promoting your book

Promoting a Book: It’s a Lot More Like Writing Than You Think

Book publishing workshop at Milton-Union Public Library.
Book publishing workshop at Milton-Union Public Library.

As part of Orange Frazer’s educational outreach, I regularly conduct workshops and sessions on book publishing for aspiring authors. Not surprisingly, a number of their questions revolve around book marketing and promotion. Typically, authors will point out that they don’t enjoy marketing, and that they publish books because they enjoy writing. I can empathize with this. I love writing as well, and book promotion and marketing (after the emotional rollercoaster of writing, editing, and publishing a book) can seem that much more exhausting, intimidating, and frankly, boring. But the more I work to promote and market our own books at OFP, the more I recognize that book promotion is not so unlike writing as we often assume it is: the two are, actually, quite similar.

1. Tell a Story Promoting and marketing a book—like writing—is all about telling a story. People buy products because of compelling narratives. For those who watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, this is particularly poignant. Budweiser won our hearts not because it laid out the facts: Budweiser is a cheaper, more cost-effective beer that provides the same taste quality, value, and availability as its more expensive alternatives. I’d guess no one would be running out the door for a Budweiser after that bore of a message. Instead it told us a story: the story of a puppy and a Clydesdale, of friendship, loyalty, companionship, of the potential for dreams to become reality. They told us a story that we wanted to believe, that made us feel good, that appealed not to our needs, but to our wants.

2. Consumers buy based on wants, not needs This strikes at the second crucial part of book promotion and marketing: forget about what people need and start showing them what they want. Oftentimes, marketers will expound on the needs of consumers: show them why they need this product and then why your product is their best available option. This seems like it will be effective; we assume that our target audience makes logical, fact-based decisions about which products to buy. But think of yourself, and you realize that this is hardly ever the case. While we would like to think we buy based solely on need, we almost exclusively buy products based solely on our wants. Right now I need a new clothes iron, but instead, I bought a pair of overpriced yoga socks. Why? I liked the idea of yoga socks, I liked their bright colors (especially in a winter that seems neverending), and I liked how comfy they looked. An iron, while necessary, did not invoke any of these feelings, and so, I essentially forgot about it.

Similarly, people will not buy your book because they need it. They don’t need it. At all. Book buyers are a niche audience, and they are not reading voraciously because their life depends on it. They read books because they want to, because they want to be involved in your story, swept up in it, transformed by it.

So stop thinking about book promotion like a formula, where well-placed ad + reputable book review + in-store displays + radio interview = bestseller. Start thinking about book promotion like your own writing. Tell your readers a story. Will your book sing them to sleep, remind them of their first love, suspend them breathlessly from chapter to chapter, revolutionize their understanding of the past? Marketing, after all, is plot, with all of the characterization and emotional integrity of a well-written book.

Promoting Your Book at Creative Locations

Bookstores and libraries are usually an author’s go-to for book tours, and rightfully so. These venues are ready and willing to host events, are experienced in scheduling and promoting authors, and draw well-read and curious crowds. But there are a number of other creative locations for book events that authors often don’t consider. Alternative book events can draw niche audiences interested in very specific topics, and they can put a spotlight on the author and his/her expertise.

Here are just a few ideas for alternative book events. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it should help to get your gears turning for your own book project.

Back to Eden: Landscaping with Native PlantsSpecialty stores. Last spring, Orange Frazer Press released Back to Eden: Landscaping with Native Plants, a gardener’s guide to using native plants in home gardens. We knew that we needed a very specific audience for the author’s events: skilled gardeners with an interest in trying new plants that are both native and available or for sale in their region. We also knew that the event host should gain something from holding the event. To that end, we contacted a few of our local garden centers, ones with substantial stocks of native perennials, and asked if they would be interested in hosting a native plants workshop with the author. The response was incredible, and the events ended up being very successful for both the author (who sold a significant number of books) and the garden center host (who sold a significant number of native perennials).


