How can I get exposure for my book?

March 18, 2013 | Written by Chip MacGregor

A writer got in touch and asked, “Since it seems like anyone can get a book published today through self-publishers, how do I make sure my book gets the needed exposure?”

As I’ve noted several times on this blog, the key principle for anybody doing marketing of their own book is simple: Figure out where your potential readers are going, then go stand in front of them. If you’re doing a book on lowering cholesterol, research to find out what websites people with high cholesterol are visiting, what blogs they’re reading, what magazines and e-zines they’re checking out, what the most popular sites for information sharing are. That’s the first step. The second is to get yourself involved with those venues. That will get you started on marketing. (And be sure to read Amanda’s Thursday blog posts, which are filled with good, practical ideas to help you move forward in your marketing abilities.) 

Now you have the tools you need to create a plan. You’ve got a list of the places people who are interested in your topic are going online, and you’ve got a list of ways you can try and get involved in those sites (by writing articles, doing reviews, creating an interview, offering a chapter of your book, etc). The next step is to start the hard work of getting your words out there.

On a related note, someone wrote these words: “You have frequently told authors to find out where the potential readers are, then go get in front of them. How can an author find the target audience for his book?”

Research, my friend. It will take time, but start checking out key words and topics. Find other books and sites that cover similar material and check them out. Start doing reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. Get involved with Pinterest and Flickr. Create online bookmarks. Join Facebook and Twitter. Begin researching your topic and you’ll soon discover interesting sites, as well as finding yourself steered toward other places people go. This takes time — there’s no hurry-up formula for getting this information. But the key is to have multiple venues for finding new friends, and see the whole process as “participation,” not just “promotion.” 

Another writer sent in this interesting note: “Is teaching at a writers’ conference a good way to help market my book? I was just asked by a big conference to show up, teach two workshops, critique manuscripts, meet with a bunch of authors in one-on-ones, and help out as needed. It sounded like fun — BUT the invitation noted that I had to pay my own way, pay the conference fee to attend, and pay for my room and board. They’re offering me a stipend that will cover a portion of that expense, but I’d still owe them more than $400, plus my travel. Is that fair?”

I actually wrote to the person privately, to make sure she wasn’t pulling my leg. Sure enough, a writers’ conference sent her a note, inviting her to be on faculty but explaining that she’d actually have to pay hundreds of dollars to participate. Um… you have GOT to be kidding me. I think a writing conference is a great place to network and let everybody know about your new book. But if it costs you $500 and they’re going to wear you out as a faculty member, you might find a more useful venue for your five bills. Yeesh. 

Finally, someone asked me, “Should I seek endorsements before I send my manuscript to a publisher?”

If you can get some great endorsements for your manuscript, by all means do so. The fact that a bestselling author or a recognizable celebrity is saying nice things about your book can’t hurt. But remember that an endorsement has to be by someone recognizable — a celebrity, speaker, author, recognized expert, etc. It can’t be from some friend of yours nobody had heard of, or from your pastor, or your mom. Those types of endorsements scream “AMATEUR,” and make editors roll their eyes. 

[And an editorial note: After posting this, a longtime writing friend wrote me to say, "Please re-think your answer. I'm a bestselling author, and I get inundated with requests to spend time reading and responding to a project that may never get published. And it's possible the editor who is reading the proposal has never heard of me -- an embarrassing situation for the prospective author." My response: Fair enough. I'd say if you are not already relatively good friends with the bestselling author, then asking them to read and endorse your book may be unfair, even unwise. Perhaps you could say something such as, "If contracted, I could reasonably get endorsements from..." But if it's a mentor of yours, or someone you've been involved with for a long time, I'd still say it's worthwhile asking. They can always say no.]

We’re in the midst of catching up on a backlog of questions I thought I could respond to with short answers — so if you’ve got a question you’ve always wanted to ask an agent, sent it along and I”ll try to get to it.

 

Posted in Conferences, Marketing and Platforms, Proposals, Questions from Beginners, The Business of Writing

  • http://www.tillhecomes.org/ Jeremy Myers

    Very helpful. Thanks. Makes me wonder if all the “speakers” at that conference might actually be authors who paid to attend the conference and be on “faculty.”

    • chipmacgregor

      Yeah, I’ve found there are good and bad conferences, Jeremy. There’s at least one very popular conference that we don’t attend because they have a policy against reimbursing agents who attend (as though to be there at the conference talking with newbies is reward enough).

  • Cheryl Russell

    A day later and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that conference *offer*

    • chipmacgregor

      Ha! Don’t think too hard, Cheryl, or your head will explode. I can’t imagine why I’d pay to attend a conference at which I’m teaching…

  • Meghan Carver

    I have wondered how conferences paid or provided for the faculty, but it’s difficult to understand how that conference thought that was a fair deal. I learn something every time I read your blog, Chip.

    • chipmacgregor

      Thanks, Meghan. That person’s predicament is not normal, of course. Normally the conference pays faculty to attend, covers the cost of room & board, and doesn’t charge a conference fee. But you never know… with conferences facing hard economic times, maybe we’ll see more of this sort thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gretchen.odonnell Gretchen Wendt O’Donnell

    You mentioned writing reviews as being a good way to get your name out there – I read recently somewhere (sorry, can’t remember where) that it’s not wise to write book reviews as a wanna-be author because you’re critiquing your hoped-for peers and that might not be the best way to “make friends”! I suppose that postive reviews would be ok, but you want to be honest… Any thoughts on that?

    • chipmacgregor

      I’ve heard that same advice, Gretchen, but I’ve never been one to think that sharing an opinion on writing is a bad thing. I’m not saying that writing reviews is for everyone, but I think it’s a great fit for some.

  • Becky Doughty

    Gretchen – I’ve recently started doing reviews, but quickly determined that if I couldn’t give a book a “4 or 5 star” rating (I don’t use stars on my personal site, but the retail sites require it), then I won’t review a book. It makes things a little dicey when working with publishing companies, but I found that if I write good reviews of the books I DO like, then I can COMMUNICATE with them about the books I don’t, and they’re happy to have me exchange a book for something else – especially if I’ve reviewed an e-book copy. They don’t want a 2 star review on anything they’re putting out either! AND, it’s also helping me find my readership, as you say above, Chip. I’m finding authors I like to read, and I’m going to their sites and developing relationships with them. It’s a slow process – almost everything in this business is! – but it’s effective. I don’t love doing reviews, but I know it benefits everyone when I do – the author, the pub house, the readers, AND me, in the long run.

    Just my two bits.

    • chipmacgregor

      I appreciate that, Becky. And writing a bad review is tough to do. (And sometimes unfair.) Plenty of reviewers take that approach — that if you don’t have something good to say, you shouldn’t say anything. I’d suggest that’s the safe approach, particularly if it’s a volunteer type of review. Of course, if you’re a paid to do a critique, that’s a different situation — then you have to be up front about the strengths and weaknesses of a book, since you’re being paid to help readers decide whether or not the book is worthwhile.