Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The most obvious, simplest book promotion trick.

If you're an as-yet-unknown author, sometimes you'll go to extraordinary lengths to score a book promotion opportunity or two. Successful authors, too, sometimes have to struggle to compete for the traditional media's limited space and airtime.

Let's face it. How many authors do you know who have all the book promotion opportunities they could possibly hope for? Not many ... so it never hurts to be reminded of an easy book promotion secret.

The secret works as well for veteran authors as it does for first-time authors. It's so obvious that you've known it all along, but I was just reminded of it, so I thought I'd share it with you while it's on my mind.

Be gracious. Charm people, and they'll make a special effort to tell their friends and relatives, "Buy so and so's book! You'll love it!" How do you do that? It's not rocket science. If a reader emails you to say something positive, hit the reply button and craft a warm, heartfelt response. If a reporter interviews you, send him or her a personal thank-you note. It makes a difference: people who work in the media are always telling me that they don't receive thank-you notes often enough, and it makes their day when they do get one.

What brought that to mind was that, a couple of days ago, I started a book review blog (more about that another time, when I've added more content to it and I have some bragging rights to a more robust book review venue). I was inspired to start the blog by a novel I'd just bought by Mark Childress, with whom I'd been smitten since I found Crazy in Alabama (which, for my money, is one of the funniest and most poignant books about Southern life that I've ever read). His latest book, One Mississippi, was calling out to me at Barnes and Noble. So I bought it, inhaled it (the way you'll inhale a book you love), and blogged about it. Then, because it was the first book review I'd penned for my new blog, I found an email address for Mark Childress on his Web site and emailed him a copy of the book review.

And what do you know? I just received a gracious, witty response from an author who didn't need my review, but was delighted to connect with someone who'd taken the time to write it, anyway. How cool is that -- to receive an email from a favorite writer who wasn't thinking about the promotional value of that email. He was just being a nice guy.

Many famous novelists (and not-so-famous authors) wouldn't have taken the time to write. (In fact, many relatives wouldn't have taken the time to write, but that's a whole other story.) And I'm sure Mark Childress had no ulterior motive in mind when he responded to my email -- nice people don't need any special motivation to be nice. But ... you know what? If Mark emails every fan who emails him with the same warmth that he just exhibited, and if he sends a thank-you note to every reporter who takes the time to interview him, and if he smiles at everyone in the bookstore who's flipping through a copy of his book -- he'll be rewarded.

You can't buy the word-of-mouth you'll gain from just being a good soul. But, surprisingly, the simplest book promotion "trick" is probably the one that fewest authors are inclined to employ. They overlook it because it's too simple and too obvious --- and, perhaps, too time-consuming. What a pity.

Oh, yeah. And please snag a copy of One Mississippi at your earliest convenience. You will love it, and you'll be reminded of what it was you loved about books all along.