Traditional Publishing

12 (Plus 1) Ways to Promote Safely at Home

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach – Sunday August 2, 2020

When I first published a couple of books, of course I went to all the conferences in various cities to speak on panels and promote. I did readings in bookstores.

Those were the days.

Those days are gone.

Now, while we might deliver hometown bookstore readings in some locales, in other towns and cities, we might not be able to. We’d certainly have to think twice about the risks anywhere (if the stores are even open).

So in planning promotion, we want to consider what we can do from our own homes. Hello, desktops.

1. Advertising? Give it a whirl.

Advertising comes in many forms and can be inexpensive. Even in the past iteration of the world, I ran ads in genre publications and on sites such as Facebook and Goodreads. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on either, and certainly the cost is far below the pricetag of flying to a conference/convention and staying in a hotel. Do these ads work? Some site ads do seem to work while some don’t have much effect; however, those in the know say that your name has to be in front of readers six times before they’ll even notice you. So having your name out there for minimal dollars never hurts.

2. Publicists—inexpensive or costly.

On the other hand, people who have money to spend monthly might hire a publicist. Is that better than running ads? Possibly, if the publicist has contacts who will drop blurbs about you and your book into a magazine/newspaper or even a blog or netletter or a radio interview. I did recently hear an author say her sales improved after hiring a publicist. You can spend anywhere from $50 to $400 a month on the low end—truly very inexpensive—to thousands of whatever currency you pay in.

3. Audio promo—good for the tech savvy.

Some authors create podcasts using audio software, such as WavePad: . I can see you have to be a bit techy to use this sort of thing, but if you are, this might be the promo you can send out to represent you. You can even read novel excerpts on your podcast and try to have a radio station run it or parts of it, alongside an interview with you, the author. Or promote the audio file on your website or elsewhere with your email list.

An author told me she bought a cheap microphone at Wal-Mart and then found some free audio software on the web that lets you record and even edit audio recordings. In other words, you can read badly and then can cut and paste everything together. 

People also create their book trailers with video editing software. With the combination of both audio and video you have entertainment for your website or for YouTube. This is good if you have technical skills or have a friend (or child) who does.

4. Radio—but be patient.

As for radio, radio does seem to sell books, but the effect isn’t necessarily immediate. Readers hear about the book and then they see a reference to it again, and since they’ve heard about it before, they look on Amazon. Radio does appear to make your book real to the public. They figure if you’ve been on radio, you must be someone. I did an NPR interview on some topic once, and a friend of mine actually heard the program, which impressed her. 

5. Articles in alumni and organization magazines—free publicity.

Mentions in alumni magazines can do a lot for you, and the publication will give you everything from a blurb in their pages to actual pages. Do you belong to special interest organizations? They might feature you in their magazine just to fill space, but most especially if your book touches on areas of interest to members. I belonged to an industrial security association because as a journalist I covered the topic. And boy was I rewarded with some nice pages in their magazine. (When I covered the industrial laundry industry, not so much resulted.)

Anyway, send your alumni association and special interest groups you belong to press kits featuring your current or next book. You can customize the release to suit the group you’re sending to.

6. Contests—with prizes.

You can devise your own contest and announce it to your email list or at popular websites or as part of a promotion effort by a group of writers. This is inexpensive, even if your prize is a $50 gift certificate. You run this mostly to gain email addresses for your list while promoting your book and yourself as brand.

7. Your email tagline—don’t forget.

How many emails do you send out a day? I answer student questions all day long, so I use a couple of taglines. I promote a book and perhaps an article. Does that work? Work for what? Seeing the tagline link and perhaps checking out the site or article counts as one of those reminders of who you are.

8. Use an autoresponder—

I really didn’t know about these, but they do sound great. For a small monthly outlay or none at all, you can build a following. Using this software, you send messages to your list to offer that podcast or article, or you can offer free gifts and announce your contest.

9.  Press kits—create your own.

I’ve always made my own press kits, and they’re easy. If you’re mailing through the traditional government postal service, you can select a slightly fancy envelope (in a color) and include an overrun of your cover that the publisher has sent you. Or just print some covers in color if you have a color printer, or black and white using the jpg or whatever the publisher has given you. Include quotes from the book; a Q&A page or two interviewing you, the author; details about the book—when it’s coming out, the formats, the prices, something about the publisher, etc.; your brief bio; and good reviews of prior books. Be sure to note on the pages that excerpts can be used in publications. Some authors include a current picture of themselves, but that’s not really necessary.

Obviously, this press kit can also be sent via email. And don’t forget to follow up with subsequence press releases if anything happens with the book such as that it has been picked up by a book club, or even a reading group. Press releases about nothing are not quite as desirable.

10. Reading group discussion questions—to encourage multiple buys.

These can go on your website—though authors don’t always have websites these days, but just author pages someplace such as Facebook. These questions are easy to devise with suggested answers pointing to material in the book. These are especially good for any type of material that lends itself to special interest, women’s reading, or even young adult novels.  

11. Articles—by you.

Can you write essays—articles—for any type of publication that might be an appropriate place to promote? I always wrote and still write articles (here, for instance) for publications where readers congregate. There goes your name up on top again, and maybe you can sell some books. I always give it a try. I’m sitting right at my computer, anyway, and I can write. So can you—you’re a writer, aren’t you? Yes, do it for free, and develop relationships with publications that will take your work with your tagline.

12. Virtual blog tours—more writing.

The virtual blog tour used to be popular and might be gaining in popularity now that we don’t want to go out among the public (even if someplace was open that would have us). The only problem is that the tour has to be arranged by someone—often for a fee—and that, again, you have to write something. Blog owners like to have guest authors on their sites because they then don’t have to do this month’s work—but you do. Still, this gives you a chance to preach to someone else’s choir, and, of course, to promote. We look at all this as an opportunity to complete our due diligence and to faithfully serve the book that has channeled through us and brought us to this point. Do it, if it seems like a reasonable chore. Regard approaching a new audience as a joy.

13. Email lists—make an effort.

Gathering an email list might be the somewhat sticky part, and you’ll notice, if you’ve traveled this far, that I put this item last because it takes time and dedication. You gather those names one by one, say through that contest offering, or by adding anyone who visits your page or website—again, offer something irresistible that will allow you to add the email. Then go with the autoresponder, maybe, and send occasional further announcements and offers. This isn’t easy and you don’t want to be a spammer, but it is a path to making a name for yourself and selling books. Selling books isn’t like selling—well, what’s easy to sell? Not much. Ask any marketer of any product. Even hotcakes aren’t so much favored these days without great effort behind the selling. Make the effort. Become a success. Write the next book and make the effort again. The more books you have out, the more you’ll sell.

Buy my book Writing the Mystery. You’ll gather lots of practical advice about writing any kind of novel.

About the Author

G. Miki Hayden, who sold an action-adventure trilogy this past year, has a thriller class starting even as we speak at Writer's Online Workshops from Writer's Digest at Her two writing instructionals are Writing the Mystery: A Start to Finish Guide for Both Novice and Professional and The Naked Writer: A Comprehensive Writing Style Guide . One won an award, but buy them both.