Day 2: Your First Four Steps to Promoting Your Book

Brainstorming – Your first four steps

Your manuscript is completed and in the hands of your editor. Or, if you’re an indie writer, you’ve formatted your work for the e-book you’re about to release. Are you at home, twiddling your thumbs, wondering what to do next?
No! You are not. Or, if you are, stop that this instant! You have work to do. After all, thousands of books are published every year. But this is your baby. You have this one. You can’t just throw that baby into a sea of books and hope it’ll swim rather than sink. You need to toss it a life vest to keep it afloat.
That is the purpose of promoting your book. To get it noticed. So that people will buy it. And become a gigantic bestseller!
But where to begin?

Step #1 – Budget

I’ve always used a portion of my advance for promoting the book I got the advance for. Everyone has different financial obligations, obviously, so you will have to decide for yourself what you’re willing to spend. There are many ways to save money, and I’ll share the ones I’ve found as we go through everything, but most of the things I’m going to cover in these posts won’t cost you a thing. Your first step, however, should be to decide what your budget is, and then outline where you want to spend it. Hopefully after you read all 30 posts, you’ll have an idea what your most important expenditures will be.

Step #2 – Think: Themes

Book cover for My Teacher is a Diinosaur
One thing that helps me brainstorm is thinking in terms of themes. Say you have a book about a dinosaur, like the one pictured by Loreen Leedy. Whom would you approach? Here are some of the jumping off points I came up with in one minute just from googling the word ”dinosaurs”:

  • Natural history museums
  • Dinosaur parks
  • Flash card companies
  • Discovery channel
  • Any expert discussed in an article about dinosaurs
  • A chain of restaurants called Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (maybe they’d sell the book, or allow you to provide paper placemats with images from your book on them)
  • Honolulu Community College Dinosaur Exhibit – they could sell your book in the gift shop
  • Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado – again, gift shop possibilities

Now, I will admit that some of these ideas may seem like small potatoes at first glance. But you never know where something might lead. The person at the community college may be about to start her new job at a comic company debuting a series about dinosaurs and will be looking for content. You just never know.
For Little Chicken’s Big Day, I googled chickens and made contact with egg carton companies who have gift shops on their web sites. I also found a ton of articles on raising backyard chickens, which apparently is the hot new(ish) rage. has over 40,000 members. For a book about a cute little chicken that seems to me like a great place to connect!

The mindmap I made for promoting Little Chicken’s Big Day (click for a larger image).

Step #3 – Mindmapping

Now you outline.
I want you to write down everything you can think of to market this book. Your categories could include:

  • Web presence
  • Social media
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Appearances
  • Video
  • Reaching the influencers
  • Tie-ins
  • Giveaways
  • Nice marketing
  • Special sales

RJ Julia CouponThink of every connection you have – do you have a non-fiction picture book about woodpeckers? Stop by the local nature preserve or Audubon chapter and see if they need a speaker at their next meeting. Is your book about a kid who loves ice cream? Visit your local ice cream parlor and start up a conversation – maybe you can have a signing there or perhaps they’ll donate a coupon to offer to the local book store in a reciprocal campaign.
For example, we’re having our book launch party at RJ Julia Booksellers, in Madison, CT, on April 23rd, the day before Easter. We approached the owner of the Madison Arts Cinema, movie theater across the street from the book store, and he’ll be showing our book trailer (more on those in a later post) starting around April 1 (remember, the book comes out April 19). The book store offered a 10% discount on the purchase of the book up to the day after the party. In order to draw people to the store, I approached the chamber of commerce to see if other merchants would like to donate gift certificates as prizes for the drawing – I await their answer as I write this! Amongother promotion I offer the merchants, like being included in my newsletter and talking about them on my podcast, I will list every donating store on the rackcard we’re printing up which, in turn, will be distributed by every merchant involved, plus the movie theater. The reciprocity goes on and on!
You know more people than you think. I promise. Once you start brainstorming, lots of ideas will come to you. Remember not to self-edit or call any idea stupid. You never know how one thing will connect with another! Show your list to your friends or family and see what they come up with, too.
To help you organize your thoughts go to and mindmap everything you’ve written down to get a better flow of everything. Above is the mindmap I made for this series (not sure if you’ll even be able to see it but that’s okay since it would kind of giving away what I’ll be writing about!)

