• Tracy Slater
  • [Path to Publication] Creative Marketing Ideas that Pay Off
[Path to Publication] Creative Marketing Ideas that Pay Off
Written by
Tracy Slater
April 2015
Written by
Tracy Slater
April 2015

Sometimes, when people hear I'm publishing my memoir through Penguin Random House's Putnam imprint, they assume I won't have to do any marketing or publicity on my own. But unless you're a famous writer these days, you can pretty much expect to do at least some of your own publicity. From the literary series I run in Boston and Tokyo, Four Stories, I've known writers who have had New York Times best-sellers, won National Book Awards, and even written Amazon #1 books of the year, who have all taken on at least some of their own marketing.

I'm now 3 months away from the launch date of my book: prime publicity time. But I'm also first-time book author who lives half-way across the planet from the literary mecca of NYC and has a 1-year old baby, the laugh (or is it the tired?) lines of a 47-year-old 1st-time parent, and no proven track record in book-selling, so I'm eagerly exploring creative publicity ideas--seeing that the traditional nation-wide book tour is out of the question for all the reasons I just mentioned.

I wanted to share here the two I'm having the most fun with and that I think would work well for any cyber-savvy ladies like my fellow She-Writers:

1) The Pre-Launch Free Giveaway: I recently opened a Kirkus Review enewsletter and noticed a free book giveaway they were sponsoring. This struck me as a great idea, both to get the word out about a book and hopefully generate some pre-pub buzz, and as a way to be in touch with potential future readers. So I asked Putnam if I could sponsor my own giveaway using pre-publication Advanced Reading Copies, which are bound galleys sent out to reviewers before a book launches. (See right.) Usually, publishers give authors 10 or so copies just to have, so I had my inventory right there. They said sure: The copies where mine to do as I liked.

Then I added an offer to sign the books with a personalized message to winners and pay the sending costs from Tokyo, and I announced the free giveaway on my author site, my Facebook page, and a number of online expat, travel writing, and memoir groups I belong to. Within a few hours, the post had been shared over 200 times; Within a day, I had over 1000 new views of the blog page where I announced the offer and over 100 people signed up for the drawing--and the numbers have kept climbing.

Best of all, I've had some really nice exchanges with people over Facebook and on my blog about the book and how excited they have kindly said they are to read it. It's been such a nice, fun, uplifting way to start connecting with people who will hopefully become either future readers or even just future advocates of the book. The experience of having these connections has already been worth more than I know the sending costs will be, even from as far away as Japan.

(This idea could work even without bound galleys, as long as you have a free excerpt to hare of something you've written that isn't available for free somewhere else.)

2) The Group Cross-Promotion: A few weeks ago, I was contacted by another expat writer I know from the blogosphere, Shannon Young, who also has an expat memoir, Year of Fire Dragons : An American Woman’s Story of Coming of Age in Hong Kong(Blacksmith Books) coming out around the same time as mine. She suggested that we do a group online cross-promotion project with a third expat, Leza Lowitz, whose memoir Here Comes The Sun : A Journey to Adoption in Eight Chakras(Stone Bridge Press), launches this June. (Turns out Leza is a friend of mine from Tokyo *and* from SheWrites!) So now ShannonLeza and I have a plan we've written up with ideas about and tasks for cross-promoting around our mutual launch dates, including each reaching out to 5 or so different bloggers we know, helping to publicize each others' debuts on social media and our own blogs, and doing a bundled giveaway of all three books after they have been published.

Besides the fun of working with two writers I admire greatly, partnering with these two author-divas is going to help me get word out about the book to a much bigger community of people whom I already know are likely interested in expat topics--perfect for my book. Just looking at Twitter alone, our plan could help me extend my modest reach (which now stands at about 480 followers) by more than 500%, combining the almost 2000 Leza has and the almost 1200 of Shannon's (minus the 45 or so followers we already share). Moreover, Leza is well known in the yoga community as the owner of Tokyo's hippest yoga studio, and Shannon is one of Hong Kong's most visible Western bloggers: two areas where potential readers of mine could exist without my having any way to reach them if it weren't for Shannon and Leza. This is just one of the many reasons I'm grateful to them for partnering with me on this initiative.

The group cross-promotion idea seems like such a perfect one for other She Writes members, as well, since it's such a great platform for connecting with other writers who share similar interests, passions, and potential readers. So please feel free to mention any of your own cross-promotions here, or any other creative marketing ideas you've had! (I can't promise I won't steal them, but I can promise I'll credit you if I do....)

Tracy Slater is an American writer based in Japan. Her memoir The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self, and Home on the Far Side of the World has been named a Summer 2015 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection and is forthcoming from Penguin Random House’s Putnam imprint in June. Her website is www.tracyslater.com, and she blog also blogs at http://thegoodshufu.wordpress.com.

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  • Tracy Slater

    Thanks so much, Karen! Appreciate your kind comment, and I'll pass on your kind wishes to Shannon and Leza too. All my best!

  • Thank you for this very inspiring post.  Best of luck with your promotions plan - to you, Shannon, and Leza!

  • Tracy Slater

    Thanks, Rita. So glad it's helpful! I didn't really understand the giveaway thing either until I started noticing them more as my book launch approached.

    And your memoir sounds wonderful--just checked it out. So many congratulations on this! Looking forward to staying connected.

