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Writing Fiction: An Introductory Guide: Marketing

A guide to the craft and business of writing fiction.

Marketing Your Novel

Introduction to Marketing

 

Even if you're traditionally published, you may still have to do most of your own marketing. Here are some ideas to get you started, whether traditionally or independently published. 

 

Marketing contents

Build Your Website - Why you need a website, what to include, and platform options.

Start a Blog - Why you should consider a blog, what you can write about, and platform options.

Send a Newsletter - Why you should have a newsletter, what you can write about, and platform options.

Social Media For Writers Social media etiquette, and platform options.

Use Promotional Platforms - These platforms help you promote your books and gets copies into the hands of your readers.

Get Book Reviews  - Explores why book reviews are important and how you can get them.

Your Book on Library Shelves - So you want to see your book on your library's shelf, here's how you can make that happen!

Author Talks at Libraries & Bookstores - Includes proper author event etiquette and what information the event coordinator will want from you.

 

A note about these sections

A lot of the information here will overlap into other sections and may, or may not, be duplicated. In other words, you may find helpful tips in the Social Media section that could also apply to the Newsletter section, such as setting up an editorial calendar. So even if you don't think you need a section, you may want to read through it to see how you can apply the information elsewhere in your marketing.

Build Your Website

 

Why should you have an author website?

When people search for you on the internet, they will need one place to find everything about you, including what books you have published and where they can be purchased. This includes your fans, as well as potential publishers, agents, and editors, who may use your website to determine whether or not they want to work with you.

 

What should you include on your website?

  • First, you'll want to choose a good URL. If it's not already taken, your best option is to go with nothing but your name (or penname). You want it to be professional and easily found and remembered. 
  • An "about" page that gives a little bit of information about who you are and what you write. You don't have to go into great details about anything, but your fans will be glad to know there's a real live human behind all those words they've been reading. 
  • A "contact" page. This should have ways your readers, and others, can contact you. If a bookstore wants to ask you to do an author talk, you've got to make it easy for them to get in touch, otherwise they might give up, and you'll loose out. 
  • A page, or multiple pages, about your books! This should include buy links so people can easily purchase your books. You'll also want information such as whether or not they belong in a series, and if they do, what order should they be read in. 
  • If you are considering running a blog, you may wish to keep it as a page on your website, rather than on a completely different platform. 
  • Links to all of your professional author social media accounts and websites where fans can find and converse with you. These can include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads, among others.

Visit the websites of your favorite authors for more ideas on what to include on your website. Keep in mind that authors who are wildly successful may require larger websites with more information than someone who is just starting out.

 

Website platforms

For those not looking to create a website from scratch using code, these website platforms are for you! Most of them will offer a free version with a domain name that includes their company name, or you can pay for extra features that will also give you your own custom domain (JoeShmo.wordpress.com vs. JoeShmo.com or JoeShmo.net). Whatever your needs are, you're sure to find something here to get you started. 

JournoPortfolio - (Free version/cost) Easily create multiple web pages in different layouts, themes and designs and share your work across social media and other platforms.

Pressfolios - (Free trial/cost) Keep track, organize, and show your work. Includes an auto-backup feature that will save your work as PDFs and store them in the cloud.

SquareSpace - (Free trial/cost) Effective for e-commerce, but with customized editing tools, advanced features, many themes and readymade layouts you can create a stellar website that's totally flexible to your needs.

Tumblr - (Free/Optional paid services) An easy way to share your work with the world (including videos and graphics), reblog other authors' posts, and follow others with easily customizable themes.  

Weebly - (Free version/Cost) Easily customize your site and integrate third-party tools such as newsletter platforms. 

Wix - (Free/Optional paid services) An e-commerce platform with a wide variety of templates, custom-made layouts, and preset designs to make it super easy. 

Wordpress - (Free version/Cost) Great for authors looking to integrate their blog with their website, or not, Wordpress.com is very versatile and easy to use with free templates. Note: Wordpress.com hosts your website for you while Wordpress.org requires you to download and install the software on your own server. 

Start a Blog

 

Why should you have a blog?

