The first need-to-know about marketing and promotion is this: It never ends! I was waiting until this phase of the process was “over” before I started writing about it until I realized after a few months that it literally never ends. Instead, I’ve turned this into a list of ideas that I have used to market my book that you could use too! Each has an example of what I have done and suggestions on how to do it. Some sections will present you with everything you need to get going on it yourself without all the research!
The second need-to-know is that there is a difference between marketing and promoting. Marketing is the on-going, long term campaign from who is your market to how you will sell it to that market over a long period of time. Promotions are short campaigns that give customers within the market more of a sense of urgency to buy like a sale or a giveaway.
I am, by no means, an expert in marketing but I have done a lot of marketing for Rock Coach over the past year and a bit and have learned the reigns so-to-speak of how it works. Here are my book marketing ideas and strategies:
1. Book release party
I put on a book release party a couple of months after I released the book. I called a local brewpub to see if they could host the event and I promoted it as an open jam session book release party. I put an ad in the local entertainment paper and on the local CBC Radio station (both free). I sold some books and was able to open to a bit of a new market at the event. The worst a venue operator can say is ‘no,’ and if worse comes to worse you can open your own home to celebrate your achievement.
2. Presenting at conferences
Due to the topic of my book, I am able to market it to music education conferences. I was able to land a few gigs as a presenter and a feature presenter at another where I was able to set up a booth to sell my books in between presentations. I always google conferences in my area to check to see if they are looking for presenters.
If you don’t have a Twitter account, you should. I never really appreciated the power of Twitter until I started using it only about a year ago. It really is designed for marketing. Using hashtags, you can essentially target your tweets to potential customers, or markets.
4. Asking for reviews
I’ve asked some music education journals to review my book in their journal and I have also asked others to review on Amazon. Reviews are great ways to get noticed, especially if they are good! On Amazon, reviews can help more people see your book. Reviews are also important for potential buyers. How many times have you checked reviews on something before you’ve bought it?
Facebook seems to be an over-saturated social media platform as of late, especially in North America. I have a Facebook page for my website and business but it is incredibly difficult to get traction on it. Facebook groups, on the other hand, can be very useful for a marketing strategy. For example, joining a “Music Teachers” Facebook group would be a very worthy group to enter for my purposes. If you do this, be sure to be courteous. By this, I mean read the rules around promoting products in the group because some have very stringent rules around this while others do not. It is usually acceptable to promote products if a question is asked within the group that relates to the product. However, make sure you are an active participant within these groups too and don’t make your first post about your books.
6. Reaching out to universities
If your book is for music teachers, universities are a good market to get into. I e-mailed the head of music education in every university program in Canada that has a music education program, and a few in the states too! With those efforts, I was able to get my book on a list of curriculum material for particular courses within Canada and the US. It doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they now know about your book.
7. A book giveaway
I hosted a book giveaway last December where I gave away one book every week in December. I had a contest on Facebook where interested people would like, comment, and share my contest post and at the end of every week I would use a third-party app to choose someone from the list. I contacted them through Facebook and sent them a complimentary signed copy. There are rules and regulations around contests. It isn’t as straight-forward as you might think. I had to do up an official rules document so as to not break the law. Here is my copy, feel free to use it for your purposes.
8. Book Awards
I am currently looking deeper into book awards but book awards can add prestige to you and your book. Back in February of 2018 I signed up for the TCK Publishing Book Awards and entered my book in the Advice category. It was all based on votes from the public but it was free to sign up. In December of 2018 I found out that I won that category! So now, I can market me and my book as “Award-Winning.” Winning awards is a great way to market your book. Many locales have their own literary awards but there are also a lot of book awards specifically for independent publishers that take entries from all over the world. A few of them are very prestigious too and can add profile to your books like the IPPYs and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Since the release of the book I have presented workshops on topics represented in the book at music education conferences in the Atlantic provinces. Some pay an honourarium, some ask for my fee but they have always been great to let me set up a booth with banners of my book and merch to sell which mainly included my book for no extra fee! I consistently sell a good chunk of books at these events. To find opportunities, do a Google search for conferences within your field that are in your area. That is the best place to start.
I use my blog to market my book too. If I am writing a blog post about a topic in my book, I make sure to mention my book. This post in-and-of-itself can be promo for the book even though it isn’t about the book! I mention it whenever I can in my blog. Oh, by the way, my book is called Rock Coach: A Practical Guide for Teaching Rock Bands in School and it is available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats. See what I did there?
11. Add it to your email signature
A simple marketing tool is to add a link to the book in your e-mail signature. Any time someone receives an e-mail from you they are reminded about the book and it is a very un-intrusive way to advertise. Simple, yet effective.
12. Email list
For a long time I ignored the power of the e-mail list. I don’t have a lot of subscribers at the moment but it is slowly building. I put a link to it on my site and when I go to conferences I bring a sign-up sheet. MailChimp is the best platform for sending out e-mails and building an e-mail list. I send one out at least once a month.
