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Free author publicity tips from Author Kent McInnis

Anyone Can Sell a Book. Let’s Work on Selling the Author.

After complaining that my photo on the back of SIERRA HOTEL was too large, I learned to let publishers do what publishers know. Every book an author writes has only one thing in common—the author’s name. That’s what readers remember. They buy the author, not the book.

We spend most of our time at writers’ clubs and retreats learning how to sell our books. We must also learn to sell ourselves to the public. The suggestions below cost little or no money at all.

1. Authors don’t make great books. Readers do.

It is to your advantage to sell your readers on you as a writer. At public or private events, make sure the first words you speak are “Authors don’t make great books. Readers do.” It’s your way of saying thank you and telling them they are of value.

2. Create a list of all your friends and acquaintances.

Collect addresses, emails, and phone numbers. Communicate via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, email, etc. Build up your list of friends and followers well before you need them.

3. Ask readers and bookstores to promote you.

It’s human nature for people to help when asked, because people don’t like to say no. It may surprise you to find that they delight in your potential success and become your best cheerleaders. You can’t communicate with them enough times.

4. Practice blatant self-promotion.

Although very difficult for some, sell yourself as well as you are able. If you are not good at it, or if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it until you are more comfortable. Selling yourself should be fun. Do what you are good at. Most recipients of blatant self-promotion will admire you for it. Nothing breeds support like self-confidence.

I first saw this demonstrated in my 8th grade school cafeteria. One student, known for his over-the-top self-confidence, decided to walk around the lunchroom and ask everyone for their pocket change. With honesty he said, “I want to see how much money I can collect.” Of course, there were some students who were not willing to play his game, myself included. But many students went along with his ploy. By the end of lunch, he announced his collection exceeded eleven dollars—and his donors cheered for him.

That day I learned that, even if you ask for the outlandish, you can get the public to help you and cheer you on.

5. Share with your readers your growing success.

Your readers will promote you best when you show them you are successful. When you sell, tell. Share your journey as a writer. When a good review comes your way, pass it on. Let the public know of certain milestones, such as a successful book signing, the number and rank of reviews, or a release date for a new book in the pipeline.

6. Constantly promote yourself at first—then intermittently.

To successfully promote your name, use the following technique. Ivan Pavlov demonstrated how he could, through constant then intermittent food and auditory stimulus, make dogs salivate every time he rang a bell, with or without food. Like Pavlov’s salivating dogs, your ringing bell is your blatant self-promotion.

After a month of daily promotional reminders, skip promotion a few days then return intermittently. Watch for the public’s renewed interest in you as you hear, “Where have you been?” Pavlov’s intermittent reinforcement will make your fanbase hunger for more—perhaps even salivate over your next book.

7. Believe that you deserve it.

Humility is admirable, but so is self-confidence. If you truly want something, such as respect and admiration, act like you already have it.

8. Talk to groups.

Whether it is a bookstore signing, a talk to a civic group, or a visit to a book club, the best public relations an author can receive is often a public notice. Post an announcement on a bulletin board, in a bookstore window, in a mailing, or on a page in the local newspaper. It’s not the book getting the plug. It’s the author.

9. Pick a theme that is personal to you that can relate to your potential audience.

The public wants to relate to you. Reciprocate by focusing on their interests. Ask questions of your audience to better learn what aspects of your books and you the author are of prime interest to them. Don’t talk about the romance in your novel if your audience is a team of hockey players.

10. Teach readers the background that will make the story more understandable.

Before your next book is released, educate your potential readers about the background details of your book. If they know the inner workings of a subject before the actual book is released, they are more likely to buy your book or recommend it to others. It can also alleviate some misgivings about a topic that would otherwise be a subject new to the reader.

To add a personal touch to create empathy from your readers, share self-deprecating humor of your struggle as a writer—always at your own expense—never at the expense of others.

For SIERRA HOTEL I posted daily comments and tweets on Facebook and Twitter for three months before my novel was released. Readers learned the fundamentals of aviation, the author’s personal experiences, and the history of the time and setting for the plot.

I told readers about my hobbies, my family, and my childhood. I shared my most embarrassing moments.

After three months of this messaging, they had no doubt that I was selling a book—and it didn’t matter if the subject interested them. They were sold on the author.

11. Do the unexpected.

Boldness is an endearing quality if you believe in your own worth. Put up posters. Hand a flyer to a stranger. Add a bookmark to a waiter’s tip. Tell your minister via the collection plate. If you are at a book signing with other authors, encourage the readers who stop by your booth to speak to the other authors. Help every author you meet. Dare to fail with an idea. Share with good humor your triumphs and your failures.

12. Ask detractors to tell you “Why?”

Always treat an objection as a question. Never get defensive. This is an opportunity to change their mind or to improve your writing. Explain yourself by answering their “question.” Nothing boosts an author’s reputation like being unflappable.

I had that experience after a book reviewer at a military organization asked for a copy of my book. I later got a call from the man. He told me he had never called an author before, but he wanted to talk to me. Pleased that he called and assuming I would hear high praise, I was surprised to hear him say, “I didn’t like it.”

My reply was decisive. “You’ve never called an author, yet you called me. I’m flattered that you have a question. Tell me why you didn’t like my novel?”

By treating his criticism as a question, our measured conversation resulted in a positive book review three months later in their military-publication.

13. Track book sales to measure the effectiveness of your efforts.

Use your book sales invoices from Oghma Communications with sales data from to get a sense of what activities you have done that spur positive sales results. Know also what efforts are disappointing.

14. Review other author’s books, then ask for a plug for your own.

Read other authors’ books and give them good honest reviews and appropriate ratings. If a book is bad, don’t review it. Your hope is that they will return the favor. Don’t be offended by a Three or Four-Star review. If you only get Five-Star reviews, it makes readers and other reviewers suspicious.

I tell readers who ask, “Don’t worry. Hemmingway deserves Five-Stars. I am no Hemingway.” But if you want an author’s favorable book review, be careful.

15. Enter those “I’m not worthy” competitions.

Some of the major book awards offered each year are a bargain to enter. If you enter a major competition, you will always be able to say you were a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize, The Hugo Award, National Book Award, etc. A bookstore owner may say it for you, if you make him aware. Again, believe that you deserve it.

16. Always carry books, business cards, and a specific working pen for autographs EVERYWHERE, including home.

Make it an unwavering habit. You never know when a reader will pop up at your front door, in a restaurant, or at church. Be prepared.

17. Never link politics, religion, or cultural identity to your willingness to sell a book.

In discussing religion or politics, it’s wiser being a fly on the wall than a fly in the soup. If the person can read, he is a customer. If certain people have opposing opinions, they are still potential customers. You are preaching to the choir when you sell your books only to those who agree with you. If you hope to change their opinions with your pen, sell them your book.


All of us who read these suggestions are already successful as published authors. We achieved this level of success through vision, hard work, and tenacity. Twenty-seven publishers rejected my first book submission before I landed a contract. Now I realize what was lacking. My submissions were devoid of a personal touch. Had I told publishers more about me as an author, before I told them about my novel, my overnight success may have come sooner. In my case, the first time I looked at a publisher in the same room face to face was the day I saw success. Yes, it was a bit of luck, but everybody is lucky. Sadly, most are oblivious when luck falls in their lap. Perhaps these suggestions will add to the success you seek. Good luck. Written by Kent McInnis if you'd like to know more about him you can follow him on or buy his fantastic books here,


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