Connecting with a promotional partner who has the same target audience as your book does can be a brilliant move. Your partner might provide publicity opportunities (access to a mailing list; promotion in their newsletter, on their website, at conferences or events) and there are several ways you can help your partner.
Partnering with non-profits:
Consider partnering with a non-profit that is related to the subject of your book. For Lost, Kidnapped, Eaten Alive! — which is a collection of adventure travel essays with a special section about the ethical questions that come up for travelers — I could (should!) have approached an organization like Ethical Traveler or Tourism Concern and offered to split the proceeds of book sales if they partnered with me. My book would help draw attention to their cause, so any publicity they helped me with would also be helping their cause.
Splitting the proceeds of your book’s sales also provides a good incentive for your promotional partner to pull out all the stops and really sell your book. It doesn’t necessarily need to be fifty-fifty — choose a percentage that feels fair to both partners. If that seems like you’d be giving up too much, you could partner for launch week only — which would also create a great reason (donation to a charity) for readers to buy during that week, rather than putting it off until later (or never). As I learned when I worked for an ad agency, creating a sense of urgency is an important strategy for driving sales.
Partnering with retailers:
For Wandering in Paris, I planned to read an excerpt about French lingerie at the launch party. And I happened to have a friend who had just started manufacturing luxurious silk lingerie, with pieces named for French divas like Anais Nin, Edith Piaf, and Coco Channel. What a fit! We used displays of Blackbird Underpinnings’ lingerie to spice up the bookstore and invited people from both our mailing lists to the launch. We had a larger audience (and more book sales) than we would have had without partnering, and Blackbird Underpinnings was able to add people to their mailing list (they weren’t yet selling the lingerie).
Partnering with other authors:
You might choose to work with another author whose book is on a similar launch schedule to yours, and who expects his or her book to appeal to the same audience as yours. If you’re both writing YA historical fiction or steamy romance novels or time-travel sci-fi, you’ll want to be promoting your books in the same places and to the same people. You could combine mailing lists, have joint readings and other author events, and promote your events together. The fact that there are two of you will make event planning easier on each of you and the event itself more fun for attendees.
Because I was involved with promoting both Hot Flashes: sexy little stories and poems and An Erotic Alphabet, and wanted to promote them to a common audience, I planned an event at which both books were featured, and offered attendees a special discount if they purchased both books that evening. It worked — sales were higher than they would have been if we’d been promoting either book alone.
Who can you partner with?
Start by thinking about what you have to offer. Can you pull in an audience of people who enjoy sexy lingerie? Can you offer advice about hiking the Camino de Santiago based on your own experience? Are you an expert in coaching athletes to their highest performance?
Then think about gaps in your marketing plan. Do you need a more extensive mailing list? Would your book sell well at a particular conference or event? Have you come a cross a well-established website about your topic that attracts people who might want to read your book?
Now put the two together. Do some research, get the word out that you’re looking for a promotional partner. Create a partnership that’s bigger than the sum of its parts. And let me know what you come up with; I’m always looking for good case histories.
Now it’s time to set up your media kit.
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