  • Blogs help you build your platform as you create content for it, which will look good to publishers and agents.
  • This can be a great way to get your presence out there before your book comes out. This way people will have time to get excited about your book and are more likely to buy it when it does release.
  • This is a perfect way to get yourself into the writing habit on a regular basis.
  • Your blog is a great place to get feedback on your work from the wider world as you're getting started in your writing career and finding your voice.
  • Blogging is an easy way to build connections with your readers, other writers, publishers, agents, and editors, as long as you are consistent with quality content. 

Admittedly, not everyone will be a good blogger. If blogging isn't for you, you can still participate in author interviews on other writer's blogs to help get your name out there. And remember, patience and consistency is key! It may take a long while for you to gain enough readers to make everything worth while, but as long as you're enjoying your work and you're taking your blog as seriously as you would a novel, stick with it, and readers will come.

 

Key information to include on your blog

  • An "about" page with a bio of yourself. People will want to know who you are and they won't want to have to hunt down this information, so keep it visible on all of your pages.
  • Your name is your brand! If you need to use a penname, choose a good one. If your name is already taken by someone who is very popular, you'll probably want to change yours so people can tell you apart. You need to be searchable on the internet. Your blog name, if you don't use your own name/penname, should reflect who you are as well. 
  • Have a way for people to contact you and have it visible on your blog. Other writers may want to interview you on their blog or readers may have a question about your upcoming book. If there is no contact information for them, they may give up and go home, which means you lose out on marketing and a book purchase. 
  • Include links to your website, a newsletter sign up, and other social media connections because publishers and readers don't want to have to leave your blog to search for you on the big wide web.
  • Flashy ads that interrupt your posts, and are jarring to look at will have readers turning away. The same goes for your color choices. Choose something that will have people staying for awhile.
  • Readers will be appreciative if you have a more or less set schedule of when your next blog post is coming out. If you blog too infrequently, you'll loose readers, and if you blog too often, you'll also loose readers. But find a schedule that works for you. This is similar to writing a newsletter.
  • At the end of your posts, ask a question for your readers to answer in the comments section, to give your blog some serious action. 

 

What should you write for your blog? 

  • Write about your writing journey. Writing is hard work and you have probably gone through many draft changes, character changes, and other things. Write about the stage you're currently at. How have things changed? Are you on track for release day? Are your characters behaving?
  • Include excerpts from your work, which can include scenes on the cutting room floor, or just a scene you're really proud of. The important thing to keep in mind is that you don't want to give away important plot points or secrets of your work. You do not want to post full chapters as some publishing houses may not be appreciative of having part of your work "published" before they get to it.
  • Interview your characters! What are their hobbies? What is their favorite dessert? What was their favorite book growing up? The questions are endless and your readers will love you for them!
  • It's perfectly okay to write book reviews on your author blog. Make sure to stay honest and professional when you do. Your readers will be very interested to know what you're reading.
  • You can also post on topics that are personal to you. Your thoughts on a new recipe you've tried, or a conference you went to, or maybe you discovered a new band that's influencing your work.
  • Networking for writers! Invite other authors to your blog for an interview. This is a great way to get those writers some attention from new readers and for your readers to discover new writers! The key is inviting authors who write works similar to yours so you can easily share a readership. You can ask questions about their upcoming books, their writing process, or anything else you can think of, as long as you talk about more than just the upcoming book. This is also something you can do on other author's blogs, to help get your name out there. 
  • When your book gets signed by a publisher, or you've just been given your cover and you want to share it with the world, write a blog post about it! Celebrate and give readers the buy links when it's officially released. 
  • If you're a seasoned author, you can even blog about writing advice for new writers. But if you're a relatively new author, you may want to write about the issues you're facing and how you're working toward fixing them. For example, you realized your character is flat, how are you working to make him more well rounded or likeable? 

 

Blogging platforms

See the Author Websites section for more suggestions, as many of the website platforms listed at the bottom of that page can also be used to host your blog. Blogger, listed below, seems to be the one blogging platform for beginning bloggers that is still popular in 2019.

Blogger - (Free) Create a unique and beautiful blog easily. This is a Google product, so you will need a Google account to get started. 

