Meet Agent Evan Marshall

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Promote Your E-Novel—In the Print World

by Evan Marshall

Recently a client of my agency, a longtime bestselling romance author, told me she was stumped as to how to promote her upcoming novel, an ebook. “I can’t do bookstore signings,” she complained. “What am I supposed to sign? Air?”

This conversation got me to thinking about promoting e-book novels. It’s true, of course, that there’s nothing to sign on an ebook, but does that really mean you can’t do signings? I don’t think so. In fact, I think many e-book novelists are overlooking a valuable promotional channel: the good old world of “analog” . . . the print book world we know so well.

Think about it. Every single person who reads e-books today once read print books, right? So they know that world, are far more comfortable with it, than they are with the new electronic world. Consider also that if you have been publishing in the print world, chances are good some of your readers haven’t gone electronic yet. Two good reasons to appeal to your readers’ print senses to promote your ebook novel.

What does this mean, exactly?

You can’t give away printed copies of your e-book, of course, but you can certainly give out samplers. Why not sign samplers at a book signing? Right up front would be all the information for ordering the ebook.

Ditto for printed promotional items—the bookmarks, postcards and other tchotchkes we know so well. Keep making them and keep giving them away to the people who’ve been reading print books.

Create innovative tie-in items in print. For some time now, publishers have been coming up with clever ways to entice print readers over to the e side. For example, they might offer alternate endings to print books, in e-book form—the thinking being that this would be the bridge to e-reading for these print fans. Why not do the reverse? Create print teasers for your e-books. How about a short story whose main plot resolves itself but which also opens up a bigger story— the story in your ebook? Or a “choose your own adventure” type print book, all of whose final chapters lead to your e-novel?

Offer incentives to your print readers. Anyone who sends you a receipt for one of your print books receives a special companion volume to your new e-book, full of juicy background information on your hero and heroine. This works especially well if the print book ties in somehow to the e-book.

Offer similar incentives to your e-readers, appealing to their old love of print. Anyone who sends you a receipt for one of your e-books receives a print book (story, novella, article, etc.) that ties in with the e-book.

Feeling really ambitious? (And got some free time?) Write a novella or perhaps even a full novel that is a prequel to your ebook, and give it out to readers in print form. Here, too, you will of course give all necessary information for ordering the e-book.

If you self-publish you of course have more freedom and can try something like the following. Plan a series of books making the first one print-only, the second e-only, the third print-only, and so on.

Take older e-books and give them out in print form, making it clear their main life was as ebooks.

Join forces with another author and create an ambitious crisscrossing series. You write a print tie-in to your friend’s e-book, she writes a print tie-in to your e-book, and so on, all the books tying together somehow.

What ideas can you come up with to appeal to those often-neglected readers on the print side? The only limit to what you can try is your imagination.

And in these exciting but challenging days, we need all the imagination we can get.

Evan Marshall is an internationally recognized expert on fiction writing and author of the “Hidden Manhattan” and “Jane Stuart and Winky” mystery series. A former book editor, he has for 28 years been a leading literary agent specializing in fiction. His Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software, written with Martha Jewett, is an adaptation of his bestselling Marshall Plan® series.

10 comments

  1. Thanks, Evan–

    Some very interesting an innovative suggestions.

  2. Thanks for the info, Evan!

    The changing tide in publishing offers authors new ways to promote their books. While it might be challenging at first, I do think we can get creative and promote an ebook just as much as we can a print book.

  3. This is great information, Evan. Thanks for sharing! I did bookmarks and tri-fold brochures with an excerpt for my ebook from The Wild Rose Press. Those seemed to work well. I’m going to print out your ideas so I have them for next time.

  4. Evan, I love the idea of a print teaser booklet for an e-book. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  5. Wait, you can sign ebooks … I have three signed on my Sony Daily Edition Reader right now. Readers have a stylus and the ability to edit/make comments. (Okay, maybe not the Kindle, but others do.)

    I made a comment on Vanessa Kelly’s post on FB about this blog but I also want to mention here that publishers should be asked to give a code for a quantity of downloads so the author can promote the book by giving the code to various organizations for donations. Or allow the author to purchase at a BIG discount a number of ebooks to donate. The author can create a bookcover/card that has the code on it for the donation so it looks great in the basket/bag/whatever.

    Authors could also put an excerpt on a mini-disk and sign the cover of that disk (cover design is bookcover).

    I’d rather see an Easter Egg hidden at the end of an ebook (a code for an extra chapter or the first chapter of a different book) than receive a print item. I’m not keeping the print item but I will enjoy the Easter Egg and chat about it on social networks … especially if the author includes a tinyurl to launch her website as the hatching point of the Easter Egg.

  6. I forgot to say great post!

  7. Oh, and the donations/giveaway codes can have an expiration date, that way the author isn’t charged for those not used.

    Boy, you got my thinker going over here and I’m not even published (yet).

  8. This is one to print out and stick on the fridge. I love innovative new takes on what’s possible for authors. I have two books coming out in March, and this is just the ticket. I’ve been in this business a long time, but the current changes are injecting a new dynamic into everything we thought we knew. Thank you.

  9. Great stuff! I’ve already begun doing some of those things and the only ebooks I have out are my most recent releases from Harlequin.

    I don’t even have my own ebooks yet!

    Which just goes to prove I’m thinking like a professional! LOL

    susan

  10. Interesting! You’ve given me some ideas.

    Pat Amsden
    http://www.patamsden.com