Marie-at-Make-and-Takes-bookRegional fairs and festivals. Book festivals are, of course, one excellent avenue for book-promoting authors, but also consider craft fairs, antique shows, and other niche festivals and conferences. Perhaps you wrote a book on hiking the Appalachian Trail, and there is an outdoors fair at your local REI, or maybe you’ve written a novel set during the Civil War, and there is a Civil War reenactment outside of your city. You can search for fairs, festivals, tradeshows, and conferences through area event centers or through online calendars (your local newspaper, your state’s travel magazine, etc.). Offering to be a guest speaker, panel participant, or workshop host at one of these events will position you for even greater success, giving you the opportunity to sell your book to enthusiastic attendees.



can-a-tech-meetup-change-the-world-video--a5a68b588eClubs, associations, and organizations. Every city has its fair share of private groups—country clubs, craft/hobby meetups, book discussion circles, and the list goes on. Consider contacting relevant groups/clubs in your region, and offer to be a guest speaker at one of their meetings or special events. These groups are often actively seeking out speakers, and most will gladly welcome a free offering. You can put together a short presentation about your particular setting, area of expertise, or topic, and then sell books to attendees at the conclusion. is a great way to start searching for relevant groups.


What creative locations have you used for book or author events?

How to Promote a Book Without a Killer Marketing Budget

Or, Five Free Ways to Promote Your Book Right Now Independent book publishers have long found their niche in creative, bottom-up approaches to book publicity. Without the deep pockets of mega-conglomerates or the advantage of bestsellers to boost marketing budgets, indies have had to find innovative ways to connect with readers. Luckily, this makes independent publishers like Orange Frazer accessible partners to first-time and custom-published authors wondering how to promote a book. We understand and respect the budget limitations of our clients and help them find innovative ways to get their books to readers.

Here are our top five favorite methods for increasing book discoverability, connecting with readers, and increasing sales.

5. Special offers: In an Amazon-dominated world of steep discounts and free shipping, it can be difficult to add value to your offering and still profit on your book sales (and why shouldn’t you, you have spent an incredible amount of time and energy just to make it a reality!). Help direct readers to ideal retail outlets by adding value in any way you can. One of my favorite ideas, which I have seen authors do time and again, is offer signed copies of their book (sometimes even with a personal note) if it is purchased online or in-person through their favorite independent bookseller. Other authors will highlight independent booksellers and their publisher on their blog or website with clickable links to help direct readers to these retail outlets. Others will host an author event or talk at an independent bookseller, and consider the purchased copy of the book from that bookseller a “ticket” to attend. You are only limited by your own creativity on this one!

4. Smart social media: I preface this with “smart” only because the general din surrounding social media how-to articles offers generalized approaches that are rarely fine-tuned enough to be useful. Start with a good idea of your target audience: age, income, geography, reading preferences, hobbies. Be able to draw a picture of your ideal reader and understand the ideal reader’s needs, desires, and pastimes. Now that you know this reader, think about which social media platform he or she is most likely to flock to. Research Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest, and others to learn more about their user demographics. Only tackle what is necessary. Consider what your strengths are, and only commit to social media platforms that you understand and enjoy. You will be ineffective on Twitter if you struggle to write anything in under one hundred and forty characters.

3. Email marketing: There is no excuse not to be using email to your advantage. Authors with effective email marketing campaigns will generate buzz for their books pre-release, promote events and book signings to their readers, encourage participation in giveaways and contests, drive traffic to their blogs and/or websites, and build a personable and open relationship with their readers and followers. Services like Mailchimp make it easy for first-time authors to build lists and create compelling emails—free of charge*.

*Mailchimp services are free as long as you stay below a certain number of subscribers, and then paid packages are tiered based on how many emails subscribers you have.

