As an author, your book marketing tool belt is probably bursting at the seams with countless strategies. You’ve set up a mailing list. You’re aware of the importance of reader reviews. You’re running ads on BookBub. You’ve got it all covered, right?
Well, maybe not.
For this post, the team at Reedsy reached out to their freelance book marketing professionals with one request: offbeat, unorthodox marketing tips that can help an author stand out in unique ways and generate buzz for a book launch. These book launch ideas might not be for everyone, but they demonstrate that in order to succeed, authors should think outside the box.
1. Make up a national holiday
Every single day is some kind of holiday these days. If it’s not National Cupcake Day, it’s probably something like National Give-Your-Dog-a-Shampoo Day. Behind almost all of these “holidays,” you can bet there’s a PR campaign at work.
Author and marketer Liz Dubelman prides herself on creating unique and creative social media marketing ideas. When she and Barbara Davilman launched their book What Was I Thinking?, they went ahead and invented a holiday! “Come to Your Senses Day,” as they called it, took place on February 15 — the day after Valentine’s Day — so that “you can get your chocolate and eat it too.”
They then created a YouTube video where they explained the holiday’s history and rituals.
The video didn’t go viral, but then again, it didn’t need to. The buzz they generated secured them a slot on morning television, radio and, — briefly — the #1 spot on the print bestsellers list on Amazon US.
You can also create promotions around existing “holidays” rather than creating a new one, like Debbie Macomber did.
Debbie said, “You can also capitalize on relevant ‘National XYZ Day’ (like ‘National Cupcake Day’ or ‘National Puppies Day’). You can look up what these designated ‘holidays’ are on the National Day Calendar.”
Not every genre or topic will lend itself to a made-up holiday, but generating something curious and unexpected — and creating a timely story — can go a long way in your PR efforts.
2. Create a “real-world” experience to supplement a book
When Mark Leslie Lefebvre, former Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo, launched Haunted Hamilton, he decided to turn his book into a “real-world” experience.
The book launch at the local library included a traditional reading, Q&A, and signing. But to really shore up the number of turnouts, he recruited a local host-walk group to run a tour visiting three haunted spots near the library.
He ended up with a launch attendance of over 100 people, and with a spot on morning TV to talk about the launch!
Now, ghost walks aren’t suitable for 99% of book launches — but that doesn’t mean you can’t organize some activity that will:
- Attract a larger audience to your launch.
- Make it stand out from the “biscuits and wine in plastic cups” crowd.
- Get people excited to read, share, and review the new book.
Lefebvre says, “The concept is adding in real-world three-dimensional experiences associated with the book itself that will draw people in to attend and participate in the event. It can be directly tied in to the book itself, or be more associated with a tangential element associated with the book or the writer.”
3. Use podcasts to promote a new book
Marketing guru Rob Eagar has helped numerous books hit the New York Times bestseller list. For him, “one of the smartest and most underused book marketing ideas is using iTunes to line up author interviews on popular podcasts for free.”
Podcasts have soared in popularity over the past few years. As of February 2018, there are over half a million podcasts on iTunes — and many of them are always looking for fresh guests. And we’re not just talking about book-related podcasts (although there are hundreds exploring topics from writing tips to book reviews and recommendations). Look for shows that fit into your niche.
“Using the iTunes software, it’s easy to locate dozens of popular podcasts that interview fiction and nonfiction authors,” says Eagar. “The interviews typically last 10 to 30 minutes, which is much longer than a standard radio or TV interview.
“Plus, iTunes makes it easy to find the podcaster’s contact information to request interview opportunities without having to pay for an expense publicist.”
Eliot Peper is an indie science fiction and techno thriller novelist (now published by Amazon’s 47North imprint) who has been particularly successful at securing features on relevant tech podcasts. Here are a few examples:
- Craftman’s Founder Episode #38: Eliot Peper on Life’s Unexpected Paths
- Rocketship.fm Episode #150: Your Strategy is Your Story with Eliot Peper
- Techdirt Episode #173: Sci-Fi and Scenario Planning
Bribe Encourage influencers to pay attention
Marquina Iliev-Piselli, an independent author and marketing consultant, recommends her clients mount “Influencer Marketing Campaigns” when they’re about to launch a new book. You can often find influencers by searching Twitter and Instagram for people talking about comparable books or using relevant hashtags.
“There isn’t any magic here,” says Marquina. “It takes time and determination to find people online in a particular niche. First, I’ll have a conversation with the author about the type of people that would be most helpful to their efforts. On Instagram, for example, we find people who are interested in the book topic who have between 5k and 20k followers. We aren’t looking for celebrities but for people who are active on social media and more likely to have time to read and review the book.”
The hard bit, as you might expect, is getting an influencer’s attention. Marquina’s approach involves reaching out to leading influencers in your book’s niche with a gift package containing your book and contact information.
“Last year I was working with therapist Bridget Walker, PhD, on her new release Anxiety Relief for Kids,” says Marquina. “Dr. Walker wanted to get the specific attention of one of her heroes in the therapy space, a woman whom she happened to know loved riding horses. We discussed sending her book along with a handwritten note plus a riding helmet to this individual so she would take notice. We both knew that a true riding enthusiast would have her own special riding helmet, but the goal was to show personal interest and attention to that influential individual — while also getting my client’s book in her hands. The package obviously did its job — and the blogger ended up giving my author an interview.”
Think of the package as a preemptive thank-you gift for their help. Just make sure you tailor your basket to the influencer and your title.
Says Marquina, “Send something unique to the specific individual, and include a personal handwritten message with a very specific ‘ask’ — whether that’s an interview, an Instagram post, or a pull quote for your cover.”
This type of marketing is pretty costly in terms of time investment and putting together personalized packages. The free alternative is to simply pitch influencers by email, but that has a lower chance of success. To control your costs, Marquina recommends narrowing your list of influencers to only two or three. If done right, this tactic can boost buzz for your book launch and build valuable relationships that will benefit your future publications. Despite the cost required to effectively hook influencers, it can be much cheaper than paying for sponsored posts!
5. Use Help a Reporter Out
Marketer Michael Doane recommends going to HARO (Help A Reporter Out) — a service designed to help journalists find stories to cover.
“When you sign up for HARO, you get a daily email,” says Michael. “The email contains a list of topics journalists are looking for. Usually, the list does not say where the request is coming from, but you respond to these requests then hope for a response.”
Sunjay Veda and Danai Balta are the authors of Travels Around the World, a personalized children’s book. When they were looking to promote the holiday editing of that book, Michael says they turned to HARO.
“They were submitting pitches every day and got featured in some small niche publications,” says Michael. “But the biggest win came when they were directly contacted by a rep from The Today Show, who had received one of their pitches.
“They ended up appearing in Steve Greenberg’s Holiday Gift Guide segment of The Today Show — which was, naturally, a great launch pad for the holiday edition.”
It’s free to sign up to HARO and you can yield some great results, as you’ve already seen. Just be warned: You need to have your pitch honed and perfected to within an inch of its life. HARO requests come in once a day, so you want to be ready to answer them as soon as possible. Journalists will likely be getting several responses to their request, so you want yours to be first in their inbox.
Whether you adopt an existing tool or technique to match your needs or create a unique experience for your audience, there are many ways to ensure that your book launch is a rousing success — so long as you plan far enough ahead. So get moving, think outside the box, and make your launch one to remember!
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The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of BookBub.