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For those of you who have already published and sold books, what is the most effective way to sell books before the book is launched? Have any of you had successful experiences with virtual book tours and local signing events? If so, how did you set up the events? How did you market the events?  

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Pre-launch marketing is extremely important. The big dogs do it and so should any other publisher. We start promotions at least 6 months in advance. Usually by the release date we have a good number of pre-orders set up. Virtual tours, tweetfeast and other online marketing is successful when done consistently. It's free and only takes time while it stays out in the blogsphere forever.
Pre-pub should be done 4-6 months out in terms of long lead print, magazines, etc. However, I would caution against an aggressive blog or online book tour and review campaign or event before the book is available. Otherwise, people might hear about it, love it and forget to buy it when it does come up.

You can set up events yourself at local bookstores and libraries. Go in, talk to the manager and/or event coordinator and ask if they would support an event. Many stores will work with local authors. If you get an event booked, ask if you can leave flyers by the register at the store or book checkout at the library. Send a press release to your local newspaper. Post notices at local coffee shops, library bulletins or other areas in your hometown that promote local events.

Good luck!
To be honest, Alison, you can't really pinpoint what works and doesn't. The key to selling books is long term promotion. Pick what you like to do in terms of promoting and stick with it. I guess I have to say these days social networking is the most effective form of promotion but you have to be dedicated and work at it. You have to participate as a regular member on sites and not just pop in to talk about your book. A lot of writers will sign up for many networks, plug their books, won't participate then are surprised no one is interested in their work.

The key to effective social networking is to become a part of that community. I find folks are more willing to buy your book if they feel you are part of the family. Drop-in writers rarely make a splash in social networking.

Promoting online should take the same amount of dedication as writing the book. The results might not come right away, but they will. You can also make great contacts and get requests from book reviewers, interviews and other opportunities.

Best Wishes!

http://www.stacy-deanne.net
Stacey-deanne, I agree with you here. I think an author really needs to know your audience and who reads the type of book you write. Then it pays to go to threads and blogs where those readers hang out. Participate as a reader and then work you way into commenting about your books. Don't immediately go out and spam all the threads or you will turn people off, but I've found that by getting to know more people through talking with readers you begin to build a fan base. I've been social networking for over a year now and it is finally starting to pay off for me. Patience and dedication to promotion is a key. I believe that was mentioned before.
I no longer do offline book signings. They aren't worth my time and effort and they don't sell books. For a VBT, you promote through blogs. You get with bloggers, book reviewers, other authors, anyone who will help spread the word around.
okay; thanks for the tips. If you don't mind, I have a few more questions: how do I find bloggers that would promote my book (i.e. do I look for people in my industry who would be ideal promoters or do I look more for blogs by people in my ideal client/reader group? How do I ask the bloggers if I can be a guest on their blog? What do I talk about on others' blogs?
Thanks, Alison
Stacy I disagree with you about the offline booksignings. That's one of the main ways we sell books. With each bookstore signing or venue the patron orders books. If they can't set up a signing we asked if they would do a short sale (about 5 books) of our titles.
Thanks for the insight. If you don't mind, I have a couple of other questions: when I approach a bookstore, what do I say to the store manager to lead to a signing setup? What kind of thing should I expect on signing day? How much should I promote the signing event? Should I ask the store/library to purchase the books before-hand or take my own stock into the store/library to do the signing? Is it worth sending releases to various local press outlets to promote the signing? If my book is in the final publishing/polishing stage, when should I start marketing the signings (e.g. now, when the book is available for vendors to order, other)?
Thanks, Alison
LM,

I respect your point but I didn't find book signings that beneficial to me. I can only speak for myself. Book signings might work great for some writers but for me, I find more readers online and more sales. The best book signing I had was at a Walmart. It might be okay if it's a signing with more than one author, but I don't find individual signings to be beneficial.

Remember, something that works for one author might not work for all. Different things work for different people and there are a lot of things involved in that. But if you are getting great support and finding sales at book signings, then I'm happy for you.

But they were a waste of time for me and I was with a big pub.

Best Wishes!

http://www.stacy-deanne.net
You are correct Stacy-Deanne, different things work for different authors. Our focus was on our local area. For us, as a small press, it is a way to cultivate relationships with stores that will order our books (highlighting local authors) we don't print as many copies as a larger publisher.

Alison;

KL Brady shares how she got her self-pub book into stores: http://cheapindieauthor.blogspot.com/2010/03/getting-bookstores-to-...

Our publishing company works differently since I'm not the owner, my husband is and we work the publishing company in the same manner as a small business:

Here's what we did:
- Created a list of prospective venues for bookstore signings, libraries etc
- Mailed sample of book, presskit, swag to managers, marketing plan overview and book reviews
- We followed up in person with the manager who we sent the pr and book sample too
- Call back to set up date or request short order of books

* Our books are distributed with Baker & Taylor, Ingram etc so we were in their ordering system which made our journey a little easier.


What kind of thing should I expect on signing day? You need to be proactive in bringing in customers. I step in front of table, greet customers and give them book samples. It's allowed me to sell most of my books before I leave.

How much should I promote the signing event? We send flyers to the bookstore a month in advance, tweet it, create press releases, fb announce and send out events. Also, have invited schools to do a fundraising partnership with us on signing day.

Should I ask the store/library to purchase the books before-hand or take my own stock into the store/library to do the signing? Larger stores will pre-purchase books from distributor, small stores will purchase from you/publisher and some will ask to do a consignment

Is it worth sending releases to various local press outlets to promote the signing? Yes, but you can do this online in most cases and its free PR sites available.

If my book is in the final publishing/polishing stage, when should I start marketing the signings (e.g. now, when the book is available for vendors to order, other)? Most bookstores want to be able to order the book before they commit to a signing.

Create a book marketing plan for your book, do internet marketing first, get reviews (this is very important)

I hope I helped and much success to you :-D
LM,

Since you mentioned that, I'm with a smaller press now. They'll be publishing my fourth book which comes out next year. I am very HAPPY working with them. I do see a big difference in how small presses promote and work with authors. In fact they put more effort into promotion than a big pub. I didn't like working with a big pub toward the end. If you're not getting the support, it's not that great of an experience. Besides having books in stores, that's the only advantage I saw. But books in stores doesn't mean anything if the pub doesn't promote you on a certain level.

I am excited about this new venture and I have a lot of friends with small presses and I saw how happy they were. I was miserable with the big press. I feel like I have been reminded of how fun it is to actually write and be in control of something. Feels so liberating. Being with a big publisher made me feel like "just another author" or a number. You don't feel valued and important because many times they don't treat the average author like they are. It's all about the money for them.

I understand what you mean about the book signings. I bet it is a better experience with a smaller pub because they'll at least stand behind you. With a big pub, once your book's release, you're basically on your own for what they do.

They don't even set up the signings for you a lot of times. All they do is call to put the order in for the books. Neither them or the bookstores do any promotion for the event these days. It's all on the author and so it's a wait of time when it's a bust.

Best Wishes!

http://www.stacy-deanne.net
Thanks Stacey, as a small pub we have to do more to get the word out. The other thing is... we have forever to do it :-D

I appreciate you sharing your experience with a larger publisher. There is a lot of work involved in promotion and being an indie or self-published author sometimes can burn a person out with trying to promote your book. If not planned with a book marketing plan and approached within realistic expectations than many people really aren't happy with the results. Not to mention this isn't a quick fix kinda business...constant care and feeding wins the race.

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