2. Giveaways: A well-coordinated giveaway can generate publicity, build your email marketing distribution lists, generate Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and build excitement for your release. People love the opportunity to win free books (which is why Goodreads giveaways often generate hundreds, and even thousands, of entries), and a creative and well-executed giveaway can be more than just a giveaway and a lost profit. Third party apps such as Shortstack and Woobox allow you to create fan-gated contests and sweepstakes through Facebook, allowing you to create a custom entry form that requires your giveaway participants to enter their name and email address and like your page before entering. Advertise this custom app with a Facebook ad to generate entries*, and you will build your fanbase and distribution lists while creating “buzz” for your book. Goodreads giveaways are also an excellent opportunity to build name recognition. While you are not able to fan-gate them or garner email addresses for your lists, you are able to put your giveaway in front of hundreds of thousands of active users.

*Facebook advertising does entail its own cost, so skip this step if your budget doesn’t allow it.

1. Author events: Author events are crucial in today’s fractured publicity world where online media is dominated by big ad money and smaller titles and first-time authors struggle to overcome the din of book discoverability online. Events give authors an opportunity to build on their expertise, share their passion, and connect with readers personally and emotionally. Events can be as creative as the author. Orange Frazer authors have had live falcons in attendance, stuffed buzzards, mini-quiches (for sharing and eating), and ten-foot snakes (for not sharing and not eating). They have held events in museums, bookstores, libraries, garden centers, elementary schools, and farmers markets. They have put on reenactments and book signings, illustrating workshops and rooftop parties. They have found one-of-a-kind ways to connect with potential readers, and they have sold books doing it. It should be the closest thing to a circus act you can imagine.

Of course, if you could somehow come upon a bookstore with a giant fishbowl, that would be ideal.

What are your favorite ways to promote your book and connect with readers?

InnerVisions: Grassroots Stories of Truth and HOPE

Jan Thrope, Orange Frazer Press, Orange Frazer Press Custom Publishing The joys of custom book publishing: celebrating author success

One of the greatest joys of custom publishing is watching a book project not only succeed but evolve into an even greater, and more impactful, story. The anecdotes found in InnerVisions: Grassroots Stories of Truth and Hope have spiraled into plays, community gardens, rescues, renovations, senior centers, creative ideas for prison reform, and much, much more. The seedlings of hope sown in Jan Thrope’s reflections have grown into maturity, providing comfort, inspiring passion, and envisioning a stronger and more vibrant Cleveland. And we, as her custom publisher, have had the great pleasure of celebrating with Jan along the way.

The success the book has found nationally (look for it at Book Expo America this weekend!) is just one piece of this puzzle. Last year, her book was awarded the Next Generation Indie Book Award for nonfiction, and this year, her book has been honored as a Nautilus Book Award Silver Medal winner and a National Indie Excellence Award finalist. The book is clearly a testament to the hard work of Jan and her organization, and we are delighted that the message is felt so deeply across the country.

Nautilus Book Awards Silver MedalNational Indie Excellence Award Finalist

Beyond the book: celebrating hope in Cleveland

Perhaps the most fulfilling and heartwarming story in the evolution of her book is to see the resolution of several unsolved tragedies and community struggles. In the centerfold of the book there is a graphic depicting Cleveland’s lost teenagers, three of whom were found this past month after being kidnapped and held captive for over a decade. The Langston Hughes center, boarded up and neglected at the time the book was published, is now a renovated senior center. The boy at the beginning of the book, Rashon—whose real name is Darterius—is now gardening and building a chicken coop for his community. The evolution of hope has been real, measurable, dramatic, and inspiring. For more stories, and to hear the message from Jan herself, check out the Inner Visions blog.

There are books that stay close to your heart for years to come, and this is one that Orange Frazer will continue to celebrate as we watch for Jan’s success and cheer her on. We believe in our custom authors, and we are ever more grateful that we have the relationships with them that we do, that we can partake in their joy.

In her email to us announcing her most recent awards, Jan wrote: “I will forever be grateful to you for helping me bring my photos and words together so that my story could be ‘beautifully told.’ You live up to your mission!”

We believe that authors like Jan Thrope live up to their missions every day.

