Promotion, Part 1: Marketing the Old-Fashioned Way

Sherrie - Author - retouched~ By Sherri Hansen

So you’ve written a wonderful book. Friends and family who’ve read it rave about how good it is.  Now all you have to do is to figure out how to get it into the hands of the hundreds and thousands of other people who you know would enjoy it.

Marketing your book can be far more intimidating than writing it – especially for a writer who is more introvert than extrovert. For me, it is not so much the lack of courage, but lack of time that comes into play.

Whatever your reason for not getting your book out there, conquering a few easy marketing strategies can make the difference between your book being a success and not.

I’m not a marketing expert by any means, but I’ve owned and operated a fairly successful bed and breakfast and tea house for 24 years, and I have learned quite a bit about promoting a product. Here are a few ideas that I’ve came up with for marketing my first book, Night and Day, that I hope you’ll be able to adapt and use to market your own books.

(Note:  In this article, I will concentrate on old-fashioned, non-internet marketing ideas.)

1.  A couple of weeks ago, I personally visited several grocery stores and specialty shops in my area with a book in hand to let them know about Night and Day. One shop owner handed me cash right then and there and said they’d call when they needed more books. They’ve already called to order 2 more. Other shop owners seemed more skeptical, and wanted to have the books, but on consignment.

One woman wasn’t there when I stopped by, so I left a book for her to take a look at. When I returned a week later, she had read half of it, and was saying things like, “What are you doing living in St. Ansgar, Iowa? You should be in New York City writing full time – you have such a knack for this! The book is wonderful! I love it!” and “If I don’t get my Easter ham in the oven, it’s going to be your fault. I can’t put this book down!”

While not everyone is going to react to your book with such enthusiasm, all it takes is one person – in a store, a community, an area, and the word is going to get out. Word of mouth is always the best advertising. Giving away a few books to people you think might be good cheerleaders might really pay off.

2.  I also sent out a letter to a dozen or two shops in areas mentioned in my book. For Night and Day, I targeted Scandinavian specialty shops, quilting shops, and book stores in areas of Minnesota mentioned in the book, as well as areas of Iowa and California with high concentrations of Danish settlers. So far, I have only had one positive response, but it was definitely worth my time. And, once I follow up with a personal visit (I’m planning to head to Red Wing, Welch, Cannon Falls and Blooming Prairie, MN as soon as I have more books, and a free day.)  I hope to land a few more placements for my book. You can find email and mailing addresses online if you visit the chamber of commerce pages for the community you’re targeting.

3.  Offer to do a book signing at the shop’s next sale, open house, or special event. Shop owners are always looking for ways to attract a few more customers. Some shops have wine tastings, or craft demos, or participate in community celebrations. Ask if you can come to their next event and be part of the excitement. Everyone I spoke to reacted enthusiastically to this idea. I’ve even been invited to do a book signing at the Book Loft in Solvang, CA next January when we’re out on the West Coast. It might have something to do with the fact that I offer to bring a plate of Melting Moments (a little Danish butter cookie my family has always made) with me when I come.  A unique slant can catch their attention.

4.  Woman’s groups and clubs, church groups, community groups, most any kind of group enjoy special speakers. I’ve been on several committees, and it’s a constant challenge to find someone to speak at our monthly meetings. Prepare a 10 – 15 minute long talk on some aspect of your experience, and contact libraries, churches, friends, community centers, senior citizen centers, and let them know you’re available. Odds are, they’ll be delighted, and you’ll soon have an opportunity to present your book to a captive audience! I will be speaking to a local writer’s group this Friday at 10 a.m., and another, in the next town over, sometime next month.

5.  Send out press releases to area newspapers, radio and television stations. Include a blurb, a bio, a photo, a list of places your book is available, and hopefully, a slant that makes your story unique. A unique slant might be how you were discovered, how the story ties in with a local legend or current event, or what inspired you to write the book in the first place. Most of them will go in the trash, but if even one picks up the story (who doesn’t love a “local girl or guy done good” story?), it will have been worth your while. I taped my first radio interview yesterday, for a station in Atlantic, Iowa, a large Danish community a couple of hours south of here. Who knows what will come of it?

6.  Offer your book as an auction item or special prize for your favorite charity, a church bazaar, or a local contest. Most places will also let you leave a stack of business cards or book marks to maximize your exposure.

I’m sure there are many other ideas that you can use to market your books, but hopefully, this short list will jog your creative impulses and help you get started. If not, make a list of what kind of people you think would enjoy your book (who is your target customer?) and where you are most likely to reach them.  Then, make a list of each place, area, craft, hobby, or profession mentioned (hopefully in a positive light) in your book, and start thinking about how you can market to those niches.

You HAVE written a wonderful book. Now it’s time to tell the world!

* Stay tuned! Sherrie will be back Friday to talk about Pinterest. 

Twenty-three years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and now lives in northern Iowa, in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes on the run whenever she’s not working – or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. You can see what’s she’s up to at: or


10 thoughts on “Promotion, Part 1: Marketing the Old-Fashioned Way”

  1. Pingback: Promotion, Part 2: Poking Holes at Pinterest? | Contemporary Romance

  2. Great points, Sherrie! I’ve had mixed luck with consignment placements. Some shop owners are on top of things and send payments or order more books. In other cases, I’ve visited the shop and found they’ve sold all my copies, but never sent me a check. (Or ordered more, but in those cases, I hesitate to place more there because they seem disorganized.) What thoughts do you and others have about managing consignment situations? Thanks!


    1. I’ve had the same frustrations, Yvonne, although one sweet woman mailed my books back to me at her cost when she decided to close her shop. It varies so much. I try not to do consignments when at all possible. It is risky unless you know the person to be reliable.

  3. Elizabeth Dudak

    Good advice although…. (You know there would be an although, right? ) I work full time, sometimes fuller than full-time, and taking the time to go to different places may not be my answer, thus the need for me to use the Internet…but not with great success. I also took some limited time I have to do the ‘door-to-door’ approach if you will with a book I have out now and well, not much success. Maybe I missing the selling spirit. YOU sound like you have it down pat. You did mention things I did not really think about like marketing it to your audience. Perhaps a story about big city wouldn’t be received as well in a small town. Hmmm. Anyway, thanks for providing some things to consider.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Elizabeth. Time is a huge factor for me, too. And like anything, to be successful, you have to be consistent and follow through, and keep checking back with people… all of which are difficult when you have limited time, or busy spurts when you simply don’t have a moment to spare. I do think marketing to your audience and specific interest groups is key though. One of my best speaking engagements was at a church that had been destroyed by a horrific tornado, along with half of the town, back in the 1960’s. The title of my book? Stormy Weather. I sold every copy I brought and had an amazing discussion about how stormy weather can impact your life… it makes me teary eyed just remembering.

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