Public Appearances – Show Up to Show Off Your Self-Published Book

“Did you ever feel like the whole world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?” asked comedian George Gobel in 1968. But you’ll be surprised at how relevant that question becomes for your self-published book.

Most self-publishers leave it up to the author to market their book. So, you’ve got to have a plan – a marketing strategy. However, when you’re promoting your book, you don’t want to end up “brown shoes” in a “tuxedo” world; you want an appropriate method of promotion. But where to start?

While a great marketing plan consists of a marketing mix, a good way to get started is by jumping right into the network of public appearances, during which you can connect with your potential audience and pave the way for future success.

Before you start making calls and introducing yourself, think about what kind of public appearances will work best for you when reaching your targeted audience. There’s a great deal to consider, including book signings, readings, speaking engagements, book trade shows, conferences and conventions, book festivals, and television and radio interviews.

What’s your book about, and what groups will be interested? What promotional methods will be most effective? What actions might be less fruitful than others?

The below tips will reveal the most effective methods for staging public events that will not only benefit you and your book.

Setting up Events: Tips for Contacting the Media and Managers

Start on your campaign as soon as possible. There’s no time to lose. The best time to promote your book is the first six months after it becomes available for purchase. It’s recent. It’s hot. And your excitement should rub off on those media outlets you contact. If you wait, media members will quickly move onto the next batch of new titles. So don’t hesitate.

Prepare beforehand. Network and compile lists of contacts. Order business cards, start a Web site and compile a media press kit. Consider purchasing an ISBN and retail channel distribution your book to make it available to other retailers. Most retailers and venues will need your book available through their distributor before they move forward with your event.

When you begin to contact the media and bookstore managers, you should be excited and persistent about your book — it’s understandable — but you should also understand that you will get some refusals. You will have to learn to accept a “no” from the media or a manager. They may not believe you’re a good fit for their venue or program at this time. As frustrating as it is, just thank them for their time and move on to the next. If you work hard and your book’s hype increases, they may come looking for you anyway.

Practice what you are going to say before you pick up the phone or write and edit several e-mail drafts. Remember that this is the first step toward getting your foot in the door. You’ve got to sound intriguing, compelling and enthusiastic, without sounding overwhelming, or worse, like a bully.

When dealing with the media, don’t send anything in that could be conceived as an advertisement, such as the price or ordering information. Only send pricing and ordering information when a professional specifically requests it. Keep and update a clear log of those you’ve contacted, messages left of machines, and the dates of your attempts. If you’ve left several messages on someone’s answering machine with no reply, the person probably isn’t interested.

Always follow up after sending in materials, such as a press release or media kit. When you call, don’t ask the media contact if they received your materials. They receive hundreds of press release and requests each day and the answer will most likely be “no” followed by a “click” as they hang up. Instead, simply explain who you are, that you sent them information about your book and are willing to supply the additional materials needed to write a story, a review or conduct an interview.

Public Events for the DIY Marketing Author

Book Signing Events:

After you’ve successfully arranged your book signing – the most common and recurrent public events for authors – there are a few tips to ensure your event is a success. Like all events you host, you first have to prepare. Promote the signing by putting up posters around the store (with the manager’s permission, of course). Visit the store a day early to introduce yourself to the manager if you’ve not met already. Contact local media in the area and inform them of the event. Add your signing to event calendars and try to coordinate an interview beforehand.

Book signings are not only an excellent way to meet readers face-to-face, but also a great sales opportunity. People are much more likely to buy your book once they’ve met the author. Leaving signed copies of your book behind afterward will help customers remember your name and increase your sales as well.

Book Trade Shows and Book Fairs:

Trade shows and book fairs are large-scale events and generally attract an array of book enthusiasts, including: booksellers, authors, book buyers, book retailers at the regional or national level, libraries, media as well as the general public. These events can connect you to previously untapped networks and allow you to arrange future sales. Hosting a seminar or a panel discussion at book trade will bring you even more coverage, propelling your book into the face of retailers and book store owners.

If you’re not speaking at the event, you can still attend. But make sure to research the event thoroughly before you enroll, weighing both the cost and the potential benefit. Booths at these events can become quite expensive, and you want to be certain before you front the money. Trade shows and fairs are not for every author, but can be a good fit for some, especially at a smaller, local level.

Writers Conferences and Conventions:

Conferences generally attract people and companies from a particular trade or niche, and allow for face-to-face interactions with potential book buyers. Getting a spot speaking at a conference will improve your name recognition and establish your credibility among other writers. Plus, you may receive payment for your services. Book selling opportunities can arise at these events, so it’s a good idea to have books on hand.

Like conferences, conventions reach a niche market and can lead to invitations to other speaking events on a non-writing related topic, depending on the convention.

Book Festivals:

Make a public appearance here and sell your book directly to the public and bookstore managers. Because not as many professional book buyers are present at trade shows or book fairs, you may consider book festivals a better alternative for you. A booth at a book festival is usually less expensive than trade shows and fairs, but still provides an invaluable opportunity for sales and publicity.

Book Readings at Libraries:

Check with local and regional libraries and arrange a reading of your words. Many libraries will allow you to sell your book afterwards, so make sure to have plenty of books on hand. A local library setting can allow you to truly connect with readers and develop an audience.

Book Clubs:

Find book clubs and arrange a special speaking event with their group. You’ll make contact with avid book readers and most likely make a sale. Another way to publicize your book is to simply join a book club. Even if they’re not reading your book as a group, it’s an easy way to let other book lovers know about your book.

T.V. and Radio:

Although this form of media can seem quite intimidating, don’t be shy. Radio programs are often more than willing to hold a phone interview, especially if you are a local author, or have expert advice and opinions on a non-writing topic. Though it can be quite difficult securing a timeslot in a large network, morning T.V. shows often have guest spots available. Don’t overlook local public access channels either. These regional channels offer a unique way to reach an entire community.

Start Locally and Promote your Public Events

By getting out in front of the public eye, you’ll definitely increase your chances for book sale success. Remember to focus only on your targeted audience. Avoid situations where you would undoubtedly feel like “brown shoes” in a “tuxedo” world. Even if you adamantly believe your book will appeal to the masses, concentrate your efforts and you’ll experience better results. Work from small to large, saturating the local market before moving on to state-wide, regional, national or international markets.

Also, as silly as it sounds, you cannot forget to promote your promotional events. Just like your book, if you don’t tell people about your upcoming appearance, nobody will know about it. Manage and update a Web site with your events, sending out e-mails, letters or postcards as reminders.

Only you can ensure that your public events bring great returns on your time and investments.