Author Insider: How to Sell Your Book with Susan Levine

As I’m sure our readers know (because I haven’t been able to stop talking about it for weeks), our newest children’s book, Harriett’s Homecoming: A High-Flying Tour of Cincinnati, comes out next week! The author, Susan Levine, is a marketing powerhouse, and I thought it would be a great resource for our commercial and custom authors alike to hear about her unique promotion tactics. As she will tell you herself, it’s all about personal relationships, so I spent a while on the phone with her this morning gleaning her wisdom. Here is the condensed version:

1. Start with questions: You have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes to understand the audience.  Why do they want my book? How is my book different than any other book they could buy? I knew my audience would be engaged parents and grandparents—people that are taking their kids around the city to see these places. My audience is also librarians and teachers. It is required by state education standards to teach elementary-aged children about Ohio history. This is the perfect book for them—an illustrated children’s picture book about a great Ohio city.

And it’s not just the end consumer—you have to think about the distributors who will move your book along to the customer. Who wants to sell my book? How is this different than any other book they sell? What can I do to get it to them? How can I get them excited about my book? I knew I should approach the highlighted places in the book, and then hone in on specialty book and toy stores. When I was promoting my first book, Packard Takes Flight: A Bird’s Eye View of Columbus, I approached Larson’s Toys and Games in Columbus about carrying it. I stopped in every few weeks, I brought them Graeter’s Ice Cream coupons as a thank-you when they bent over backwards to help me—I built a personal relationship with them. And the result? They have had my book on the counter for over two years now, and they’ve personally sold hundreds of copies.

2. Network: I worked with the places featured in the book for months ahead of time—researching, building relationships, getting permission for inclusion and pictures and history, etc. I will be dropping off a thank-you copy of the book to every single one of these places, asking them to pass it around and tell their friends.

3. Know your seller: Niche markets want something people can’t find many other places. When I am doing a book on a particular city, I will go to every neighborhood in that city and walk through all of the specialty book and gift stores. Once I’ve figured out which one is the best fit for my book, I go in and talk to a manager, explain to them how perfect their store is for my book and pitch it to them to stock it. But, I will only offer it to their store, and I make it clear that they would be the exclusive seller in that neighborhood.  It then becomes mutually beneficial.

And once you have your book stocked somewhere you can’t just stop there. Specialty book and gift shops don’t operate like your franchised Barnes & Noble: they don’t have books on automatic replenishment. You have to go in every six months and check on your book—do they have enough copies, do they need any more signed, is the book displayed well and correctly? This is where an author has a lot of pull in keeping their book stocked and displayed.

4. Be Assertive: You have to be confident, and you have to be proactive. Talk personally with booksellers, know the Kids’ Lead at your local Barnes & Noble, ask them if they need to place a new order, ask them how to get a staff-pick for your book or how to get better bookshelf placement.

5. Social Media is Powerful: I’m still learning how to optimize social media, but I am learning just how effective it can be. When I was doing Packard Takes Flight, a natural resources/falcon conservancy blog posted about the book and linked to my web store. Within days orders were rolling in online—and these were just from peregrine falcon enthusiasts! Never underestimate what online buzz in a niche industry can do for you.

6. Do Complimentary Programs and Speaking Engagements: Our greatest success with both Packard Takes Flight and Harriett’s Homecoming has been our interactive, engaging, and multi-disciplinary school program. I’ve had so many school librarians who’ve told me it’s the best program they’ve ever been a part of. My favorite was an older librarian who told me: “This is the best author visit we’ve ever seen…and I’ve seen a lot.” And it’s effective because it keeps the kids engaged, learning, and moving.  We talk about architecture, about cities, about falcons, about how books are made. They get to meet Erin, the illustrator, and learn about the artwork and they get to meet the falcon and learn about a native species. It’s really fun and fast-paced, and it moves more books than anything else.

Speaking engagements are also important because they help expose you to your niche audiences. They are never a direct sales pitch, but they enable you to talk about what you’re best at, and you can use your experience and your book as an example. I’ve spoken for the Audubon Society, the Ohio Libraries Conference, the Columbus Historical Society—the list goes on.

7. Make sure you are filling an unmet need with your book: Write a book that fills a need that you are uniquely qualified to fill, and then tell people about it. 

A big thank-you to Susan for her insight!