Marketing without Money

I just posted this to a publishing blog and thought Scriverner authors might find it helpful too. It’s about marketing a book with little or no money.

A most telling point. My own weakness is marketing skill along with limited resources to market. I sometimes tell people my sales technique is, “You don’t really want to buy this do you?” That’s so much a problem that I’m trying to address it several ways:

  1. Choose titles very, very carefully. A good title can make or kill a book.

Do a subject search on Amazon for leukemia children and my title comes up second. Why? Because the title is My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer. Keyword searches weigh titles heavily.

I pondered another title for weeks, asking friends for advice. Finally one who teaches college students told me, “Use embarrassment, that’s very important to teen girls.” So to make it very concrete, I came up with Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Hospitals. It comes up first in an Amazon search for hospital embarrassment. And as an added bonus, one I didn’t realize at the time, my book also comes up when people look for hospital gowns.

  1. Covers. Many of my covers have been yawners. Sticking a picture of the person it’s about on the cover was enough for me. Not good. I now try for a cover so appropriate and appealing, people will want to be seen carrying it. Check those two titles above for examples. They express perfectly and beautifully, I think, what the book is about. You can’t beat that advertising.

  2. Focus on titles with easily targeted audiences. Choose books whose market can be easily reached.

Yes, the one for teen girls heading for hospitalization is a hard one. I’ve sent copies to organizations that deal with children with cancer. That may bear some fruit. But the only real direct marketing tool for teen girls would be expensive ads in magazines like Seventeen. Not something I can afford.

My Nights does offer hope though. It’s written specifically to be a stimulating reader for nursing students. “This is what working in a hospital is really like,” I tell readers based on my experience at a top children’s hospitals. Patients you come to love die. Head nurses and some of your fellow nurses are [something that rhymes with witches]. Rules are often counter-productive. Doctors, particularly residents, issue dangerous orders that you’ll have to fight. The workload can be terrible, forcing choices you’d rather not make. Yet through all that, I try to show that it is possible to be satisfied with the work you do and to give good care.

Over Christmas break, I’m going to be promoting My Nights in personalized emails to nursing school professors. Each one who adopts the book will mean dozens of sales. Yeah! Hopefully word of mouth will take over from there.

And that context, offers me an opportunity to promote Hospital Gowns in a round about way. It may be a how-to book to tell teen girls to avoid embarrassing situations in hospitals, but it can be flipped to teach male nurses and those in kindred fields to be behave less embarrassingly. It can also be flipped to teach female nurses to better handle their male patients. Most of what I say applies in any context.

In fact, on the teen unit where I worked, I–as a guy–got along marvelously with my teen girl patients. They could tell I was doing my best to not intrude. It was the teen boys who clearly hated the intrusion of so many female nurses into their lives. Perhaps a bit embarrassed by what they had to do, the nurses coped by being a bit too blustery and pushy. The fact that on that unit all the nurses were young and pretty probably made matters even worse for those boys. The nurse bringing them that bedpan looked a bit too much like one they’d like to be dating in a few years.

We’ll see how well this plan works. I really would like to see my writing and publishing reach the point where steady sales can support me in the modest ‘standard to which I have grown accustomed.’ Not caviar, just eating out from time to time.

–Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

A simple word: thanks.

I’ve also forwarded details of your books to family members who work (or used to) in a children’s hospital.

I would also recommend setting up a website/blog where you can talk about your books, promote them, and connect with potential readers.

Thanks for the info though, I am definitely going to put them to use in the future.