Did you know for five dollars, you can get someone to write your book title on their face or stomach? How about giving the synopsis of your book via video...dressed as a nun? The Internet is a bizarre place where you can find someone to do just about anything in the name of marketing. Why would you want to? Because weird and crazy, when done right, actually can help sell your book.
Does that mean that having a person dressed as a nun telling people what your book is about will turn your book into a bestseller? Probably not. But guerrilla marketing—the idea of using a small amount of money to do something unconventional—should be a part of every writer’s book marketing strategy.
Here are seven tips to consider as you develop your campaign:
Weird for the Sake of Weird Is Weird
At first glance, it might sound funny when you log onto a website and see that for only five bucks, you can get someone to sing about your book while hula hooping in a bikini—but avoid the temptation of hiring that person to market your book. Weird is fine, and weird can work, but there has to be a reason for it.
Be Careful of the “Expert”
The rise of freelancing websites has made it possible for anyone to say they are an expert. The trouble is many are not. If you are considering hiring a marketer or publicist, you can find plenty on the cheap—but more often than not, they’re cheap for a reason. As you go through the process of selecting someone to help you, make sure you see their track record—whom have they worked for, and, if possible, talk to a few authors who have worked with them. Consider also using freelance marketplaces like Reedsy, which is more focused on the publishing industry. Or better still, ask your friends in the publishing industry for recommendations and pay attention to experts recommended by publishing associations or established industry publications.
When It Comes to Likes, Think Quality Over Quantity
For just a few dollars, you can get 10,000 people to follow you on Twitter. Never mind the fact that the people aren’t real. There are plenty of self-described influencers—people who say, “I’ll promote your book to my 250,000 followers.” Don’t take the bait! You are better off spending a few dollars getting your messages out to a few dozen people who might actually buy your book than thousands who won’t. A targeted audience is the best audience. In the case of buying followers, you might even get banned. While it might sound impressive to say you have 15,000 followers, it will come back to haunt you. The only way to build your platform is organically.
Promotional Items That People Want
Hosting a giveaway with a $50 Kindle Fire? It will get people to enter, for sure, but the Kindle Fire is an easy-to-find product that many people already have. In short, nobody gets excited about that giveaway. But doing a giveaway for a $60 NES Classic, which is much harder to find—that’s going to do better. If your book is a history of Nintendo, then, by all means, do it! But remember, you want people to enter that might ultimately buy your book, so make sure you’re doing a giveaway that’s going after the right audience. Ask yourself who your audience is and what can you offer them that will make them enthusiastic. Offering them something that is in no way related to your book is a good way to get people who are only in it for the prize and don't actually care what your book is about. Once again, a targeted audience is the best audience.
Think Outside the Bookstore
Bookstores are the obvious setting for author readings—but obvious isn’t always the best. Think about settings that might tie into your book. Years ago, when Neal Pollack released his first book, "The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature," he did a reading in the bathroom of a train station; 15 people showed up to the reading, but the story of an author doing a reading in a bathroom went viral and helped sell more books. It worked for Pollack in part because the book was a humor book. A train station bathroom probably won’t help your book sell more copies, but remember: bookstores aren’t the only place for a reading.
Give Away Your Book...To the Right People
Authors should always have a spare copy of their book to give away—but only to the right people. What do you want to gain from giving that book away? A review? An endorsement? Giving your book away should ultimately lead to getting more people to buy your book. Giving your book away to people you know is fun for bragging rights, but how many of those people are going to take your book and actually read it and endorse it? The majority will take it to be polite and then tuck it away where it will never be seen again.
Advertise in All the Unlikely Places
When planning your guerrilla book marketing campaign, always, always think outside the box whenever possible! This is even more true when you think of the places you’ll pay to advertise a book. One great place to start is where people wait—when you’re waiting, there’s often nothing better to do, so you’ll read any advertisement you see; movie theaters—the ads right before a movie starts—are an example of this. Many grocery stores will sell advertising space on the divider bars in the checkout lane. Public libraries, forever short on funding, are almost always happy to take bookmarks with books on them; they’d also welcome displays if you pitch it to them right. Don’t think standard displays; think interesting displays. If you have a mystery book coming out, for example, think of how you could make a display that looks like a crime scene.
Being a poor writer with no money for book marketing is no excuse for not promoting your book. Your creative juices should not be solely reserved for the words you put on the page. You spent hours of your life-giving birth to your idea—it’s worth a few more hours to find the right audience.