Creative Print Angles To Sell More Books


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For self-publishers and authors with budgets tighter than shrink-to-fit jeans, there are several intriguing ways to stir the publicity pot. None yield more dramatic results than print.

One idea is to provide magazines with “freebie" chapters. Editors are always interested in receiving well-written pieces relevant to their publication’s audience—especially if they don’t have to pay for them. Be sure to study the magazine or newsletter format. Look for such things as the length of pieces, if they use an anecdotal approach, and whether their style is casual or formal, elementary or sophisticated.

In your cover letter indicate you have written a book and are willing to provide selected chapters or sections without any cost to them. Include some of your promotional materials so they can taste the flavor of your message and refer them to your Web site. Also state that at the end of the excerpt you expect a bio with a reference to the book and full ordering information. (That’s your “pay. ")

Since your book is on computer, you can go one better. Take a chapter, or a subhead section, customize it slightly, toss in an introduction, plop on a little conclusion—and you have a fresh article. I’ve done this several times and made some big bucks. I did a piece about self-publishing for Science of Mind magazine.

The results were astounding. Because of a meaty paragraph at the end of that article, I sold over $4,000 in products! I did a similar thing with Pace magazine, taking a chapter from Big Ideas for Small Service Businesses. It brought in over $12,000—certainly more than any freelance article I’ve sold! This kind of win/win partnership with a magazine benefits everyone.

If you don’t want to turn over actual parts of your book, write a short piece on the subject in general. I did this about self-publishing for Southwest Airlines Magazine, Toastmaster Magazine, the Women in Communication trade journal, and several others.

Tips, quizzes, lists of do’s and don’ts—they are easy to create and editors love them. I offer them on a complimentary basis as long as full ordering information is included. That’s the trade-off. When I was publicizing Shameless Marketing for Brazen Hussies, I gave away “5 Strategic Tips for Women Business Owners" on a nonexclusive basis to several magazines. The book orders flooded in.

By the way, this type of material also works well as a giveaway when you’re on the radio. By offering it for a SASE you help listeners and sell more books. Naturally, you’ll include a sales brochure about the book when you mail the giveaway.

A Toronto-based couple has a “tip" for Heloise: They use tips to promote their book of household advice called Haley’s Hints. Columns of their tips run free in Canadian newspapers. Then they offered them to the National Enquirer, which ran them on a regular basis. Last I heard, they were also in negotiation with to create a free Haley’s Hints on that site, complete with a link to their book.

Additionally, the Haleys have created almost 300 two-minute TV tip ideas, which are offered throughout the world. A lot of stations put them in as filler material between shows. We have no way of knowing if this “tip" approach is the reason, but this self-published book has topped 300,000 copies sold.

I’ve had good luck using Letters to the Editor in strategic publications. (You do subscribe to the trade journals relevant to your subject area, don’t you?) When a Publishers’ Weekly columnist talked about reissues of regional titles in her “West Watch" column, I took this as an invitation to promote our How to Make Big Profits Publishing City & Regional Books. My Letter to the Editor ran a full column and talked about doing new area books, of course mentioning the title in the process. I was able to directly trace several orders to this source.

A cousin to this is the op-ed essay. These pieces usually run about 750 words and are placed opposite a newspaper’s editorial page. Many papers pay for them. They are a forum to showcase the idea or industry behind your book and typically carry the title at the end of the piece.

Look around for other possibilities. If you or your spouse is employed in a large company, it may have a newsletter that mentions employee happenings. (If you have written your book while working for someone else, be sure the boss knows of this accomplishment and that mention of it lands in your personnel file. )

Your college alumni publication is another place for publicity. They may even do a feature article about you as a successful author. And don’t overlook any associations or organizations to which you belong. They often have columns that report member accomplishments. The more times your name and the title of your book gets around, the better.

One of my author clients succeeded in syndicating a column. It’s being offered to the more than 100 gay publications across the country. The title? “The Straight Poop. " Creating a column might work for you, too. Monthly is easier than weekly. It quickly becomes a chore to think up new topics and crank out 500 to 750 words of copy every week. The beauty of this approach is after awhile you can put out another book . . . of your columns!

© Copyright 2005 Marilyn Ross

Marilyn and Tom Ross are the coauthors of 13 books including the best-selling Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and the award-winning Jump Start Your Book Sales. Through phone consultations and ongoing coaching/mentoring, Marilyn empowers authors and self-publishers to realize their dreams. She can be reached at 719-395-8659 or

Visit for free meaty information on writing, self-publishing, and book marketing strategies.


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