A writer on another blog asked me about my marketing approach for Little Lodges on the Prairie. I’ve never considered myself a marketer, but the fact is that if a writer doesn’t engage in the practice, no one will even know their book exists, much less read it. (Yes, I know I just used a singular “they.” It’s legal now.)
Little Lodges is a niche book. It appeals to fans of Little House on the Prairie, and/or people interested in Freemasonry. As such, it was easy to find people who might like to find out more about Laura Ingalls Wilder (LIW) and her family’s connection to that fraternity: look for fan groups of LIW, and Masonic Lodges & their affiliates.
Even without such a well-defined audience, some of the things I did to help people find Little Lodges could be successful for writers of any kind of book. One of the most productive things I did: have bookmarks printed (I used postcardsRus. They were very helpful and easy to work with, as well as reasonably-priced, and the bookmarks were a high quality.) I started by ordering 1000. Since then (June 2014, when my book was released) I’ve ordered about 20,000 more, in batches.
There are two things to consider about this technique: what to put on them, and where to distribute them. Mine have a slightly-rearranged cover on one side, and a short blurb on the other, with the book’s website on both sides. If I’d had a puff (the term for a favorable quote from a well-known person to put on the cover or other advertisement), I probably would have included that. At the time I was too shy to ask for any, and now I’m too busy writing to take time to redesign the bookmarks.
Where have all these bookmarks gone? The majority have been put in goodie bags of conferences. I happen to know that every state’s Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter have a yearly conference. I called/emailed the person in charge, and asked if they’d like bookmarks to put in their registration packages. Since these are Freemasonry-related events, attendees are likely interested in my subject matter. Book shows also often have goodie bags; and who goes to book shows? Readers! I’ve never had anyone turn down something free to include in their bags, and I did it even if it meant mailing 2000 bookmarks across the country.
The year my book came out happened to be the 40th anniversary of the TV show Little House on the Prairie, and there were events related to that around LIW home sites. I attended many of those events, and my husband just went around handing out bookmarks (I was at my assigned spot, with books for sale). After these events, as well as after conferences to which I sent bookmarks, I saw spikes in sales.
This was my first signing, after a presentation. I ran out of books! Brookings, SD in July 2014. (I love how everyone runs away when the camera comes out.)
Whatever your book is about, there’s bound to be some groups interested in that particular subject. Even if your book doesn’t have a specific subject per say, even genres have fan groups, so find the mystery book clubs or whatever around the state or country. Or research book festivals/shows, where readers of all stripes will be found. You can approach more smaller meetings or fewer large conferences, but you’ll be surprised how quickly the bookmarks go and sales come.
The other most productive thing I’ve done to reach readers is contact organizations with an offer to give a free presentation, with a book signing afterward. Of course I’ve presented to groups affiliated with Freemasonry, and those interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder/Little House; but to others as well. It’s amazing what groups you can find to tie into a book. Here are a few ideas:
- If you have a strong setting, any group local to that place
- If your protagonist has a hobby, a group of related hobbyists (same for occupation)
- If you write historical fiction, any organization interested in history (local historical societies, friends of the museum groups, genealogical societies, etc.)
- Writers groups and book clubs, where you can share you process/experience/etc.
- Check with your local Rotary Club or similar groups; even if you can’t come up with a direct tie-in, they might be interested in hearing from a local regarding your experience. These kinds of groups are often looking for new speakers.
What tie-ins can you think of? I’d love to hear them in the comments section.
The one drawback about selling books this way is that it won’t help your book or author ranking. Books you get yourself don’t count toward your totals, and you have to get them to sign and sell them. I’ve sold more books myself than through Amazon/B&N/etc. but the ranking doesn’t reflect that. This doesn’t matter to me so much, because I wrote this book to preserve and share the history of this little-known connection, not to make money or sales. But to some people, this could be a big deal, and I don’t know of a way around it.
One thing I did not do, but wish I had: actively ask for reviews. When I began this journey I wasn’t fully aware of how important reviews are to getting a book in front of readers. With my next book, anytime I send bookmarks, or give a presentation, or even mention the book in passing, I will include a note or comment requesting a review. This can’t be emphasized enough.
I hope these thoughts help you reach your audience, too. Oh, and one more thing: please leave a review for Little Lodges on the Prairie! J