Send a Newsletter

 

Why should you have a newsletter?

There are many reasons why newsletters are a good thing for authors. It's always good to have multiple ways to reach readers as not all readers are on the same social media platforms. In fact, many readers aren't on social media at all! Newsletters are also a great backup plan should another platform go awry. If your Facebook page gets yanked or banned, or another platform gets hacked, your newsletter is still completely under your control. Many authors who use newsletters also see a sales bump when they let readers know a new book is out via newsletter.

Never sign someone up for your newsletter without their permission. It's rude, and you will likely lose readers that way. 

 

What should you include in a newsletter?

  • Don't forget to greet your reader first thing!
  • Links to your other social media. 
  • Book cover art, blurbs, and buy links. 
  • You may want to include personal information and photos, being only as detailed as you're comfortable with.
  • Fun and engaging things, which could include: 
    • Recipes as they relate to your work, or just because.
    • Photos of your pets helping or hindering your writing process because everyone loves cute furbabies.
    • Hobbies or crafts you're into or trying out for the first time.
    • Book releases for other authors you really like.
    • Serialized stories, which could be about a new character in your world or a continuation of a published work, or something completely different that you plan to publish someday. 
    • Free scenes that might be extra or deleted from your WIP, or a book you've already published. These are also great freebies to give away to people who join your newsletter (otherwise known as "reader magnets") because it gets readers who care about you and are interested in your work, not just someone wanting free stuff.
  • Remember to be genuine.
  • In your subject line, don't include words like "free" and "sale" as they increase the likelihood your newsletter will end up in the spam boxes of your readers instead of their inbox.

 

How often should you send out a newsletter?

  • Newsletters shouldn't go out only when you have a book release. Readers will get tired of only hearing "buy my book".
  • Readers will also tire easily if you send your newsletter too often, such as every day or even once a week. 
  • Once a month, or once every other month is average for a lot of authors. 
  • Be as consistent as possible with your newsletter schedule, no matter how often you plan to send it out.
  • Remember to save time for writing your novels!

 

Newsletter platforms 

Mailchimp - (Free/Paid versions) Sends newsletters to your subscribers, handles your Facebook/Instagram ads, and so much more.

Mailerlite - (Free/Paid versions) MailerLite was born in 2010 to give businesses a simple yet powerful email solution to help them grow.

TinyLetter - (Free) TinyLetter is for people who don't need all the business features that come along with Mailchimp. Here, simplicity is key.

Social Media for Writers

 

Why should you use social media?

Social media is a way to connect with your readers and serves as an additional window into who you are. It can also help you get noticed by publishers, agents, and editors, as well as other authors who may want to feature you on their own social media or blog.

Social media should never be about the numbers, but about those readers who engage and care about you and your work. It might look good to have a thousand people following you on Twitter, but if they aren't reading your work, if they're not buying your book, leaving a review (positive or negative), or engaging you or other fans of your work in conversation, then you're just counting empty heads. And what's the point in that?

Only use the social media platforms you are comfortable with and that you will use consistently. For example, if you don't think you can come up with enough posts for Instagram, or you're not into photography, then skip that one. But maybe you're good at writing one or two messages in 140 characters that don't just ask people to buy your book. If that's the case, perhaps you should look into using Twitter. 

 

Set up an editorial calendar

Treat your social media as a professional. It's important to give your readers quality content consistently.  Especially if you are managing several social media platforms, a blog, and a newsletter, you'll want to have a set schedule written down so you know when and where you're posting new content. Make sure you don't go for long stretches of time without posting. If your plans change, update your calendar.

