Below are the notes I used for a presentation I gave in Introduction to Publishing taught by Angela Ball at The University of Southern Mississippi.
Most of this advice is for when your poetry publisher does no marketing or publicity, does a limited amount of both, or wants you to help in the promoting. These days, publishers do less promoting than in the past for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is a financial one. Even the more established presses are doing less. So this information is for the poet whose book is published by a press with good intentions but short on funds.
There will be handouts and four sections to this presentation:
- Change Your Thinking
- Review Copies: Using Tip Sheets, Lesson Plans, and PDFs
- Reading Tours: Or How to Have Fun on Vacation
- Online Celebrating
Change Your Thinking
Change your vocabulary. Instead of “marketing” think “share.” Instead of “promotion” think celebrate.”
I like that. It’s more in the spirit of poetry anyway, as poems are shared and the ones we like are celebrated. Besides who likes marketing and promotion. In addition, you will share your book. You will meet other writers, and a good way to break the ice or to make friends is by swapping your books with other writers. And inscribe them for the person, too. A correspondence might develop out of this or a book review or who knows what, but something good comes from sharing books. You might also want to give free copies to instructors who taught you poetry and to your friends who teach poetry. Maybe they’ll like it and/or remember you and want to help you out and use it in one of their courses.
This reminds me of advice a friend of mine gave me: “If you win a contest and money, use that money to buy copies of your own book.” Since you will get a big discount, you can purchase many copies, too. There are two reasons for this. First, you can make more at readings when you sell your own book. If you purchase it for $5 a copy and sell it for $15, then you make $10. Of course, you can only do that at smaller venues or conferences or where a bookstore isn’t involved. The second reason, you will want copies of your book to share and sell for the rest of your life. Most likely, after the first print run, there won’t be a second print run. When this happens, when your book eventually sells out, then there’ll be no more books except the ones you purchased. Save some for your later years because you’ll always be making friends.
If you don’t win a prize, you might want to purchase copies anyway for the same reasons and to help out the publisher.
Review Copies: Using Tip Sheets, Lesson Plans, and PDFs
Send review copies of your book to reviewers. See hand-out lists, which I’ve been compiling for some time. [If you want copies of the list of reviewers I've compiled, leave a comment at the end of this post.] Most of the information is still up-to-date. Reviews don’t necessarily sell many copies of your book, but it does promote you and your publisher. The more people see what good books a publisher puts out, the better the press looks, and the better you look as a result. Also, the more your name gets out there, the more attention you get for your next book. A review or two here and now is also good publicity for the future.
You will probably also want to send review copies to some journals that first published some of your poems, and be sure to let them know that. Maybe you’ll get a review or maybe just a mention on the editor’s page. Either way, your book and name are mentioned.
Send a copy of the book to the newspaper in the town you grew up in. Maybe they’ll do a little review of it. You might even want to do a reading in the town you grew up in. Sentimentality sells.
Nowadays, it’s expensive for a publisher to send out Advanced Reader Copies (ARC), but nowadays, most books get turned into a PDF before being sent to the printer. You can use this PDF as your ARC that you send to reviewers, and, bonus, you can email it to them for free.
Reading Tours: Or How to Have Fun on Vacation
If your press does not set up a reading tour for you, you probably should. What you will need to do is locate stores and other venues, such as writing centers or conferences, that are nearby. If you are travelling in the future, check out stores and other locations in the area where you are going to visit. Once you locate them, you will need to contact them and send them a tip sheet. Your press should already have a tip sheet made up.
A tip sheet, if you don’t know already, is a sheet of paper with information about the book, you, the press, blurbs about the book, an image of the front cover, and maybe an image of you, too. You can send this to the store along with your query. You might even want to be inventive when you send it. Instead of just asking for a reading and book signing, suggest that maybe you’ll do a workshop with a few writers or ask them to have an open-mic night, or couple yourself with another reader in the area. Try to make a cool event for the store. They are always looking for ways to bring in customers, and if you can think of one for them, bam, you’re in. If you do get a venue, make sure the local paper knows about it.
You will also want a separate tip sheet for books you send to creative writing professors at various universities. This tip sheet will have much of the same information, but it will also include ways for the professor to incorporate your book into their class. Perhaps you can point to a form poem you wrote or invented, or maybe one of your poems was based on a writing prompt and you can share that prompt along with the poem that prompted it. That right there can be a lesson plan for a class, which is one less day of prep the professor has to do. Better yet, create a whole week’s worth of lesson plans from your book. Create three lesson plans for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Make you’re your beautiful poems utilitarian!
Of course there is also your online presence. Make sure you have a Facebook page and Twitter account. Make a post or two a week about your book for a few weeks on both places. Maybe you will want to create a Facebook page for your book where you can post any reviews that have occurred about your book or to notify people where you’ll be reading or so other people can leave posts about how awesome your book is. You might want to do this before the book is released so you can give people pre-order information.
For your twitter account, you might also want to make a special Twitter hashtag for you book, too. That way people can join in the fun and leave remarks about your book with that hashtag. Also use #poetry with your tweets.
Also, give your contact email addresses to your publisher, so they can send out a notification to all your friends and family. Publisher’s like pre-orders. It makes it easier for them to determine a print run.
Make sure you send a copy to Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. You might even want to purchase an ad on Verse Daily. It’s not expensive. $50 for one month and $100 for three months if I remember correctly. Your ad with a link to a place to purchase the book will be on the page every day, and every week when then send out their newsletter, they will mention your book with a little blurb about it.
If you’re really creative or have a friend who is, make a Youtube video of one of your poems. You know, like a movie version of your poem, as Dan Bowman did (or someone did for him) with his book A Plum Tree in Leatherstocking Country. At the end of the video or in the comments on the Youtube page, put down the ordering information and contact information for readings.
Obviously there is more that can be done. There’s always more that can be done! This is just a start.//