publicists, I worked with a number of them on the Clapham Literary Festival recently, they were knowledgeable, personable ( and oh so young ) and there are freelance publicists for hire too ( at about £2,000 a month ). But, if you’re an independent, you’re almost certainly doing it yourself. That’s not to say authors with the big publishers don’t do it – they are often contractually obliged to do so.
Signings, book clubs, promotional sales of printed and ‘e’ books, especially on on-line book sites. I have written before about my own experiences in How not to promote a book.. . The one common denominator of the online sites, from the giant Bookbub to the much smaller askDavid, is that your book must be heavily discounted or free. You can find a long list of these sites on Readers in the Know. The sites will advertise books in the normal way, but you will have to pay for the ads in the normal way too.
Promotional book sites which will promote your full-price books for free are very few and far between. This week I was contacted by Scott Mullins, who, with a group of like-minded individuals, is about to launch a new book promotion site, called Book Swag, which will do just that. Scott, who writes himself, but has yet to publish, already runs a site, thisiswriting.com which discusses the writing world, offers reviews, author interviews etc. so he is fully aware of the travails of the independently published author. You can read the full discussion with Scott here.
In terms of print book promotion in book shops, an independent has several hurdles to cross.
Objective one Get your book(s) on to the central buying lists of the major book shops. In the absence of a publicist you will have to try and do this for yourself, though the good news is that the web-sites of these companies give lots of advice on how to do so. Please note, a trading relationship with a main distributor or wholesaler will be necessary at this point ( I use Gardners, I have found them very helpful ).
Objective two. Assuming your book(s) are on the list you can then approach individual branches. Store managers have a certain amount of autonomy in respect of the ‘independent’ books they choose to carry, but you will probably have to offer them a minimum 40% discount and sale or return terms. It was at this point that I decided not to pursue this avenue for The Story Bazaar. It would entail a fairly large print run, storage of the books and a deposit with your distributor of several thousand pounds. This is why lots of independents focus solely on ‘e’ books.
Even if you choose to proceed with this, you’ll be hard-pressed to create demand without additional investment or contacts. Your book will usually be displayed on a standard bookshelf, spine out. If you want your book(s) to be on the table at the entrance to the store or as ‘Staff Pick’ you’ll have to compete financially with the big publishers. Most independents cannot.
Objective three. What you can still do, as long as you are on the central list, is pursue a relationship with branches local to you. It doesn’t hurt to seek out and meet the managers of your local Waterstones and W.H.Smiths. Then you might suggest doing some promotional work with them. Offer to do signings, attend reader’s club nights and contribute to the shop’s events. Book shops may allow you to supply your own books for such events if you give them a percentage of any sales, especially if you are already listed on their on-line outlets. If you use Smashwords as an online distributor, as I do, this gets you on to the W.H.Smith’s site ( though when writing this article I went on that site to check and could not find my books, I’m discussing this with Smashwords ). You need to register separately to get on to Waterstones.com. If your events are successful the bookshop is more likely to promote your books without charge.