Let’s say you managed to land that publishing deal, or you’ve successfully self-published your book. One way or another, to get those copies selling you need to market not only the books but yourself.
You can choose for a variety of ways to do this, including hiring someone to help you do the job. You can also do the job yourself – and get it done on a shoestring budget. How do I know this? Because I’ve watched my friend and fellow writers’ group member do it. In fact, as I’ve said before, at this moment he is not participating in Write Nonfiction in November, because he is busy marketing himself and his book all across the country. All by himself, he’s also managed to get himself spots on a PBS special, into national and regional magazines, on panels with other well-known authors, and onto numerous talk shows.
For this reason, I asked Ron Arons, author of The Jews of Sing Sing, to take just a little time out of his busy book tour schedule and tell the readers of Write Nonfiction in November how he markets, or promotes, himself and his book on a budget. He agreed, and his valuable tips follow.
He did, however, leave out one tip: Check your local office supply stores for sales! Every time our writers’ group meets, Ron tells us about something or other that we can get at a vastly reduced price or for free…yes, for free. For example, if you keep you eyes peeled, you can even get 10 two-pocked folders, which you will want to use for your publicity kit (see below), for free at Staples every once in a while. (And, if you are very crafty, you can get 10 in the morning and 10 in the evening…or…well, I won’t give away all of Ron’s secrets.)
Marketing Yourself and Your Book on the Cheap
By Ron Arons
The Jews of Sing Sing
So you want to market yourself and your book, right? But, how do you do so without losing an arm and a leg? Professional book publicists typically charge thousands of dollars. If you have absolutely no time on your hands and have sufficient funds at your disposal, maybe a book publicist is the way to go. However, if you believe, as many do, that it’s difficult to justify the cost of a publicist and/or you think you can do an equally good job of marketing your book for less money, read on…
One of the simplest and least expensive marketing tools is the old fashion business card. I recommend you have these made up long before your book is published. Invariably, office supply stores (e.g. Staples and Office Depot) have discounted offers on the printing of postcards. Vistaprint.com offers very nicely printed business cards for very reasonable prices (the company also offers a variety of templates so that you don’t have to go through the process of designing your own). There’s always the option of designing your own business cards and printing them out on your own printer, but this might zap a bunch of your time and printer ink.
One step up from the business card is a postcard. The larger-sized postcard increases the possibilities of what you can design. Online companies like Vistaprint.com (no I do not have any business relationship with this company), modernpostcard.com, and rocketpostcard.com all provide fast turnaround and reasonable prices. Long before my book was published, I created a postcard graphic that included various big-name gangsters, photos of Sing Sing Prison, and illustrations of various punishments given out at the famous correctional facility in New York. Almost everyone who saw the graphic was captivated by it. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. This original postcard suggested more with a bunch of small photographs than I could explain in words that could fit on the same postcard. The postcard explained in an immediate fashion the nature of the topic I was writing about. The postcard was a launch pad for deeper discussions of what the book was about.
After my book was published, I created new postcards with the book’s front cover as the graphic. These cards can be used in lieu of or in addition to a business card to instigate a conversation about the book. I have also created custom mailing labels that I have placed on the back side of the post cards and sent them to the bookstores (or other venues) where I have had plans to speak so that they can promote both my book and my speaking engagements. Bookstores and other venues typically do not have large marketing budgets to promote author events beyond simple email blasts to attract audiences/buyers. Bookstores and other venues LOVE it when you the author take the initiative to save them money and help them promote you.
The next step up from postcards is a full blown hardcopy press kit. While the entire world is going digital, I have found there still is value in having something in your hand to hold onto. That’s why newspapers are still around – many still like the tactile feel of a newspaper more than viewing an article online.
Then of course, there is the author’s individual website. Companies like Google and Microsoft (just to name a few) offer both website development tools and hosting services at nominal prices, if not for free. If you want to build just a simple website without too many frills, this is a good way to get your feet wet. If you outgrow this approach, you can build a more sophisticated website as your needs and desires grow.
You will also want to join websites for authors. There are many websites that allow you to join fellow authors to promote your books and upcoming speaking engagements. Two that I use are booktour.com and redroom.com(where Nina Amir actually posted Write Nonfiction in November and ended up having it featured on the home page for a week). Both are FREE. Note: if you do sign up for either of these sites, please (seriously) tell them that I sent you (and I’ll get a bonus).
Assuming you really want to promote your book, that means travel. This means you’ll want to find ways to travel on the cheap. There are many websites that can help you find low airfares, discounted hotel rates and low car rental rates. I personally stay away from booking at sites like Expedia.com, Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com. These sites not only tack on an additional if nominal service fee, for hotels and car rentals they also lock you into the reservation, so you might lose your deposit – or more if you cancel. I much prefer other websites that you can use to compare low rates such as Kayak.com (for airfares, hotels, and car rentals), Travelzoo.com, and Carrentals.com. I also use the entertainment book to obtain lower rates for hotels and carrentals.com. It also helps if you can coordinate multiple speaking engagements in a particular area, if possible. Then, you can have the different venues share/split the travel expenses, making it more likely that they’ll invite you in the first place.
About Ron Arons
Born in New York, Ron Arons was reared a goodie-two-shoes. Aside from four moving violations (including a “California” roll through a stop sign, doing 40 MPH in a 30 MPH zone, and driving with his brights on), Arons has never been afoul of the law.
Arons earned a B.S. in Engineering from Princeton University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He worked for many years as a marketer at many high-tech companies, including Texas Instruments, Ashton-Tate, and Sybase, before deciding to work full time on this book. Arons became interested in understanding his roots after he lost both his parents to cancer 16-18 years ago. In the process of researching his criminal ancestor’s past, he has traced his roots to England, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania.
In 2005, Arons won a Hackman Research Residency Award from the New York State Archives to continue his research of New York Jewish criminals. In January, 2008, he appeared on the PBS television series, The Jewish Americans, as the acknowledged expert on Jewish criminals of New York’s Lower East Side.
Arons tours the country giving educational and entertaining presentations on Jewish criminals and Jewish genealogy.
This is it – the last week of Write Nonfiction in November. We’ve covered a lot of ground with this blog, and I hope you’ve each done the same with your nonfiction writing project. However, it’s time to think about wrapping things up. As I prepare another six blogs, you need to prepare to complete your project. And don’t forget there’s a holiday in this week – Thanksgiving. I’ll be traveling on Tuesday and Saturday, and I’ll have sketchy dial-up Internet service some of the time, but I’ll still be posting blogs…so keep reading and keep writing. And we’ll cross the finish line together.
Also…If you like this blog, consider voting it a 2009 Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers. To do so, simply send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Write “101 Best Websites” in the subject line. Place the link to this blog – www.writenonfictioninnovember.wordpress.com – in the body of the email. If you want to add why you like the blog and the challenge, that’s helpful. If not, just send the link. Thanks!