 

Social media etiquette

  •  Be professional when choosing your username on whichever site you plan to use. Your name is your brand and it should be either your real name or your professional penname, not something like "EdwardFan8760".
  •  Only share as much personal information as you feel comfortable telling complete strangers. 
  •  Don't sell to other authors, they are not your audience!
  •  Do give other authors' works a boost when you can, even if you don't personally know them. 
  •  Ask first before you subscribe someone to your newsletter, blog, or tag them in a photo.
  •  Be open and curious. Ask questions! This is a great way to start conversations with your fans.
  •  Don't spam anyone with "buy my book!" links or posts. 
  •  Do give out compliments freely and often.
  •  If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it. It will only reflect poorly on you and drive your readers away.
  •  Spread your posts out throughout the day or week so it doesn't seem like you're spamming people, or are lazy.
  •  Ignore internet trolls. Their sole reason for existing is to cause mayhem and cannot be swayed otherwise. Avoid them at all costs.
  •  There is no need to personally thank people for following you, especially if you use an automatic reply, which can be seen as spam. 
  •  Treat those who review your work with respect and remember, you can't please every single person in the world. Even bestsellers get rotten reviews all the time. Don't respond to reviews, good or bad. 
  •  Ask nicely, and you shall receive. For example, don't simply say "please RT!" Try something like "It would be great if 75 followers would RT this link to my new book. Will you help?" 
  •  Remember, when you are online, you are essentially in public, or at your place of work. Act accordingly, and make sure the information you put out there is good and correct before you post or retweet any of it.
  •  If you don't want it done or said to you, then don't do it or say it to someone else. 

 

Forming fan groups on social media

  • Why do people join groups on sites like Goodreads and Facebook? Or why should you set up a fan group? People want free stuff and/or they want to talk about your books (with you and/or with other fans), or they just want the free stuff. The important group here are those readers who genuinely want to talk about your work, which can lead to great author/reader interactions, which can then lead to those readers bringing in more readers.
  • It's okay to give away free stuff every now and then in your group, but if you give away something to every new member who joins, you'll end up with a group full of people who might not care about what you, or your fans, have to say. The best way to give away free stuff in your group is to make people participate in a fun game such as writing a haiku with a few prompts you give them related to your upcoming book, or have them ask questions of your characters. Anyone who participates can get entered into a drawing for whatever the free thing is that you're giving away.
  • The goal of creating a fan group is engagement. It doesn't matter what you talk about. Some of the best groups have a thread for each book the author has written, but will also have threads for these great conversation starters:
    • "General news", which can be about a news article someone found interesting, or personal news like your fan that just adopted their first rescue cat or got a job interview.
    • "What else are you currently reading?", because even the best of fans can't always be reading the same books by their favorite authors, and if you're reading something good, you'll want to share it.
    • You might start an online book group with your fans where you branch out and read other works during the months you don't have a book coming out.
    • Create a thread for sharing recipes, or one to talk about the movies and television shows you've gotten into. 
    • You can even make it more fun with random threads like "the best thing about today is..." or "one sentence" where readers can post a sentence from a favorite book, or a current read. 
  • Remember the etiquette rules above and post rules in your group so they are visible for new and old members alike. Rules like "keep it clean", "no bullying", "no swearing"... have a greater chance of keeping your group active and lively for a long time.
  • Make sure people know where else they can find you on the internet by including links in your group to all of your social media, your newsletter, your website, and anything else that's important for fans to know about.  

 

Some social media platforms to consider

Keep in mind that you have to choose the platforms that are right for you. See the Social Media for Writers post by Reedsy for more social media platform ideas!

Twitter (Free) Follow your interests, hear what people are talking about, join the conversation (in 240 characters or less)!

Facebook (Free) Connect with friends and the world around you. See photos and updates, share what's new, and more.

Instagram (Free) See and share photos and videos from all over the world.

Goodreads (Free) Meet your next favorite book. Keep track of your reading, join or start a group, and engage other readers in conversation.

LibraryThing (Free version & cost) A home for your books and a community of book lovers.

 

Social media management tools

Keep in mind that you have to choose the social media platforms and management tools that are right for you.

Buffer - (Free option/trial/cost) Tools include planning, publishing, analytics, engagement, landing page builder, draft collaboration and more.

Hootsuite - (Trial/cost) Manage all your social channels, engage new audiences, and grow your brand on social with Hootsuite. We’ll help you go further, faster—no matter your team’s size.

Loomly - (Trial/cost) Tools include an asset library, analytics, post suggestions, collaborate with your team, and more. 

SmarterQueue - (free/cost) Tools include content categories, evergreen recycling, content curation, visual calendar, analytics, publishing, and more.

