Thanks to our special guest blogger, Carol Grever, for her tried-and-true advice for poets. Here’s what Carol Grever, author of Glimpses: A Memoir in Poetry, has to say about promotion for books of poetry (and promotion for poets themselves):
A Primer on Publicizing Poetry
Congratulations on publishing your poetry collection! Time to relax and bask in the praise of an eager public. But not so fast! Whether your book carries the brand of a major New York publisher or is self-published, your work as a poet has barely begun. Writing your opus was the simple part. Publicizing it is the looming reality. Changes in the industry place the responsibility to market any new book—fiction, nonfiction, or poetry—squarely on the author.
When I completed Glimpses: A Memoir in Poetry, I knew that marketing it would be challenging. After all, I was known as a nonfiction author, not a poet. How could I get my book before the right audience—-those who read, love, and buy poetry? While my book was in the production stage, I made a step-by-step plan with three distinct phases to unfold over an entire year. Though the object of this plan was a poetry collection, it can apply to other genres as well. Perhaps my roadmap will be useful to others.
Before Publication, Get Ready
1. Update your Web presence. Refurbish or create a personal Web site to feature your written work. This is a base for other avenues on the Web that are suited to the type of writing you do, e.g. Linked-In, Facebook, and professional writers’ sites. Choose only your best possibilities, create a presence, and work those sites fully. It does little good to open a Web account and then forget about it!
2. Have new, professional photos taken for publicity needs, including prints and .jpg format. Be ready with a high resolution .jpg of your book cover as well.
3. Start a blog or create buzz on your existing one to develop anticipation about your book prior to publication.
4. Develop an email contact list for publicity purposes before and after publication. Use the list to stay in touch with readers and supporters and to notify them of upcoming book-related events.
5. Order any promotional materials you plan to use. Begin with bookmarks bearing the cover image with ordering information.
Immediately After Publication
1. Develop a one-sheet publicity piece, including your high-resolution photo and the cover image, a compelling short description of the book, and a short bio, plus vital information about the book itself: ISBN, price, alternative formats, publisher, distributor, publication date, and—most importantly—how to order or where to buy the book. This one-page marketing piece is a reference for book store managers, reviewers, media, and prospective buyers. It will be needed often.
2. Establish the book on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s Web site and set up an Amazon Author’s Page. It’s tedious but possible to follow their online directions. Most books are now sold online so this is an essential step.
3. Send out a press release to local newspapers, reviewers, alumni associations, and other organizations in your network. Nurture contacts and remember to say thanks.
4. Tell everyone you know! Notify your contact list of the launch of your new book. Send an e-blast upon publication and stay in touch with all upcoming events and publicity. Be sure to include a link to your Web site.
5. Join professional writers’ organizations for networking, inspiration, and continuing education in your craft.
6. Contact book reviewers and give a few copies to friends with the request that they write online reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Write reviews of others’ books on Amazon, as well.
7. Post your good news on your blog and any other social media sites you use. Include the book cover image and ordering information.
8. Readings! Ask, “Who is interested in my type of book?” Develop a list of related speaking topics and offer programs for local bookstores, private groups, book clubs, and related organizations. Poetry is most effective when read aloud, plus this personal connection wins an audience and sells books.
9. Within the first year, enter your book in contests to compete for annual prizes and invaluable recognition.
1. Seek out ongoing open-mic poetry readings around town. Many small bookstores and coffee shops provide a venue for these impromptu programs. Become known as a performing poet to sell books on the spot and expand your outreach.
2. Continue to network personal contacts to propose programs to local book clubs. Join a book club listing online and schedule in-person readings nearby. You can also offer long-distance readings through phone conferencing and Skype.
3. Submit articles and guest blogs for print and online publications.
4. Keep writing. Now that you’re established as a serious poet, start a new project to keep your momentum going!
It’s no secret that the publishing industry is in a massive transition, prompted by the ubiquitous Internet. Outdated methods and assumptions are no longer viable, and self-publishing is becoming mainstream. After previously producing two nonfiction books through traditional New York publishers, followed by a self-published memoir and now a poetry collection, I worked equally hard to publicize each one. Regardless of the mode of publishing, essential follow-up promotion and marketing are now done almost entirely by the author.
Finally, with Glimpses:A Memoir in Poetry, I’ve learned to enjoy the entire process. The difference with this book is that its appeal is so personal. Poetry awakens all the senses. Through live readings, I discovered the delight of seeing an audience respond to my written/spoken words–from the heart. This has been my greatest reward as a writer.
Again, thank you, Carol! Your advice is spot on.