Book Sales Getting Musty?

Marketing is a big scary, challenging world to the newly published writer, and sometimes even to the multi-published author! Thanks to Carolyn for sharing her tips with us today.

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Adapted from the multi award-winning Frugal Book Promoter 

In the world of publishing as in life, persistence counts. Of course, there is no way to keep a book at the top of the charts forever, but if you keep reviving it, you might hold a classic in your hands. Or your marketing efforts for one book may propel your next one to greater heights.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen authors who measure their success by book sales give up on their book (and sometimes on writing) just about the time their careers are about ready to take off. I tell my students and clients to fight the it’s-too-late-urge.

Publicity is like the little waves you make when you toss pebbles into a lake. The waves travel, travel, travel and eventually come back to you. If you stop lobbing little stones, you lose momentum. It’s never too late and it’s never too early to promote. Rearrange your thinking. Marketing isn’t about a single book. It’s about building a career. And new books can build on the momentum created by an earlier book, if you keep the faith. Review the marketing ideas in this book, rearrange your schedule and priorities a bit, and keep at it.

Here are a few keep-at-it ideas from the second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter:

  • Run a contest on your Web site, on Twitter, or in your newsletter. Use your books for prizes or get cross-promotion benefits by asking other authors for books; many will donate one to you in trade for the exposure. Watch the 99 Cent Stores for suitable favors to go with them.

Hint:Any promotion you do including a contest is more powerful when you call on your friends to tell their blog visitors or Facebook pals about it.

  • Barter your books or your services for exposure on other authors’ Web sites
  • Post your flier, brochure, or business card on bulletin boards everywhere: In grocery stores, coffee shops, Laundromats, car washes, and bookstores.
  • Offer classes in writing to your local high school, college, or library system. Publicizing them is easy and free. When appropriate, use your own book as suggested reading. The organization you are helping will pitch in by promoting your class. The network you build with them and your students is invaluable. Use this experience in your media kit to show you have teaching and presentation skills.
  • Slip automailers into each book you sell or give away for publicity. Automailers are envelopes that are pre-stamped, ready to go. Your auto mailer asks the recipient to recommend your book to someone else. Your mailer includes a brief synopsis of your book, a picture of the cover of your book, your book’s ISBN, ordering information, a couple of your most powerful blurbs, and a space for the reader to add her handwritten, personal recommendation. Make it clear in the directions that the reader should fill out the form, address the envelope, and mail it to a friend. You may offer a free gift for helping out, but don’t make getting the freebie too tough. Proof-of-purchase type schemes discourage your audience from participating.
  • Send notes to your friends and readers asking them to recommend your book to others. Or offer them a perk like free shipping, gift wrap, or small gift if they purchase your book for a friend. That’s an ideal way to use those contact lists you’ve been building.
  • While you’re working on the suggestion above, put on your thinking cap. What directories have you neglected to incorporate into your contact list? Have you joined any new groups since your book was published? Did you ask your grown children for lists of their friends? Did you include lists of old classmates?
  • Though it may be a bit more expensive than some ideas in this book, learn more about Google’s AdWords and AdSense and Facebook’s ad program. Many authors of niche nonfiction or fiction that can be identified with often-searched-for keywords find this advertising program effective.
  • Check out ad programs like Amazon’s Vine review service. You agree to provide a certain number of books to Amazon and pay them a fee for the service. Amazon arranges the reviews for you. It’s expensive, but it gets your book exposed to Amazon’s select cadre of reviewers who not only write reviews for your Amazon sales page but also may start (or restart!) a buzz about your book.
  • Some of your reviews (both others’ reviews of your book and reviews you’ve written about others’ books) have begun to age from disuse. Start posting them (with permission from the reviewer) on Web sites that allow you to do so. Check the guidelines for my free review service blog at TheNewBookReview.
  • Connect and reconnect. Start reading blogs and newsletters you once subscribed to again. Subscribe to a new one. Join a writers’ group or organization related to the subject of your book.=
  • Record a playful message about your book on your answering machine.
  • When you ship signed copies of your book, include a coupon for the purchase of another copy for a friend—signed and dedicated—or for one of your other books. Some distributors insert fliers or coupons into your books when they ship them for a fee.
  • Adjust the idea above to a cross-promotional effort with a friend who writes in the same genre as you. He puts a coupon for your book in his shipments; you do the same for him in yours.
  • Explore the opportunities for speaking on cruise ships. Many have cut back on the number of speakers they use, but your area of expertise may be perfect for one of them. I tried it, but found ship politics a drawback. Still many authors like Allyn Evans who holds top honors in Toastmasters and Erica Miner have used these venues successfully. For help with the application process from beginning to end, contact Daniel Hall at Speakers Cruise Free.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson, instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, has been promoting her own books and helping clients promote theirs for nearly a decade. Her marketing plan for the 2nd in the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success  won the New Millennium Award for Marketing. She just issued the second edition (New! Expanded! Updated! And already an award-winner!) of The Frugal Book Promoter. Learn more about her at

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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Some really good ideas here. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It’s so much easier if you think of it as fun instead of work!

    • Indeed! I had such a fun book-signing yesterday at the opening of a bookstore/coffee shop. In additional to selling a bunch of books, I met and had extensive visits with so many interesting, nice people, one of who attended the same high school I did, although at a different time (out in the middle of nowhere, Montana).

  3. So many terrific, doable ideas! Thank you both, Heidi and Carolyn.

  4. Carolyn is the best!

    • Yes, she is!!
      Thanks to you all who stopped by. I’ve had several e-mails from people who read this post and found the tips most helpful!

  5. Just ropping by to thank you all for supporting both Heidi and me. And Heidi, your image of a thinking cap is too cute! I’d like this, but WordPress makes it so hard for me to do that for some reason. But not to worry. I’ll do some thanking in my newsletter and on Facebook without that darn link. (-:

    By the way, anyone who would like to receive my SharingwithWriters newsletter may send me an e-mail a HoJoNews (at) AOL (dot) come with SUBSCRIBE in the subject line and I’ll do the work for you. It’s full of tips in every issue.

    My best to you all.

    • Carolyn, thank you for allowing me to share your tips on my blog. This is such important information for us all!

  6. This was just fabulous to read. As usual you’re full of good tips and ideas that are laid out in a way that’s not daunting to implement. Thank you Carolyn and Heidi.

  7. Great tips. I really enjoyed reading and I know a lot of people who will also benefit from this.

  8. Ester, appreciate you. Appreciate comments. I always wonder why more authors don’t use comment features to network. Thank you!

    • I know, Carolyn, why do people visit blogs but not comment? That is part of getting to “know” someone and creating your “community.” I’ve made many “friends” by commenting on their blogs.

    • I have been introduced to many hours of good informative reading, thanks to you and your generous sharing. It’s such a pleasure to know you.
      Bessings and good wishes.

  9. Great advice and as you say we have to keep the momentum going.

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