 

Online articles 

Authors Belong on Goodreads, Too - Tirzah Price

How Successful Authors Use Social Media: 24 Content Ideas - Leila Hirschfeld

Social Media for Writers - Reedsy Blog

Use Promotional Platforms

 

What is a promotional platform and why should you use one?

These platforms are great for connecting you with readers! Readers can sign up and get notifications when you have new books releasing, see sneak peeks of your work if you allow it, and you can even send out advanced copies to get those reviews before the official release day. 

Note that if you are giving away books for free using these platforms it's best to do this with books that are already free on Amazon and other outlets so you don't run afoul of anyone's terms and conditions. 

 

Promotional platforms

BookBub - (Free aspects/Cost) With so many books launching each week, it's hard to be sure your target audience knows about your new release. That's why BookBub makes it easy to mix and match promotional tools to create the perfect launch strategy. It is a platform for readers as well as writers. Author profiles, new book release alerts, and book recommendations are all free. 

BookFunnel - (Cost) Whether it’s delivering your reader magnet, sending out advanced copies of your book, handing out ebooks at a conference, or fulfilling your digital sales to readers, BookFunnel does it all. 

Books2Read (Free) Books2Read is a reader-facing site featuring discovery tools developed by indie-publishing service Draft2Digital. We currently offer the following free services: New Release Notifications, Universal Book Links, Author Pages, and Book Tabs.

Prolific Works - (Free aspects/Cost) Prolific Works was created with a mission to accelerate great stories and big ideas. As the book world’s leading platform for exclusive access to sneak peeks, advance previews, and special giveaways, we live our mission every day and give readers a chance to see it first. 

 

Permafree: What is it and how does it work?

Permafree is short for permanently free. Readers are more likely to take a chance on a new author if there is a free book available, especially if its the first book in a series. For this reason it could be beneficial to offer one of your books for free. 

Here's how it works: If you have an ebook on platforms like Smashwords or Draft2Digital, set those price points to $0.00. Then inform Amazon of the lower price elsewhere. They will then match the lower price and your ebook will be free.

Get Book Reviews

 

Why are book reviews important?

When readers are searching for their next favorite read, they like to see that others are reading something they are considering. In this regard, having at least a few reviews to start helps new readers pick up your book. Otherwise it looks like people are avoiding your work, which is the last thing you want.

 

How do you get reviews for your new book?

If you are traditionally published, your publisher may contact professional reviewers for what's known as a "trade review" at companies like Kirkus ReviewsLibrary Journal, and Publisher's Weekly. If your publisher isn't handling these reviews for you, or if you're going the independent route, you may need to find reviews on your own. Even if your publisher is handling the professional reviews for you, you may still want to follow some of these basic guidelines to garner reviews from others.

Start by asking the people you know, such as fans of your work and those people you are already in contact with in relation to your writing, and slowly expand outward until you're reaching the general public. Keep in mind that Amazon will delete reviews written by close friends and relatives, so these may not be the best people to ask for reviews. 

 

Writing the review

Make sure your reviewers, if they aren't professional reviewers, will leave good feedback that can help future readers make a decision. You may need to explain what you need as some reviewers will just gush nonsense love or simply say they hated it without explaining why, which isn't helpful for anyone. Look at reviews that got you to read something. What was it about that review that hooked you? What would you want to see in a review of someone else's work you might be considering? Let your reviewers know to include as much of that information as they can, such as what they liked, or didn't, about the characters, the setting, and the plot. They should also mention any controversial* elements they feel other readers should know about.

*You want to get the right readers to read your book, people who are comfortable reading that particular controversial element. Otherwise you may get a lot of nasty reviews because you didn't clue them in ahead of time and no one wants to be surprised with something like super kinky sex or on-page abuse. Remember, not every book is meant for every person, and that's okay.

 

Professional reviewers

Sometimes you'll want to contact professional reviewers who review books for free on their blog. Use a website like Amazon or Goodreads to find similar titles to yours, then see who's reviewing them. Or search the internet for what you're looking for like "science-fiction review blogs". You may even find other blogs and websites that will list a few in one place.

