One practice from the old days in corrupt politics is the use of “walking around money.” The idea is to hire people who will wander out into communities, into shops and service businesses and bars and other places, to talk up the candidate and talk down the opposition … all the while spreading cash around the area, reinforcing the appeal of the message.
We book publishers and indie authors, even the relatively prosperous, don't have walking-around money for selling books and probably we couldn't spend it effectively if we did. But the concept is powerful: getting friends, acquaintances, and professional contacts to speak out and about on an author's behalf. The more people you know, the more personal and professional connections you have, and the more connections they have, the more leverage in promoting your book.
The most obvious ways your contacts can help is through social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. You'll be doing that yourself too, of course, but those efforts take on greater credibility when some name other than the author's is associated with them.
If someone among your friends is well-known in the subject area you're writing about, you may have a “blurber.” Blurbs are those short quotes you often see on the backs, sometimes the fronts or inside, of books, extolling the book or the author. The best of these come from news media or celebrities. But if you have access to a quasi-celebrity or someone moderately well-known in your field, you can ask them to “blurb” (yes, it's a verb too) your book, which would involve writing only a sentence or two. Send them a copy of the text first, so they know what you're producing.
Make sure that such testimonials are relevant to your particular book. Blogger Joel Friedlander, for example, has written that, “A lot of the influence of testimonials comes through the persuasive effect of what's called 'social proof.' In an ambiguous situation, the influence of what other people are doing can determine how we react. For instance, in considering a book in which you might be interested, if you notice that every authority in the field has recommended the book, that's a powerful form of social proof in your decision about whether or not to buy the book. Testimonials also exercise another persuasive effect through the perceived authority of the person giving the quote. So if you have a book on how to throw the perfect pass in football, a testimonial from Aaron Rogers, the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, reigning football champions, will carry a lot of influence.”
Other friends can help with online reviews. You'll be scrambling to get people to review your book on select sites like Amazon.com, where authors are banned from reviewing their own work (and reviews from family members, if discovered, are frowned upon). Those reviews can be highly valuable, especially if (to take Amazon as an example) you can get five-star reviews. Those can push up Amazon ratings beyond what your sales may otherwise justify, making your book more visible. They can help with other venues as well, such as Goodreads, Paperback Book Swap and book-lovers and authors' pages on Facebook. Just make sure such posts are permitted by the page owners.
Having difficulty getting your book into bookstores and libraries – both of those being real challenges these days for small publishers? One of the best ways is to encourage your contacts to contact their local stores and libraries, and ask if your book is on their shelves. They do respond to inquiries from patrons and customers.
Encourage, however you can, word of mouth. Many are the books sold on the specific recommendation of another person.
Back to politics: Analysts found that the biggest technical advance in major political campaigns in 2012 was in the use of “hyper-local” organizing, person-to-person, neighborhood-level, organizing, where the focus was on one person talking to another, multiplied in the hundreds of thousands and millions. You may not have such a large campaign organization, but the same principle can help sell your book.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.