by Will Viharo
Getting attention for an individual book in today’s overcrowded marketplace is even more challenging than actually writing and publishing one, especially if you’re an indie author that doesn’t have the benefit of a big publisher’s publicity department.
But even traditionally published authors have to do much if not all of their own networking these days, relying heavily on their own social media platforms to spread the word(s).
Frankly, it’s no longer enough. You need to think outside the box, or remain buried inside of it forever.
Imaginative ad campaigns and cross-promotions have a long history in all forms of commerce, but particularly entertainment, where competition for audiences is often intimidatingly fierce.
An entrepreneur’s determination to achieve distinction often makes or breaks the success of any type of product, from cars to computers to cookies, from music to movies, from beauticians to politicians, and books are certainly no exception.
In fact, the pool of readers actually willing to spend money on a new author is shrinking, not growing, meaning it’s tougher than ever to make your voice heard above the din, which can get so noisy that consumers sometimes just tune it out entirely.
So the trick is to attract attention without coming off as pushy, obnoxious, self-aggrandizing, or worst of all: desperate.
The best way to achieve this is to apply the same level of craftsmanship, ingenuity, and artistry into promoting your work as you poured into actually writing it.
Here are a few ideas from my own experience as a shameless self-promoter:
Drink a Book!
A famous tiki lounge in Alameda CA that I frequented and then worked for as publicist/band booker/newsletter writer/weekend bouncer called Forbidden Island agreed to offer drink specials inspired by characters and titles from my books. One of them, the “Vic Valentine,” named for the protagonist of my private eye series, became so popular it was promoted to a regularly offered house drink when the menu was revamped, and now it’s included in the second volume of the popular recipe resource series Bourbon Mixology, making it an official cocktail for the world at large.
The timing of this revered recipe book’s release also just happened to coincide with the publication of my all-new Vic Valentine novel, Hard-boiled Heart, by Gutter Books.
My literary liquid legacy has been secured, especially since many more people imbibe than read (other than the cocktail menu).
If you don’t drink alcohol, no worries. There are many types of branding tie-ins you can suggest to your own local establishments. Just make sure there’s something “in it” for them, too – particularly profits.
Of course, I had an inside connection in this case, but that’s also something I cultivated over time. There’s no reason you can’t establish that same sort of friendly rapport with the business of your choice, too.
The Art of Scientific Self-Promotion
An amateur scientist named Scott Fulks, whom I met at Forbidden Island, read my novels and then hired me to write two sci-fi novels in which he embedded his own scientific theories and formulas. Based on his sketchy outlines, I wrote most of the narrative text for the epic It Came from Hangar 18 and most recently, The Space Needler’s Intergalactic Bar Guide, an outrageous pulp novel containing not only Scott's real science, but actual cocktail recipes, both original and classic.
Both books had their official launches at an international convention in San Diego called Tiki Oasis. For Hangar 18’s premiere, Scott had the cover artist, Michael Fleming, create special bookmarks to insert in each of the “goody bags” handed out to the thousands of attendees.
This past August, for Space Needler, Scott’s goody bag brainstorm was little plastic cups again featuring Michael’s artwork (also a variation on the cover image, like the Hangar 18 bookmarks). Since he had them manufactured in bulk, they were extremely inexpensive to produce, and they were the perfect way to advertise the book, as well as offer an incentive to actually buy it for its original cocktail recipes, since they already had the customized container!
At this convention, we also co-hosted a symposium on retro sci-fi culture in mass media, where the book’s signature drink recipe, “The Space Needler”, was served to the audience by the bartender that created it, Becca Morris of Forbidden Island. Our event was even sponsored by a corporate cheerleader, Angostura Rums and Bitters. Why? Clever and strategic product placement within the text…
Be Unique If Not Original
Though Scott’s ingenious concept was simple but effective, this idea is not entirely new. Popular crime author Eric Beetner recently offered customized cocktail coasters at live events to promote his novel Rumrunners.
When I hosted the first in a roving live reading series called Noir at the Bar Seattle this past October, rising Canadian crime author Sam Wiebe also passed out coasters bearing the title and cover image of his latest novel, Last of the Independents.
You could do the same thing with any number of items, from balloons to buttons to bumper stickers, anything that is cheap to mass produce (the internet is loaded with companies specializing in this stuff) and fun for people to play with, or even display, effectively promoting your book for you, even if they don’t actually buy a copy themselves.
Bottom line: there’s no limit to the ways you can brand your book, as well as your name as an author.
What are some fun, unique ways you’ve devised to promote your work?
PHOTO: JOHN WILSON