Make sure the reviewers you ask read books that are similar to yours. If you ask reviewer of historical romance to look at your science-fiction thriller, they will turn you down.

If you find a reviewer who wants to read your book, don't forget to give them a copy of it

 

Paying for a book review

Book review services, like Kirkus, generally target schools, bookstores, and librarians who then order the books they want through a major distributor such as Ingram or Baker & Taylornot Amazon. If you are selling your book only on Amazon or other self-publishing platforms, chances are good that the readers who find your book there will not be looking at Kirkus to determine whether or not to read your book and libraries and bookstores may not be able to purchase the book, even if it does have a professional review. So, in short, think about your target audience, as well as how and where you will sell your book to help you decide whether or not you need to buy a book review or two.

Also keep in mind that some places, such as the Boston Public Library, require you to have a professional review in order for your book to be considered for purchase. See the Your Book on Library Shelves section for more information on this.

 

Paid book review services

Blueink Review (Cost) BlueInk considers for review “self-published” or “independently published” books. We review ebooks, on-demand books, printed books in any format, English translations and English-language submissions from outside the United States, as well as galleys.

Booklist - More than 200,000 book reviews for librarians, book groups, and book lovers—from the trusted experts at the American Library Association. See their website for specific guidelines for various formats and types of material they will review. 

Foreward Reviews (Free/Cost) If you're about to publish a new indie book, send us a review copy and we'll consider reviewing it alongside the rest of the best new indie books in our bi-monthly magazine, Foreword ReviewsIf your book doesn't earn a review in Foreword, or is past its pub date, you can still get it reviewed and star-rated in Clarion, our fee-for-review service using Foreword reviewers.

IndieReader (Cost) IndieReader’s team of professional reviewers boast a range of backgrounds and experiences, including journalists, teachers and librarians, as well as published writers. Whether your book is a vampire love story, a sci-fi action adventure or a memoir, we make every effort to match your book’s genre to the interest of our reviewer.

Kirkus Indie Reviews  - (Cost) Our indie reviews are written by qualified professionals, such as librarians, nationally published journalists, creative executives and more. While we do not guarantee positive reviews, unfavorable reviews can be taken as valuable feedback for improvements and ultimately do not have to be published on our site.

Self-Publishing Review - (Cost) Our professional team has been reviewing books for over a decade. We offer editorial reviews for self-publishers and independent authors/presses. Choose from three options with fast turnaround, star rating, and an edit of your review to quote on your Amazon book page, Goodreads page, author website, and book cover. Comes with extensive social media sharing and permanent link to your review online.

 

Analytics

BookCore - Tracks your book sales, rankings, and reviews.

Your Book on Library Shelves

 

Getting your book onto Boston Public Library shelves

We do not purchase books directly from authors or publishers. However, the best way for us to consider your book for our collections, is to have an independent, positive review in one or more the of the major review journals (such as Library Journal, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist and Publisher's Weekly). We are more likely to consider adding a self-published book to our collection if a major review journal has reviewed it.

To submit such a request, email us at ask@bpl.org and include the following:

  • Basic bibliographic information about your book (title, author, ISBN, publisher, date of publication, number of pages, price)
  • A link to your book's website and links to reviews or other coverage in the news media (if available)
  • A brief description of your book and its intended audience and information about how or where to buy it

Unfortunately, we cannot notify you if your book is not selected because of the number of submissions we receive.

Donated books are subject to the same selection criteria as other books we buy. Materials not added to our collection cannot be returned, and are sent to the City-Wide Friends for their bi-monthly book sales.

 

Not all libraries have the same policies

Each library or library system will have its own policies on book donations and purchases. You will want to check with each library you are looking into, as to what they will accept, before sending them your book, or asking them to buy it.

Cambridge Public Library has a book donation policy for anyone looking to donate books, including authors. If you would like the CPL to purchase your book, you will need to fill out their suggest a purchase form. There is no guarantee they will accept your donation or purchase request.

Brookline Public Library asks that you submit a purchase request. Their Collection Development Policy guides their purchase decisions, but in general, they attempt to purchase all requested items as long as they are not terribly specialized or expensive.

