by Allison Pottern Hoch
WRITING OR ILLUSTRATING A BOOK can seem easy compared to marketing, because marketing involves talking to other people. About your book! And yourself! Pure agony for us bookish introverts.
But listen, I have good news. Marketing can also be fun. Once you start to crack the code on how to market, it becomes a creative endeavor, the same as writing or making art.
When I coordinated author events for an indie bookstore, I interacted on a weekly basis with authors who were nervous and overwhelmed by the prospect of hosting a book event. I’ll tell you the same thing I told them: The secret to great marketing is preparation. Making sure you’re prepared for your events and marketing outreach ensures that you have less work to do in the long run—and that you’ll have greater success.
It helps to begin with a deceptively simple exercise: identifying your marketing goals. Why are you interested in hosting a book event? Maybe because:
- Your publisher says you’re supposed to
- You’ve always dreamed of giving a reading in a bookstore
- You want to reach a new audience
- You want to sell more books
- You want to meet other writers
- You want to inspire others
- You want to educate people on a topic related to your book
- You feel events are the strongest way to get publicity
Whatever the reasons, take a few moments (or a few days) to deeply the consider the question, because it will inform everything else you do. If you want an event to generate a lot of sales, you’ll need to think about how best to plan one that will get customers excited to buy. If you’re more interested in exposure, you’ll want to focus on the size of the audience and venue, whether they are likely to buy or not.
Knowing your goals will help you plan, and planning will get you in front of readers. You may find you have multiple goals, and that’s okay too! You can find ways to both inspire and sell books or reach new readers and educate them. This is all work you do before picking up the phone to cold-call a bookstore, so when the event coordinator says, “What is your vision for the event?” you’ll know exactly what to say.
Events don’t happen in a vacuum. People will only come to an event if they have a reason to. In some cases, like launch parties, you are reason enough. But especially if you’re a debut or break-out author, you won’t be able to bring in an audience on name-recognition alone. Your venue will have marketing channels, sure, but their marketing goals extend far beyond your singular event. You want to work in tandem with their efforts, but only you can truly reach the audience you’re looking for. That’s why you made your book, isn’t it? To reach people? And with the right marketing tools and focused preparation, you can put your book in the hands of those who need it.
On Saturday, March 25th, I’m teaching a workshop on event design and implementation. We cover six main topics: goals; event types; audience and strategic scheduling; pitching; promotion and outreach; and event design. I always start with goals because knowing why you’re hosting an event is critical in deciding all the other pieces: who you want to come, where and when you want to host it, and how to market and design your event. I hope to see some of you there!
I’m also excited to be hosting a monthly column here on the Loftings blog about all things events and marketing. I want to hear from you: What are some of your marketing goals? What ways do you hope to achieve them? What ideas do you still need to generate?
Next month I’ll be talking about finding your audience. I’m always interested in addressing your marketing questions and concerns, so ask away.
Allison has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She organized, hosted, and promoted over 150 events during her tenure, ranging in size from intimate workshops and lunches to multi-media events with over 700 attendees. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and book event coach. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea. http://events.pottern.com. To learn more about engaging with your community bookstore or develop your own successful event and marketing plan, check out the talks and workshops Allison is leading this fall.