Luckily, I attended an SCBWI conference this past weekend and a few of the sessions focused on---ta da!---marketing! The sessions were really enlightening and it helped me feel more comfortable about promoting any books I may (hopefully) publish in the future.
Onto what I learned!
1.) Be creative. Be very, very, creative.
Author/Illustrator Brian Lies spent an entire hour on how he marketed his NYT Bestselling picture book, Bats at the Beach. Now, I'm not a picture book writer but Brian's suggestions can be applied across genres: be the best advocate for your book, reach out to local publications, etc. One particular piece of advice really stuck out to me...
Be creative! Even if you think it's crazy, you should entertain the idea at least.
Case in point, Brian's wife came up with the idea of decking out their car with images from his books. Brian thought she was craaaaazy but you know what? Their "bat car" totally brought in foot traffic for Brian's book signings!
2.) Start marketing now.
At the conference authors' panel, all four of the authors mentioned how important it is to market your book before it gets published. We're talking three, four, five months prior. Their explanation? You want to help build buzz around your book to generate excitement.
And so, all authors should have some sort of web presence, whether it's a static website or a blog/Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr combo. We need to make it very easy for readers and reviewers to find us.
Speaking of blogs, one of the authors mentioned that she felt blogs are "on the out," mostly because there are so many of them now. Still, as a blogger myself, I'd encourage writers to delve into blogging if it's something they're interested in and willing to invest in. After all, I've met some fantastic friends through blogging and I expect them to buy 30 copies of my book, thus propelling me onto the NYT Bestsellers List.
Kidding, kidding! All joking aside, blogging may not be a surefire tool to garner a ton of book sales, but it can be a great way to meet your peers and for general word of mouth.
3.) Reach out to unconventional sources.
When I hear the word marketing, my mind drifts to stuff like book signings, blog tours, and promotional materials like bookmarks that I can give to my mom. But the authors' panel helped to show me how important it is to think outside of the box when it comes to finding your audience.
For example, YA author Amy White reached out to local arboretums because her novel Forget-Her-Nots focuses heavily on flowers. On that same note, my friend Jessica Spotswood has promoted her book Born Wicked through her alma mater by participating in an alumni panel and getting featured in the school's magazine. (Jess didn't attend the conference. I'm just using her as one of my examples!)
I know it's a cliched phrase but I'll say it again: think outside of the box when it comes to marketing your book. Not only should we reach out to local schools and publications, we should also try to find niches to broaden our audience, whether it's through alumni networks or the Rotary Club or the local Trekkies group. (Hey, I write sci-fi. Trekkies would like my books, right? Maybe?)
Anyway, I'm still a total newbie when it comes to marketing but I'm really glad that there are a lot of different ways to promote a book---and not all of them are scary!
Although you won't find me trying to peddle my book door-to-door... I'd rather have my teeth pulled.