Author Talks at Libraries & Bookstores

 

Proper author event etiquette

This list came from several library and bookstore event coordinators who work with authors on a daily basis.

Follow directions - Many major public institutions have a program form to fill out. If they instruct you to email or to fill out a program proposal do that. It doesn’t hurt to find out the name of the librarian in charge or the events coordinator and send a polite brief email with the proposal attached.

Be professional - You are representing yourself and how easy or difficult you are to work with. Please do not pester librarians and booksellers by sending a bunch of emails or leaving them multiple phone messages. It does not help you make your case and makes you look pushy and difficult to work with.

Don’t drop by unannounced - Do not try to run your pitch past the first librarian or bookseller you encounter. Also, please do not call the librarian or event coordinator, say that you are in the building, and demand to meet with them for a “couple minutes”. They are busy people with meetings to attend and programs to run. They can’t drop anything, no matter how awesome your book is! This will be viewed at best as rude. It is also a surefire way to not be asked to come speak.

Go through your network - Are your friends librarians? Do you know anyone who works at a bookstore? Ask them to help you out. They may have networks or know the person who plans programs at a library.

Be flexible and be prepared for snags - Even if the Central Library can’t host you, don’t rule out the branches. Often branches are willing to bring in self-published, local, and debut authors for talks. At the event the audience might be shy and need a little warming up before they ask questions. If you have an awesome PowerPoint presentation but your laptop died or the venue doesn't have a projector, be ready to present without the tech. Remember, anything can, and probably will, go wonky at some point. Be prepared.

Be willing to help promote programs - Libraries and bookstores have a range of abilities to promote via social media. We will love you forever, if you post about your talk on social media or are willing to go hang up some fliers. Don’t forget to list the talk on your webpage (if you’ve got one) or Instagram—preferably a day or two in advance! Also, if you're a less known author and you can bring fans to to the venue, that will make them much more willing to host you than if you're expecting them to make you famous. Yes, appearances help increase your profile, but only if people actually show up. In short, the event will only be as good as you, the author, can make it!

Self-published authors - While there are many fine self-published titles out there, the reality is that larger libraries work with publishers and booksellers to bring in Authors. Libraries depend on public funding and part of how we demonstrate need is through program attendance. This means that when we invite authors we are selecting writers who we think will draw a certain amount of people. Because we are working together with publishers and booksellers we want to keep them happy, too! If we don’t think people will come out and/or buy your book, we probably will host someone else. Again, this is why you should always try your neighborhood or smaller town libraries. They generally have more ability to invite self-published, local, and debut authors to come speak.

Your book availability - Do some research on venues (libraries AND bookstores!) and find out if they can sell your book or have someone come in and sell it. For example, if your book isn't available outside of Amazon.com, libraries may not be able to purchase it for their patrons to borrow, Barnes & Noble stores are not going to be able to host you, and smaller independent bookstores may not want to host you. If your event is at a library, find out if the library in question can bring in a local bookstore to sell your books at the event. Make sure the library has your book in their collections for patrons to borrow as well, even if it's checked out at the time of your event.

Be nice, no matter what happens - Just like being professional, this will go a long way to ensuring you can return to the venue for another event in the future. It will also ensure that if something does go awry, it will be easier to pick up the pieces and keep going for a great event despite the setbacks.

 

Your information

Whether you are looking to talk at a library, bookstore, or anywhere else, here are some things you will need to tell the event coordinator at that location. Have the following information ready to read over the phone, or put it clearly in your email:

  • Your name
  • The title of your book
  • What your book is about
  • Where can your book be purchased if it’s not available through any major distributor such as Baker & Taylor or Ingram
  • What you want to talk about – this can include several options such as the topic of the book itself, or how you wrote the book
  • Who is your audience: children, teens, adults, professional dentists, scholarly professors?
  • A rough estimate of how long your talk will be
  • Any audio/visual technology you will need them to provide such as a laptop and/or projector – keep in mind that not every place will have these items
  • Your contact information - include a phone number and/or an email address where you can be reached

 

Author talks at the Boston Public Library 

Email ask@bpl.org and your email will be forwarded to the Events Coordinator or the appropriate branch manager who will get back to you as soon as they can.