Give Something to Get Something
by Patricia Fry
Giving something away can be great for book promotion, and you have a wide range of options to consider. Here’s a checklist.
Give Free Copies
• Donate books at active Web sites, suggesting that they run contests with the books as prizes. This can lead to a book being featured front and center at a site, and perhaps also in a related newsletter, for a week to a month or more. That’s great exposure. Also, people who get the book as a prize will talk about it when they like it. That’s more exposure, and we all know that exposure leads to sales.
• Donate a copy of a book to your local library system; librarians are likely to order more copies if the book is right for their collections.
• Donate books for community and charity events. Many of them include silent or live auctions, which can provide a good way to get your book noticed. Simply supply one or two books for the auction, or a book packaged attractively in a basket with related items. For a novel, the other items might be a candle, chocolate candy, a bookmark, and a pair of cozy slipper socks. I would package my Ojai history book with a couple of items made in Ojai, a coffee mug stamped with Ojai, and so forth.
There’s nothing like an auction to get a book noticed. If it is a silent auction, the book will be displayed on a table throughout the entire event, and 50 to 1,000 people might see it and handle it. At a live auction, the book will be exhibited on a table for all to see, and then it will be highlighted for a few minutes as the auctioneer talks about it in front of the crowd. Books donated for auctions, raffle drawings, and the like also get press, and the titles and descriptions are generally published on handouts dispersed to everyone in attendance.
• Donate a book for the raffle at the grand opening of a new car dealership or other local business.
• Donate copies of a children’s book to a new foundation that focuses on kids, or to a new Boys and Girls Club for its opening. Provide copies for annual fundraisers and open house events at local private and public schools.
• Supply waiting-room copies. When you receive a shipment of books from the printer and check each copy for flaws, place the slightly flawed copies in waiting rooms throughout your area after getting permission. I have left copies of my Ojai history book in the waiting rooms of several doctors, dentists, veterinarians, attorneys, and accountants and also in hospital lobbies.
Mark each book boldly with “Waiting Room Copy” on the cover, or on the flush edges of the pages. Paste a list on the inside of the front cover that tells people where the book can be purchased and how to order it.
This is a great way for a book to get exposure. But of course many a waiting-room copy disappears, so you might want to check back occasionally and consider replacing missing books. Often, you’ll find the book in the back office with the staff. In this case, encourage them to release it back to the waiting room and offer employees a discount on the purchase price of the book.
• Provide lunchroom copies. (But ask permission first.) Hospitals, schools, banks, government offices, and many corporations have lunchrooms. Authors of novels, in particular, can benefit when they leave their books in lunchrooms along with plenty of order forms. Other books that might be appropriate as lunchroom copies include nonfiction titles about history, business, finance, real estate, and politics.
Give Free Content
• Provide a free chapter or two at your Web site to entice readers to purchase an entire book. For nonfiction, posting an expansive table of contents might work to generate sales. Some authors post the chapter summaries from their book proposals at their sites as teasers.
• Offer free excerpts or articles derived from excerpts to periodicals that focus on topics relevant to the book. (You can try selling excerpts and articles too, of course.)
Give a Percentage
Some publishers and authors connect their books to a charity by giving it a percentage of the book’s proceeds. Does this practice foster sales? According to a PR Week/Barkley Cause Survey, nearly three-quarters of people surveyed said they purchase certain brands because the branded companies support a cause the consumers believe in.
It’s usually easy to find an organization or agency related to any given book, and if you partner with one by donating a portion of the proceeds, your partner may well give the book wide visibility and make members or followers more inclined to buy it.
Give Time and Effort
I recommend volunteering for projects related to your book topic. If you have a book on growing herbs, volunteer to help out at a local community garden. If the book is about skateboards, volunteer to help a social service agency build a local skateboard park or offer classes in skateboarding or repairing skateboards. For a book about hiking trails, donate your time to businesses or organizations that would benefit if you led guided hikes.
I give historic tours aboard one of our city trolleys or a horse-drawn wagon during our annual Ojai Day celebration. Of course, that gives me a chance to talk about my books, and I always sell some. And I got the chance to promote my Nordhoff Cemetery books (which are about early burials in a local cemetery) when my grandchildren and I were volunteers in a local Adopt-a-Grave program.
When you endorse other books on your topic or in your genre, you may find that those endorsements not only provide additional exposure for your book but also help position you as an expert in your field. Usually, it’s best to wait to be asked for a testimonial. But you can offer to do one when you find a book you’re genuinely enthusiastic about that’s somehow akin to yours.
Patricia Fry, the executive director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network; spawn.org) runs Matilija Press and is the author of more than 30 books. This article is derived from her new one, Promote Your Book: Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author, published by Allworth Press. To learn more or to order a copy, visit allworthpress.com, BN.com, Amazon.com, or Indiebound.com.
Giving from the Get-go
Renay Daniels didn’t just use her children’s book, Ten Little Bulldogs, to help a charity; she created the book for Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), an organization that generates funds and awareness programs for the benefit of children served by its associated hospitals. The easy-to-read, count-to-10 title featuring color photographs of bulldog puppies was endorsed by The Children’s Miracle Network and has now become an educational tool for them, she reports: “Their logo is on the back of my book, and I continue to donate a percentage of the profits to them.”
Daniels also donates copies to the Humane Society and to various bulldog rescue organizations. She says people “feel good about purchasing a product that gives back, and this is especially true for charities set up to help kids and animals.” As she points out, “Book sales are key in all this. The more books that sell, the more money the charity gets.”
For others who want to use their books to raise money for a cause, Daniels recommends: “Find out who’s in charge. Get in front of them somehow. Show them your book and see if it is something they get excited about. Enthusiasm is the key. If they are enthusiastic about your book, they will want to help you take it to the next level.” But, she cautions, “you must be proactive. Don’t be afraid to brag about your book.”