How to Get Your Small Press Poetry Book Some…Well…Press
I just read some statistics that showed that most small press poetry books sell less than 1000 copies – less than 500, even. With my own third book coming out in, er, moments, I feel like I want to give the book its best possible shot. I like this book, I think it’s pretty good, and I hope other people get the chance to read it too. So how do we small press authors help make that happen?
You all already know that a book’s work is not done the minute it’s written, the moment it’s sold, or the moment it appears in bookstores or Amazon. You already know you can’t just say: I wrote this book, and it’s the publisher’s job to sell it.
I also read that most books that “make it” have at least 10-25K of publicity money behind them in a publishing industry mag, that social media still can’t do the work that old-fashioned paper and radio publicity does. That may be true, but as you know, most poetry books – or most small press books – aren’t going to get 10-25K in publicity behind them – or even $1000 – so what can we do?
1. Well, you can try using Facebook and twitter as much as possible (I have found twitter in particular a wonderful way to connect with new readers) which only takes time, not money. Try thoughtful posts that offer something of you and your personality to your readers, with a little bit of promotion in between. I hope that’s what I’ve been doing, anyway! Go on guest blogs and interviews if you get a chance.
2. Enlist help. This time around, I employed the services of a new little company called “YouDoPR,” which for a small fee helps writers get out their own press releases, puts our books in NetGalley, etc. (A little more about this here.) Befriend book bloggers and ask for some aid. I mean, I have friends who blog about books because, you know, I tend to like those kinds of people, but I’m usually too ashamed to ask them to do anything for my book. Do you feel the same way? Is that good/modesty, or bad/getting-in-your-own-way? Do you ask your friends and family to help get the word out about your book? Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. This time, I’m going to make sure I ask.
3. Readings. I’ve talked about this before, here and here. If you can get a reading on the radio, do it. Readings make poems come alive for people. They help you connect to an audience – it’s a small audience that might care about poetry, true, but it’s out there.
4. Book cards: send them out if you’ve got a mailing list put together of people who have actually asked to find out about your work. And you have a mailing list, right?
5. Reviews. Well, as a reviewer, I’m not sure it drives sales, but it’s important to send out review copies, as many as possible, to the big reviewers and the small reviewers, to people you’re sure will like your book and people almost as sure won’t. Word of mouth does drive sales, and if one extra person looks at your book because of a review, it’ll be worth it.
What else would you all suggest? Keeping your web site and blog updated (yes, I’m getting ready to launch a completely overhauled site soon!) What about book trailers? Bookmarks? Skywriting?