So here you are. You have your book. It’s in your hands. It’s on sale online. But now what? Where are the loads of people? Where is your critical acclaim? Where is your award?
Ahh, yes. You’ve come upon the existential dread of publishing. The crème de la crème of publishing woes. How can you market this book that you love? Behold: the ultimate guide to marketing will help you out.
Get comfortable with promotion
The biggest mistake new authors make is that they forget to talk about themselves as authors.
When someone asks what you do, don’t mention your day job. Instead, talk about your work as a poet.
Take a note from our interview with Lauren Camp, who mentioned that it takes 7 interactions with someone before they purchase. So that means you have to be in front of people. A lot. And to do that, you have to get used to—or get comfortable with—being in that spotlight. Here are some ways to get comfortable.
To make sure the big day is more exciting than scary, there are a few things you should do to get your marketing efforts ready to roll:
Sign up on Goodreads. It’s a great place to go to follow up with your audience. Get signed up on there, add your book once it’s live, and whenever someone buys a copy of your book, see if they’re able to provide a review on Goodreads. (And by “see if they’re able to…” I mean remind them to do that).
Canva is a great place to develop marketing materials. You can sign up and use it to create social media images or create collages of your book.
MFP is a great company that provides contracts in case you want to create products related to your book.
Your first 10K Readers has lovely information on how you can grow an audience.
Poetry Publishing Kit has lists of places that review poetry collections, tips on how to get readings set up, and help on getting some marketing materials together.
When you’re done all that, do all this…
Craft your elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a type of script that helps you explain what your book is about. And you should be able to share it for the length of time that you’re in an elevator. This basically helps you from freezing up when you have to, ya know, talk about your work!
To help, let’s run through some scenarios…
THE MARKETING PITCH
Person 1: What do you do?
Person 2: I actually just released a book called Dovetail Down the House, which is a book about woman who falls in love with a man that isn’t real. I have a bunch of copies for sale if you’re into it.
Person 1: Oh cool! I’d love to buy one.
THE SNEAK PITCH
Person 1: What are you getting up to today?
Person 2: I’m going to promote my book, Priest Snakes, which is a sci-fi novel about snakes that double as Priests on Thursdays and terrorize a town. Do you like sci-fi?
THE RECIPROCATED PITCH
Person 1: Would you like to buy some cupcakes?
Person 2: Absolutely! I’ll buy 3.
Person 1: Thanks!
Person 2: You’re welcome! I’m actually looking for a quick favor: I released a book today called Chicken Nuggets in the Wild. It’s a young adult novel about chicken nuggets that fall in love with nature. Would you be interested in buying a copy?
Person 1: Sure!
Person 1: I wish! I am on a spending moratorium.
Person 2: Good for you! Here’s a postcard with details about the book. Feel free to share it with a friend if you’re able to. Thanks for the cupcakes!
THE ONLINE PITCH
Facebook Group: HALP THREAD. SHARE WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH
Your Post: Friends! I know a lot of you love poetry collections, so I wanted to see if any of you could help me spread the word. I just published TINY ANGELS a book of 25 haiku-prayers for young children. Do you know any mothers that are looking for poetry prayers for their 2-5 year olds? Would you be able to share this work with a them today?
EXAMPLE EMAIL PITCHES
Example Email to Bookstore:
I noticed you have a lovely reading series, and as a local poet, I wanted to join in on the fun. Are you looking for a featured reader on ? If so, please let me know. My book, _____ , is about to debut, and I’d be honored to read at ____.
Example General Pitch
I love what you’re doing with ____, and because of your audience’s interest in _____ I think they’ll be interested in my debut collection of poems , which is about _____. I’d love to connect with you and see if we can collaborate in the near future. Let me know if you have some time to chat on Tuesday!
Set up a newsletter
You might be surprised to find that people are really excited to hear about (and buy!) your book, but if you don’t give people a way to follow along, they won’t.
Send infrequent newsletters that sound like you. Remember that most people will want to hear from you, but they are getting a lot of emails every day, so only send them emails when it’s most important—announce that the book is live, share events, and share content that these people will care about.
Create a newsletter that introduces people to you, your book, and where they can buy it
Create an inspirational newsletter with ideas semi-related to your book
Share events and readings
Tiny Letter is a free, customizable newsletter that’s super minimal and easy to use. This is great for people who don’t want to mess around with difficult newsletter platforms. You can add email addresses and send out automated emails.
MailChimp has a bit more flexibility and more robust features, but with that flexibility comes some challenges: the interface is great to use if you’re tech savvy, and you can track open rates, automate emails, and segment users to send specific emails to only specific users.
Join (and listen to) online readings
Normally, I’d suggest that you find a great in-person reading to attend, but Promotion in the Time of COVID calls for exceptional creativity. Here are some online reading series you’ll want to explore.
YCA has some slams you’ll want to check out online
Zoom readings at The Philly Pigeon
Online open mics at The Bowery
Poetry London is keeping poetry alive during COVID with online readings
Desperate Literature often has online readings
Liminal Spaces has a cool online series
Hidden Timber has a small press reading series! Huzzah!
UGH COVID has a bank of amazing readings from new and established poets. Wee.
See what the big boys are doing
Follow along with your favorite magazines, journals, and presses and see what sort of emails they send out. Remember you’ll want to
Describe what your book is about
Share what people say about it
Drop a link to your book
Share details on what you’re up to
Create a press kit
Your press kit should have the following:
An image of the book
A blurb describing what the book is about
Quotes from reviewers, readers, or magazines about your book
A link to buy
Details about the book (size, price, etc.)
Author photo and bio (or multiple author photos and bio options)
Do one thing for your book every day
Share a pitch
Share the cover with someone you love
Talk about your book in a group
Email a reviewer
Email a literary podcast
Promoting your work might feel like it’s outside of your comfort zone, but you can still promote your own way. So take it slow and easy, do the things that make you feel comfortable talking about and sharing your work, and ask us any questions you have!