Keeping Interest in Your Book Going: How to Stoke the Fires
by Nancy Baxter, Senior Editor
Hawthorne Books, Carmel
Goat Water is Not What You Think: The Montserrat Island Life of Two Hoosiers and the Volcano That Ended It tells the story of what happened when Carol Elrod, a former reporter on the Indianapolis Star, and her husband left Indianapolis behind to live on the non-American side of the Caribbean island of Montserrat—until a volcanic eruption buried half the island and their home as they fled for their lives. People have been interested in this exciting and sometimes humorous cultural immersion story and ordered it from Barnes and Noble and Amazon but Carol found her own promotion is what is selling the book. It has been the best-seller this year for Hawthorne Publishing.
The central problem for all authors today with books that aren’t on the best-seller lists is that nobody may know they exist. Get attention, get attention! That’s the slogan.
Carol gives her own specific strategies to get the book out to the public. Hawthorne Publishing is primarily a regional publisher like the Indiana Historical Society Press so most strategies are close to home. Her promo plan can offer good suggestions for any author whose book has come out and who wants to get it noticed: Here’s Carol:
- I live in Florida now for most of the year, returning to Indy in the summer, so I have had events in both of my “homes.” Pine Island, near Ft. Myers, schedules many activities that attract large crowds from all over the region. If I can piggyback on any of these, I will. For example, my Island has a “Garden Gala” in February. Although the foremost sales will be plants and gardening supplies, crafts, food and books by local authors are also for sale. I will have a table in the “authors’ corner.” Even if I don’t sell many books, the good will and potential sales down the road are just as important as books sold that day. I will meet people who may wish me to speak about the book. When I gave a talk at a meeting of Friends of the Library on Pine Island, the event was well advertised and the book reviewed in the local paper. Small local weeklies or dailies are read by a surprising number of people. I’ve been to the museum and have been nagging the Ft. Myers Barnes and Noble about having my book on its shelves and scheduling a signing. My book is already available on the shelves of Barnes and Noble in the Indianapolis area.
- A website to advertise a book is important if you are to keep your baby in front of the public. I realized soon after mine went online that no one would know about the website unless I told them. One of the ways was to put a signature line at the bottom of all the e-mails I send. Mine says, “Please check out my website – www.goatwaterisnotwhatyouthink. This signature line may remind some people that my book would make a great birthday present for somebody or for themselves. I’ve also been blogging on the Hawthorne site off and on. I’ve sent out book information emails to our friends and contacts list when waymarks occurred: the paperback is released, the e-book comes out, the large author fair will be coming up. Oh, yes, and you should list your website’s URL, where there should be a “contact me” page and information about how to buy from your publisher or beyond.
- Business cards have been quite successful as publicity tools for me. Be sure to include not only your name, phone number and e-mail address but also the title of the book and, if possible, a photo of the book’s cover. I had mine out at several events including the Indiana Historical Society Christmas book fair.
- When anyone mentions my book or asks about it and I’ve answered all the questions, I ask them if they know of any churches, book clubs or civic organizations that might like to have an illustrated program. My own “after the service” book event at my church was one of the best scheduled. I offer many people my business card. I belong to two art quilt groups and have passed out cards there. I had an Indianapolis opening at a home, with a party for former Star employees who are friends. I talk to book clubs and church groups and will be speaking to the English Speaking Union in May of this year. I’ve talked to senior groups at retirement homes.
I’ve just been mentioned in the Ball State alumni magazine. Indiana University alumni magazine is yet to come.
- At first, I didn’t plan on getting involved with social media beyond e-mail, but I’m glad I decided to have a Facebook account. I’ve been able to link up with friends from high school, college, my church and the interest groups of which I’m a member. My high school class reunion will be having an author’s table with plenty of advance publicity so people can come prepared to pick up books from their classmates.
Hawthorne Publishing, my publisher, put an interview with me on YouTube several months ago. I’m not sure how many sales have resulted from this, but I believe in leaving no stone unturned. I do know that more than 300 people have checked out the interview.
- If casual acquaintances ask what I’ve been doing lately and might not know about my writing, I tell them about Goat Water. On more than one occasion, this and the conversation that followed has led to a sale or an appearance at a club or event.
- Now and again, people have told me how much they enjoyed my book. If it seems appropriate, I ask if they would be willing to write a review for Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Despite good intentions, some don’t come through, but some do. It helps to tell them how easy it is to write a review.
- It never hurts to put the baby out on consignment – at a local museum, at a deli you frequent and even at your hairdresser’s. I intend to show up at my outlets soon, having put up a poster in advance to say I will.
Sometimes sales opportunities have dropped into my lap. A friend who didn’t know I gave presentations asked if I would consider speaking to her book club. I didn’t know she was a member of one, or I would have asked already! I said I would love to. Simple as that. I’d like these clubs to purchase books in advance, perhaps at a good discount. Group sales are great.
I’ll try almost anything. By the way, goat water is a stew from the island.