Pinterest can be a great marketing tool. One of my blog posts in particular as well as one of my web pages from my site get the most traction from Pinterest than from anywhere else. In a field like education where women are the majority, and Pinterest seems to cater a lot to women, it seems to be an obvious marketing path. The only downside to Pinterest is that you have to optimize any graphics you have in your blog or website to fit the platform and to get noticed which can be time-consuming because what works on every other social media platform does not necessarily work on Pinterest.
I had a website for lesson plans long before I had a book but now my book has a devoted page on my website. I can put reviews and other marketing material on that page and it is usually the link that I post because a) the URL is shorter and b) it links to my website and blog too! I’ve had some success with WebStarts and it is an incredibly easy platform to use if you aren’t “techy.” WordPress is also popular but has quite a learning curve to overcome. My site is through WebStarts but my blog is through WordPress, mostly because WebStarts has a very weak blog function. Other popular website platforms are Wix and SquareSpace.
15. Book description
Your book description can be a good marketing tool for your book too. It should be compelling and optimized for a search engine. Any special recognition or distinctions should be there and a compelling description too. You can check out mine to see how I format it.
I’ve paid for ads through Facebook but haven’t found them to be overly effective. However, I have heard of success stories through Facebook ads. I sign up for ads through my Steve’s Music Room Facebook Page (which you should have for your brand).
17. Banners and posters
You should most definitely have a banner for your book. I use one for my conference appearances and my book release party. I do the design of my banners myself using a combination of Canva and GIMP and then send my designs along to VistaPrint for printing. They have very good prices when it comes to printing of any kind (but they don’t print books). Make sure you coupon like crazy, you can get a really great deal if you use the right coupon. Here are two banners that I have had printed through VistaPrint:
and this one too:
I’ve also designed posters for promotional purposes that I sent to conferences where I was not able to be in attendance (this one was completely designed in Canva):
18. Conference booths
I’ve set up a booth (after paying a small fee) at conferences where I wasn’t presenting just to get some exposure and sell a few books. Look around for conferences in your area and if you are unable to get a workshop or speaking gig, see if you can rent a booth to showcase your awesome work. Some can be very expensive (Midwest Clinic) while others can be very affordable for an independent publisher (Maine MEA, NSMEA, PEIMEA). The worst that can happen is that you sell no books and you are out the rental fee. Chances are that you will sell at least one book!
What should you include at your booth so you look like a pro? Some stickers to give away, a book stand, a banner of your company or your book, a table cloth (nothing fancy), a one-sheet that talks about how awesome you are, perhaps a tablet set up with your website on-screen, and anything else you think that would look nice. There are a ton of promotional materials you can find on VistaPrint.
19. Host a sale
There are ways to host a sale online or in person. On Kindle Direct Publishing, the author can change the price, sometimes it takes a while to change but it can be a good promotional tool to help sell. Then you advertise it in as many places as possible. I know that on the US Amazon site, authors can create coupons or discount codes for some products. When I presented at the IMES conference in June I had my book available at a sale price for the conference weekend because being on the Canadian site, I could not create a promotional code. It still worked in the same way!
20. Book stores
Ask local book stores to shelve your book. The worst thing they can say is “no.” Even the big nation-wide stores like Chapters and Indigo will have a “Local Book” section of their store if nothing else. Mine is currently on sale at the book store in the local Farmer’s Market. There could be local book distributors willing to take it on too!
21. Guest blog posts and columns
For promotional purposes, I’ve looked for guest blogging opportunities. Guest blogging gets your work to a new audience within a niche and helps the host of the guest blog produce content. It is essentially a win-win situation. I’ve written guest posts for a number of websites including MusicalU, Midnight Music, Professional Music Educator, and APME. Sometimes sites put out a ‘call’ for guest blog posts, other times you might have to ask. When you ask, offer to exchange guest blog posts. That way, you are each getting something out of it! The cross-promotion is the best part.
Also, if you are lucky enough to score a column on your subject that is a whole new audience that you are able to market to that you couldn’t before. Of course most columns don’t let you promote your books directly but there is nothing wrong with mentioning it in the author bio. I currently write for the Canadian Music Educators’ Journal.
Podcasts have become quite popular in the last few years. If you are able to get yourself on a podcast within your niche, that is awesome. I was able to discuss my book on a podcast for music teachers called the Music Ed Mentor Podcast. Here is the interview. If you know a person who does a podcast who is within your niche, just ask! Podcasters are always looking for new content and people to chat with.
23. Presentation videos
If you have a Prezi or PowerPoint of workshops and presentations you’ve done, try recording them using a screen recorder. Lots are easy to find online and will record your screen and can access your microphone so you can do a presentation video with a voice overlay. I’ve done this with a couple of my presentations that relate to my book to use as promotional material. If you have the software downloaded and your presentation is already done, this only takes 10 to 15 minutes to do!
24. Word of mouth
This can be difficult, but tell everyone you know about it. I have a hard time talking about my book to people because I don’t want to sound like I am bragging, but it is essential. If nobody knows about it, no one will buy it.
These are what have worked for me and you might have found lots more ideas that work for you too! If you’ve found a marketing strategy that you like or you would like me to go more in depth with something you see here, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am here for you!
Until next time, Happy Marketing, Happy Writing, and of course, Happy Musicking!