by Cynthia Polansky
You work together, play together; why not promote your book together? Friends are often an overlooked and underutilized resource for book promotion. We’re often reluctant to impose, and despite sincere offers to help toot their talented friend’s horn, they may balk at the reality of time-consuming marketing campaigns. But what if you offered willing friends simple promotional tasks that produce tangible results? Here are ten guilt-free ways to help them board the promotional bandwagon.
1. Go exponential. Invite friends individually to your next book event in their area. A personal invitation conveys the event’s singular importance, as well as the valued friend’s importance. Ask each to bring someone who doesn’t know you. Like the old shampoo commercial said, “They’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and ...”
2. Go postal. Create tell-a-friend postcards. Put your book cover on the front with a one-line caption like “You So Have to Read This!” or “Gotta Get This Book for Your Trip!” A simple message goes on the back: “This LOL-funny and thought-provoking book is the perfect vacation read. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.” Include a header containing title, author, and ISBN, and a footer with your website. Ask friends who’ve already read your book to mail a few postcards to their friends and colleagues.
3. Go public. Don’t have any librarian friends? Make some! Get to know your local public librarians and enlist their help. Create a postcard message encouraging the recipient to visit the library for the book. Ask check-out librarians to slip a few inside your book whenever it’s borrowed. If the library doesn’t own your title, submit a press packet – including a handful of postcards – to the acquisitions librarian.
4. Go virtual. In your e-newsletter, ask recipients to send a tell-a-friend email. Provide text they can copy and paste into a new email (e.g., Check out my friend’s new blog, Crossing Polansky. Here’s the opt-in link to her mailing list). Email from a known recipient is less likely to end up in someone’s spam folder, and a personal recommendation carries more weight than an email blast.
5. Go nationwide. Create postcards or brochures describing you, your book, and an offer to participate in book club discussions. Most groups love the idea of discussing the selected book with its author. Send brochures to out-of-town friends and ask them to share the brochures with their book club or someone else’s. Phone or web-cam visits take you and your book anywhere.
6. Go professional. Make a list of friends who work in professional offices and aesthetic businesses like day spas, hair salons, gyms, or studios. Ask if you can place bookmarks or other small promo items at the office check-out desk or waiting room tables. A very close friend confident in her boss’s generosity might even inquire about a small display of your books for sale. As a courtesy, offer the professional a share in the sales or donate a portion to her favorite charity.
7. Go academic. Ask any friends with young children if they’re interested in a unique teacher gift. A personalized, autographed book makes a meaningful gift and spotlights the importance and enjoyment of reading. Be discerning, though: Your erotic novel probably isn’t the best gift choice for Sister Mary Catherine.
8. Go home. If any friends sell merchandise at home parties, ask if they’d be willing to insert your bookmarks in the merchandise catalogs. Or put together a promo item – such as a small bag of candy with your book’s business card attached – to tuck into each merchandise bag before your friend distributes the orders. Show your appreciation by offering to host a party at your own home.
9. Go fish. Encourage friends who already own your book to pay it forward: pass it along to another reader, a book swap, synagogue gift shop, or yard sale. Or donate it to a women’s shelter or hospital library. Cajole frequent-flyer pals into slipping a bookmark inside in-flight magazines. That seat’s next occupant may become your next reader!
10. Go crazy. You may have a think-tank right in your own backyard. Ask friends over for a brain-storming party – nothing like a little wine to get the ideas flowing!
A word of caution before you solicit their help: take stock of what’s going on in your friends’s lives right now. Someone in the midst of a divorce or training for a triathlon has enough on her plate without adding your book promotion. Solid friendships are as precious as a spot on the NY Times bestseller list, and a lot more enduring. Remember to return the favor every chance you get. After all, isn’t that what friends are for?