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My Experience With Book Marketing

By Leon Cooper

I have used, or have considered using, outside help in selling my book in a number of ways. My book is "90 Day Wonder–Darkness Remembered," recounting my experiences as a naval officer during World War II.

I have continued my own promotional efforts while employing the help of others—relying upon, for example, the excellent advice in Patricia Fry’s book, "The Successful Writer's Handbook."

One method some book marketers use is what I call the "shotgun," in which the marketer teams you up with a number of other authors, whose total bucks allows your book—along with others’—to buy a big splashy ad in one of the major newspapers or magazines. Your expectation—or, rather, hope—as you read the marketer's blandishments is that surely some number of the gazillions will buy your book. My experience: It's a waste of money simply because you've been joined at the hip with other writers, each of whose books is unique and hence different from the others. There's no focus in the shotgun approach.

Another variation of the shotgun is the mass mailing, including emails, of your title to libraries, bookstores, etc.—with no assurance that the recipients have even the remotest interest in learning about your stirring adventure, or your steamy romance, or your amazing sci-fi book. My experience: more wasted money, but worse, a feeling beginning to creep in that the whole world thinks your book is garbage.

Ever since my book was published I've tried to find a good literary agent, with no success to date. I've sent a number of query letters to those agents who accept new writers and specialize in my particular genre. I suspect there's a software program these agents use. All the agent has to do is press on the "sorry" key, and out comes: "Sorry, we can't help you. I wish you luck." I intend to keep on trying to find an agent, but hope I've not started on a quest for the Holy Grail.

I've had most success in marketing my book by using a public relations person, or publicist. The choice here is whether to use a "package" public relations campaign offered by some firms, where, for a fee, the publicist will contact x number of bookstores or TV and radio stations or print media on your behalf. I've opted for a local publicist I know, rather than one far away that I don't know.

Through her, I’ve had several book signings, including a TV airing in Malibu, a radio interview, a book review in a Malibu paper, and an introduction to and write-up by the Book Publicists of Southern California. The publicist offered to get more book signings for me, but I decided to do these by myself, to save money.

I offer the following suggestions: the publicist must be knowledgeable about the book business and also be a good writer. Publicist services may be arranged in any of several ways: a budgeted amount per period, services by the hour (the going rate for publicists is $100 per hour), or by project.



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