Step #4 – Who’s on your team?

If you feel shy, or stuck or scared or not disciplined enough to do this on your own, get together with one or more friends for a brainstorming session. This can be done online via Skype or in person. You can even do a private tweet chat brainstorm session (more on tweet chats later). It’s much easier to bounce ideas off other people so it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as it gets done! Choose a (cheer)leader for the group, a positive person who will not only keep the group focused, (have you ever seen a group of writers stay on topic?!) but will remind everyone that there are no stupid ideas.
Everyone should keep her or his own notes, but then someone else should be keeping group notes, whether it’s on a bulletin board, a smart board or a shared screen. It’s easier to riff off ideas when they’re right in front of you.
A Dazzling Display of DogsYou should also create your own budget prior to the brainstorming and see where the group can pool resources for better prices. Also important to remember is to enlist the one person who is most invested in the success of this book: your author (if you’re the illustrator) or your illustrator (if you’re the author)!
Betsy Franco wrote to me about how she teamed up with her illustrator for her latest picture book: “My illustrator, Michael Wertz, and I worked together to promote our book launch of A Dazzling Display of Dogs at Diesel Books in Oakland. We both announced the event on Facebook, using an invitation he designed. Then we tweeted about it and retweeted each other’s tweets. He created a fan page and made me co-manager of the page. We both have email mailing lists and listservs we notified.”
By joining forces not only did they create a partner to lean on, but they expanded their talent and their connections by two.
Go do some storming of the brain and tomorrow we’ll cover your online presence.

Recent Comments

  • Lisa Riebe
    March 22, 2011 - 2:32 pm · Reply

    As an Indie – I thought I was up on book marketing and promotion. I was going to just glance at what you were blogging about and decided I have to come back later and read in more detail. Thanks for sharing. After reading, if I have any advice I’ll be glad to comment on it.

    • katie
      March 22, 2011 - 2:54 pm · Reply

      You probably are up on book marketing and promotion! We all have different stuff to share and I’m just sharing what my own experiences are – well, and that of various friends! I’d love to hear about your ventures, successes and failures…Thanks for reading the blog, and for commenting. Don’t you just love getting comments? 😎

  • Carolyn Conahan
    March 22, 2011 - 7:50 pm · Reply

    Wow, this is great stuff, Katie. Amazing. You deserve all the karmic goodness this brings you. I have a book coming out in May, so I’m working on this stuff, too. Not sure I’m likely to think of something you haven’t, but I’ll let you know if I do.

    • katie
      March 22, 2011 - 8:06 pm · Reply

      Thanks, Carolyn! What a lovely thing to say! I’d love to hear what you’re doing for your book! What’s it called? What’s it about?

      • Carolyn Conahan
        March 24, 2011 - 5:43 pm · Reply

        Hi Katie,
        It’s called The Big Wish, due out from Chronicle in May. It’s about a girl and her dandelions, a world record wish, and what happens when the whole town gets involved. With those themes in mind, I am working on some big wishing event ideas. Some things spring immediately to mind… I am trying to refrain from self-editing, and dismissing ideas as “stupid”, because it’s true, you never know! Also trying to work on organizing my efforts. Thanks again.

  • Loreen Leedy
    March 23, 2011 - 1:05 pm · Reply

    Katie, thanks so much for including My Teacher Is a Dinosaur in your promotion series. I, too, am impressed with the map of your brain.
    I’ve been using Scrivener to collect all my related writing and promotion ideas into one “project.” It allows me to keep adding to each document without having to remember which doc is which to open each one up separately, because they’re all open at once. Yay for non-linear writing/storage!

    • katie
      March 23, 2011 - 1:37 pm · Reply

      Thanks Loreen. I was nervous showing that mindmap bc not only does it give away what this whole month will be about, but you can see how oddly I numbered my points! Like, why didn’t I just go clockwise? But that is the way MY mind works!

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