  • Rita Gabis

    Thanks so much for this.  My memoir comes out from Bloomsbury US/UK in Sept. and almost immediately after handing last version to copy editor I was made aware by my network of writer friends, publisher, publicist, etc. how the best road to expanding readership was the one I would create step by step.  I've been on a learning curve ever since.  At first I was shocked--book in, my work done until readings, etc.  Now I am in full learning mode and posts like yours are invaluable.  (I'm slightly ashamed to admit that even though I've now heard about them dozens of times, I didn't really understand "giveaways" until I read your post.  Gratefully, Rita

  • Tracy Slater

    Thanks, Lene! So glad they're helpful!

  • Lene Fogelberg Writing

    Fantastic ideas! Thank you Tracy for sharing! 

  • Tracy Slater

    So many apologies for the delay replying, all, and thanks so much for the comments! I only have childcare a few days a week, and my 1 y/o doesn't let me on the computer without banging on the keys when I'm taking care of her!

    Summer--thanks so much for your kind post. So touched that you are looking forward to seeing the book on stands. Can't believe that's actually going to happen after all this time!

    Ellen--thanks for your comments! Great idea, to look at similar books and sites. I love U Nebraksa press, and your book sounds wonderful and really important. It also sounds like we have some similar heritage. And many, many congrats on the Grub Street National Book Prize for Nonfiction (as well as all the others!). What an honor.

    Jane, I think I may have missed one of your messages, but I agree it can be confusing about who is indie and who isn't. On the other hand, the whole publishing industry seems to be breaking down that barrier in many ways, now, and I know that I for one learn much from authors who are indie-published. My hope is that a few indie-publishing people can find interesting all that I'm learning about publishing from going the non-indie route.

    Jenni--thanks for your kind words about the covers! And you're so right about the friendship angle. Leza and I are now organizing a co-book party in Tokyo (where we both live) after doing so many back-and-forth emails for the cross-promotion, so it's definitely a way to build up your bonds with other writers!

    Everly--thanks for your comments, and glad you found the post useful! Before I started working with Putnam, I never knew that the timing of publicity to coincide with a book launch was so important. In fact, I assumed trying to do publicity a little while after launch, when things calm down, would be the way to go, but apparently publishers think it pays off the best to try to create a buzz all at once when the book first comes out. I guess we'll see!

    Molly--would love to see you at Four Stories! I just posted (but haven't mailed to the mailing list yet) details on our next Boston event, on 6/26. It's actually a combo book party for SHUFU (with sake martinis to boot)! Info is here: http://www.fourstories.org/event-featured.html. If you go, please say hello to me! It's the first event in a long time I'll actually be in Boston for. I miss the events so much.

    Leslie--love your ideas of banding together a group of SW authors to do a bookstore event. I bet indie bookstores would be totally into that, since it would be like crowd-sourcing your contacts to bring them all into their store. Let us know if you end up doing that and how it goes!

    Rita--thanks for your kind comment!

    Shelah--thanks for your encouragement and kind interest in the book and my path to publishing it! I will definitely keep everyone here posted as I learn things along the way. One tip I just learned in the last few days since posting this original post above: There is a free web service that allows people to do giveaways and runs the backend of raffles. It's here: https://www.rafflecopter.com/?home. Could be useful if others want to do their own giveaways!

    OK, best to all, and apologies again for the delay responding and for the one long group response. I figured if I did separate responses it would look like my SW account combusted all over this page...

  • Summer Suleiman

    I love these ideas! Thanks for sharing, Tracy! Looking forward to seeing your book on stands and reading your story.

  • Ellen Cassedy

    Ah, I see what you mean.  But I think a giveaway of a copy here and a copy there would work for both traditional and self-published.  I think it's worth it even if you have to spend that money for giving a copy away.  Don't know if others would agree...

  • Jane Hanser

    I realize that what's confusing me is that there are two SW users: Those who are published traditionally and those who are indie. Blog posts and articles may be geared to one or the other. Some are directed to both groups. But who exactly is the SW member? And from an organizational point of view, would it not be to SW's advantage if there were some way of distinguishing this eg. using keywords on these posts?

  • Ellen Cassedy

    Anyone -- self-published or not -- can do a giveaway at any point, not just as a launch.  And no need to limit book events to bookstores -- many other venues exist, including a friend's house, or a site connected to the theme of your book (in your case, Jane Hanser -- dogs).  I spend time looking at the websites of authors of books similar to mine, to see where they have held events -- which gives me ideas for events for my own book.

  • Jenni Ogden Writing

    I love all three of your covers! Great ideas for marketing with a major bonus—friendship!

  • Ellen Cassedy

    I agree about collaborating with other authors.  Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Gray  and I (author of We Are Here) created a presentation called "Hands across History," in which we went at a shared history each in our own way, with respect, thereby illustrating the theme of my book. Doubly rewarding! 

  • Everly Frost

    Great tips, thanks Tracy! I love the idea of collaborating with other authors whose books are coming out around the same time.

  • Molly Howes

    Tracy, I love these ideas. Thanks for sharing them. Can't wait for your book! Hope to see you next time you're at Four Stories in the US.

  • I just love the cross-promotion idea, even banding together as fellow SWP authors in a single event at a bookstore.  I like community! 

  • Rita Gardner

    Good ideas, Tracy.  

  • Sally Ketham

    Congratulations Tracy! Your memoir sounds very interesting and it sounds like you've already found creative ways to market it! Very inspiring. Keep us posted when your book is released! Best, Shelah