Promote Your Prose: Promotional Material For Your Books

By Mary Emma Allen

“What promotional materials do you have to make your book stand out and help us sell it?” a bookstore events coordinator asked.

There are a variety of materials you can use to let others know about your book and help make it noticeable in bookstores. With today’s computer printing programs, you can create many yourself. Also, check what other authors are using for promo materials.

  • Business Cards— I print my business cards with standard information on the front. On the back (a publicity expert mentioned using the back of your business card for additional data), I print information about various aspects of my books and writing programs. These cards can be changed as I need because I’m not printing huge quantities.
  • Bookmarks—These can be made fairly inexpensively and are a great promo item. Bookmarks are welcomed by children when you do Young Author programs and workshops in schools. They also serve as a type of business card.
  • Postcards—The design may feature a picture of your book cover or simply information about your book. When you need to drop a note to someone, use your post cards. (As one publisher mentioned, it’s not only you and the person you’re sending the card to who read it; many people along the way may handle the post card.)

I discovered post cards were a great way to generate sales. One side includes a description. The other side has one half for address and the other half an order form. A surprising number of people return this card with an order and check for my book.

  • Flyers—This item can take may forms, depending on its purpose. Use the flyers to give information about your books, upcoming programs and classes you’ll be giving, and as order sheets (both for mail order and sales at schools and workshop locations).
  • Posters—These are another way to give information about your book and/or presentation. Sometimes you’ll need to provide posters for your book signings. They’re also good to have when giving talks and workshops.
  • Enlargements of Illustrations & Covers—Use these as posters for promoting your book. I’ve had requests for enlargements of the illustrations in my children’s anthology, so have begun making these available for sale.
  • Information Packets—Prepare an information packet to send to bookstores, book reviewers, interviewers. This includes a description of your book, a copy of press releases you send to publications, a short bio. You may include other material, like a bookmark, business card, and review copy if requested.

©2001 Mary Emma Allen

(The above material has been expanded in my manual, “Self-Publishing Your Books.”)

Mary Emma Allen writers for children and adults, fiction and non-fiction. She’s also a columnist and travel writer, as well as speaker and teacher. She blogs at Mary Emma’s Potpourri of Writing.

Promoting Your Prose: Developing Your Own Press Releases

By Mary Emma Allen

Many writers are reluctant to “toot their own horn” or promote themselves. Writers often are shy people who’d rather write than market their work. However, in today’s writing and publishing world, you can’t hide in the closet, as one writer said at a workshop.

An excellent way of obtaining free publicity is through press releases. I used to think it very presumptuous of a writer to put together and send out her own press releases. However, I discovered that newspaper editors didn’t look aghast at press releases.

I also learned, when working as a reporter and part-time editor at a weekly, that
newspaper editors often are looking for free well-written material to publish. Press releases fall under this category.

Tips for Press Releases

  • Write Well—The press release represents you and your writing. Make sure you proofread it for grammar, spelling, and coherence. An editor is very unlikely to use a press release they have to rewrite.
  • Keep It Short—Try to make your press release no longer than one double spaced page, one and a half pages at the most. The newspaper editor is more likely to have room for it if it’s short. Also the second page won’t get lost if you don’t have one! It’s less likely to be rewritten if it’s short.
  • E-mail Your Releases—if the paper accepts them. I do this now with all my releases, but I’ve checked to make sure this is the acceptable procedure so they’re not simply deleted unread.
  • Send to the Appropriate Editor—You have a better chance of having your press releases read if you send them to the editor of the department your news would come under.
  • Use releases for various announcements—You can send out press releases for more than having a book published. Announce a book signing, a workshop you’re teaching, a talk you’re giving, an article published in a magazine, an author day at a school.
  • Use photos—Have some photos made to accompany press releases. In today’s world of digital cameras and scanners, you can use photos without it being a great expense. The newspaper may not have space for every photo you send, but you’ll have a better chance if you do include a photo periodically.
  • See if publishers will send out releases— Occasionally when I’ve written for magazines, the editors will send a release to local newspapers. This gives them publicity, too. Book publishers often will send out releases about their authors’ books.
  • Check For Calendar of Events—When you’re giving talks, doing book signings, teaching classes, send short notices to publications that have calendars of events.
  • Send to Newsletters—If you belong to a writers’� group that publishes a newsletter, make sure you send a press release to the editor or person who puts the newsletter together.
  • Check Out Online Possibilities—Many ezines and web sites are looking for news about writers and their work. Generally these press releases must be even shorter than those for print publications. Check out the length of those online; also inquire of the editor what he/she uses. Online publicity is read around the world!

These are just a few tips about press releases. If you don’t know how to write one, study those you see in various publications. Also, check out books on the topic.

© 2001 Mary Emma Allen

Mary Emma Allen writes for children and adults, fiction and nonfiction, teaches at conferences, continuing education classes, and in schools. She has written for newspapers and magazines, online and in print, has written four books, a coloring book, and nine manuals for writers. She blogs at Mary Emma’s Potpourri of Writing.

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