You do not have to be a non-fiction or novel author to successfully market books. To prove it, this month’s Author’s Spotlight features Chicagoland poet Sandra Marchetti. Sandra currently has published three books, with a fourth forthcoming, in creative nonfiction and poetry: “The Canopy, published in 2012 with MWC Press, is a short chapbook of poems about the Midwest, particularly the environment and weather. A Detail in the Landscape, published in 2014 with Eating Dog Press, is a limited letterpress, illustrated edition of poems and micro-essays about how one locates him or herself into the environment. My debut full-length collection of poems, Confluence, was just released with Sundress Publications in April 2015. This is a longer book of poems that traces a long distance love story of both people and place. My fourth book, co-authored with Allie Marini, Les Kay, and Janeen Rastall, is Heart Radicals, and is due out with ELJ Publications in February 2016. This is a chapbook of love poems from various perspectives.”
Sandra’s book marketing plan consists of a few Word documents and Excel spreadsheets to track sales and to-do list items. When a new book comes out, Sandra said, “My attention focuses on a few major categories: getting reviews, doing interviews, setting up book tour dates and local readings, and sending out press releases.”
The strategy with which Sandra has approached book marketing has changed with each title. She said, “Each publisher’s approach to promotion is different, which in turn changes my approach. Also, the audience for each book is slightly different, which shifts my strategy. Midwest Writing Center marketed The Canopy well in the Quad Cities’ local media, and they also helped me to find blurbs and set up a few readings. I made sure a press release went out to local papers in Chicagoland, and I sent out review copies to friends. I set up a few readings in support of the book, and added on as necessary for a few years. Detail was a limited edition press run, which was mostly sold out before the book had even shipped. I set up just a few readings to support the book and didn’t bother much with reviews, simply because I had no physical review copies to send out. Confluence has been the object of my biggest marketing push–I set up a national book tour to promote it this summer, with readings all across the country. So far, I’ve done over 20 readings and events in support of the book, which launched in April. I also sent out about 40 review copies to specific reviewers and we’ve already seen about 10 reviews printed and sold a few hundred books. Of course, a great social media presence is also essential!”
Sandra admits that she loves the marketing part of being an author; in her experience, this is unlike most writers. She enjoys scheming about strategy with her husband, who holds a marketing and business degree, and her father, who worked as a sales director for 35 years. “I enjoy promoting the book on social media, participating in readings, and lining up reviews. It can be time consuming, and if I give a reading and sell no books, that can be disheartening. It’s all about finding one’s audience. If you hate marketing, it’s probably because you are thinking about it the wrong way. I don’t think of myself as a salesperson. I think of myself as a writer desperately trying to connect with her readers. My readers are out there, but we won’t meet unless I make sure to go out and find them. So, that’s the fun part.”
When asked what has surprised her about book marketing, Sandra mentioned the help being a good performer and live reader provides. “Once folks hear my poems aloud they seem much more likely to buy a copy of the book. It also helps to have conversations with folks at events. Sit down and find a point of contact with a potential reader. I am an extroverted person by nature, but doing events can be exhausting and I find I do need downtime after a long string of events right in a row.”
The book marketing techniques Sandra has found the most helpful have been those that are the most personal. She interacts with her fans mostly through social media and in person. She advises getting someone else to help you sell copies if you can and gives the example of her publisher who is always posting new work, reviews, and interviews to its social media pages so she’s not always the only person doing the talking. She also recommends partnering with other authors for promotions and doing giveaways on Goodreads and other social media platforms. She said, “The key is to follow up after posting something initially. Ask questions and respond to folks’ comments. Be interactive.”
In addition to giveaways, Sandra also uses social media extensively elsewhere to connect with readers: “I use Facebook and Twitter to promote, along with Goodreads. When I post, I am enthusiastic about my own work. I try to promote professionally and double and triple check my posts for typos. I make sure to tag folks involved in posts so that they can share them/retweet the message. I try to post when themes that relate to my projects are in the news, or at times of day when I know social media waves are cresting. Lately, I’ve had success posting on Facebook late at night, so it’s the first post folks see in the morning. I tweet between nine and five. Facebook is a great place to interact with fans; Twitter is great for getting the word out to a larger audience you might not be aware existed.”
Sandra hasn’t used any paid advertising for book marketing. Instead, she said, “I do exchange services quite a bit with other authors and outlets. For example, I wanted a professional press kit and sales sheets made for Confluence, but my publisher wasn’t in the habit of producing these. I knew a woman who was starting a PR business for authors and needed some ‘guinea pigs’ to test out her services. So, in exchange for some feedback on her work, she made the documents free of charge. Also, I write quite a few book reviews, and wrote even more than usual the year before my last book was released. Then, when I asked folks to write reviews for me, or to run reviews at their outlets, they were much more receptive.”
When asked what advice she’d have for authors about ready to publish their first books, Sandra said, “Be excited about your accomplishment and don’t be scared to toot your own horn! You worked hard and you deserve to revel in your accomplishment and share it with others. Get out there, to the best of your ability, and shine. Do readings, contact other local authors and put together events, throw a cheap book launch party (even in your home!) and have fun. In the end, be grateful for every reader. If a handful of people read your book, it’s a success–that’s what we’re all in this for, right? Own your promotion and don’t be ashamed to get out there, celebrate yourself, and sell some books!” Great advice! If you aren’t excited about your book, it’s difficult to expect others to be.
Click here to learn more about Sandra on her Poets & Writers page. Click here to purchase The Canopy or Confluence. And, finally, click here to find out how Sandra can help you with her writing services.