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To Market, To Market

Copyright Marilyn Henderson- All Rights Reserved

Are you ready to sell your novel?

Before you shout, "YES!" let me define the question a bit. Are you prepared to work hard to help your book sell once it's published?

If you think that's the publisher's job, don't bet your success on it. The publisher expects you to work harder at selling the book than he does.

It's time to get busy on your marketing plan.

Unless you already have a proven track record of sales that indicate a substantial following, the publisher's marketing budget, if there is one, for a first novel by an unknown author will probably range in the low five-digit figures. Most publishing houses send out review copies and press releases to major reviewers and newspapers, but it's up to you to pick up the ball and run with it.

If visions of the bestseller lists and regular royalty checks dance in your head, start laying the groundwork for your own marketing plan as soon as the ink is dry on the contract. Some of the essential things that will help sell your book need preparation ahead of time. Here are some ways to get readers ready for your novel.


If you don't already know the manager and staff of every bookstore in your area, get acquainted as soon as possible. These people are the ones who will sell your book. Since it takes most publishers from six to eighteen months to get a book out after it's "in house", you hav time to build relationships with xstore employees and owners of independent and specialty bookstores. They usually enjoy knowing writers.

The purpose at this point is to build friendly relationships. Talk to salespeople about books and authors. If the store holds book signings and other events, attend them . And buy books! Most independent store owners like to help local authors when their books launch.

If you self-published, contact the Small Press Department of the chain's headquarters for information on how to get your book considered.


Start building a list of magazines, newspapers, ezines and websites where you can request reviews. Reviews help spread the word about your book and are free publicity. Search on the Internet for reviewers and review sites. Explore those that sound promising. Copy the URLs into a special reviewers file in your email address book.

Some site-based reviewers are willing to read electronic files since they review ebooks as well as bound volumes. You may be able to get early reviews to coincide with the book's launch date.

Also search sites and magazines related to the background or setting of your story: nursing, law, trucking, flying, etc.. Even if they don't review regularly, they sometimes run reviews of books their readers may enjoy.

Ask your publisher about securing bound galleys to send out for review purposes. If they won't be available, you can print out the single-spaced manuscript, fasten it in a plastic folder and ask a few people to read the bound copy.

All reviews are good promotion for both you and the reviewer. If the reviewer has a connection to books or writing, mentioning it in the tag line is free publicity for him as well as you.

Book groups:

Another list you should build is book clubs or groups in your area. They abound in mid-size and large cities and can often be found in smaller communities as well. If you are familiar with how groups operate, you can prepare a list of questions for discussion and offer it on your website or directly to groups when your novel is out. Contact groups and suggest your book as one of their selections and offer to attend the discussion meeting to talk to them or answer questions.


If you can get people in a chat room, forum or on a message board talking about your book, it translates into sales. These groups usually have strict rules for posting, so read and follow them carefully.

Penny-wise promo:

Depending on your budget, you can have bookmarks or postcards printed to keep your book title in front of readers. These have become commonplace, however, so if you do it, be creative. Put n intriguing bit of dialogue from your novel as the message ...come up with an original photo of your setting or action for the picture...put the book and author name, etc. on back where the card description usually goes... Do something different!

Ask at independent and specialty bookstores if you can put some of your bookmarks near the cash register where customers can pick them up.

If you attend writers' conventions, they are an excellent place to distribute bookmarks, postcards or flyers. Most conventions let attendees send promotional material ahead of time to be included in convention bags or put on a give-away table

A website:

If you don't already have an author website, get busy! It will be a vital part of your marketing. It doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles. Your visitors will be book readers who are interested in you and your novel.

Post reviews, offer visitors an "free read" scene or first chapter of your novel or something else connected to the setting, theme or character. If catering is an important part of the plot, for example, a recipe would work. If cars or driving are important to your story, give away Tips for safety on the freeway, highway, mountain roads or wherever your character drives.

Bird watching? Scuba diving? Wilderness treks? We tend to write what we know or are at least familiar with.

Create an original article or tip sheet about your subject. Offer it free on your site as a virtual brochure downloadable or by email. This enables you to collect "Opt-in" email addresses so you can keep in touch with potential customers.

Using an auto responder makes the process of sending your material and additional mailings simple. Some companies offer free accounts. Type "auto responder" into your favorite search engine for names.

Author tours:

Take advantage of any traveling you do. Make business trips or visits to family or friends marketing opportunities. Check out booksellers and introduce yourself and leave some of your promotional material. If you know you'll be back that way when the book is out, offer to schedule a signing or autograph store copies.


One of the best things you can do to market your book is network. Writers talk about writing and promoting their work. In addition to bookstores, hang out where writers do and share ideas. Many organizations and groups put on joint signings, panel appearances or other functions at schools, libraries and bookstores. Polish up your speaking skills and volunteer as soon as your book comes out.

Once you get involved in marketing, ideas abound. Create a file them. Build your network, create Buzz about your book and sell copies.

Marketing isn't a one-shot deal, it's an on-going process. The life of your novel depends on it,

Happy marketing!


Marilyn Henderson, 42-year novelist, coach and mss critic




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