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Are You Shouting "I'm An Amateur"?

By Cathi Stevenson

If anyone who has written a book thinks the hard part is over once the galley proof is in hand, he or she had better think again. Marketing a self-published book is akin to a three-hour aerobic workout, wearing high heels and a wonder-bra (unless you're male, then I guess it would be high heels and a jock strap).

A common mistake authors make is in using that "made-at-home" look for promo items. If you're at a book show, or giving a talk and handing out bookmakers or business cards that you've printed off your desk-top printer, what you're really doing is advertising your amateur status. Anything that is used to promote a book or an author needs to be 100% professional.

One of the biggest problems facing self-publishers is the perceived lack of quality control. If an author is self-publishing and can't afford $50 for some properly printed bookmarkers, then potential readers have no reason to hold out much hope that a competent editor has been employed.

If you are attending a book signing or book show, it's much wiser to invest whatever money you have in a few professionally-made promo items, than in many lower-quality giveaways; it's better to have one person think you're professional, than 50 people think you're not. If it's simply not possible to have high-end promo items produced, then put a bowl of mints, or chocolates on your table. Everyone loves food and people will most likely make eye contact with you in form of a thank you. That's your chance to lasso them ... er, I mean engage them in a conversation about your book.

Take a lesson from major corporations; If you've ever filled out an online form to order something, or to sign up for an email service, you have probably seen a section called "how did you hear about us?". This section most often includes several choices, such as: web site, search engine, television ad, radio ad, newspaper, magazine, other. Obviously, few companies have invested much effort in "other".

So how do self-publishing authors promote their books? Through targeted online advertising, book reviews, news releases, television and radio interviews and to some extent book signings, and book shows. You can also put up your own web site and promote directly from there.

Lynn A. Thomas saw sales soar for her book "How To Make & Market Gel Candles That Sell Like Wildfire", after she put up a web site and started an e-zine offering subscribers a myriad of information on gel candles.

There are also web sites that target ebook readers and other authors and you can purchase advertising on these sites. Since the target audience is specific, it will cost you approximately 2 - 20 cents to reach each potential client. Compare this to the cost of producing a pen, or a bookmarker, or mouse pad.

Authors must also make good use of reviews. You can use pre-publication reviews that are sent to trade publications and bookstores, and post-publication reviews that people read in popular magazines, websites, newletters, etc.

Sites such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble also list reviews and anyone can write one. This can work well for an author, and it's free. If a reader cannot decide between one book or another, chances are he will go with the one other people recommend ... so get those reviews on there!

Invest your money and time wisely. Good decisions will save you both down the road.

Cathi Stevenson is a journalist who has sold more than 2000 of her articles to newspapers and magazines world wide. She now operates a book cover design company called Book Cover Express, online at She has just released her second eBook called "How to Publish & Market Your eBook For Just $5".
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