Find Some Readers!

By: Michael LaRocca

The Internet will not replace traditional promotional efforts, but it can enhance them. Before I go into the Internet, I want to talk about the old-fashioned marketing methods, because they're still your best source of readers.



Map out all bookstores within 20, 50, even 100 miles of where you live. Call or visit and see who has a local or regional authors section. Most do. See if they'll buy a few copies. I did this in 1994 and had a lot of fun with it.

See if they'll schedule a book signing. If they do, some newspapers and radio stations will advertize them as free public service announcements. I never did this -- my mistake. will help you find the bookstores in your state. So will the Yellow Pages in your home, and the online version at

Alternately, you can find the bookstores by doing a web search for Bookstores+YourState. This will take longer, but it can work. You can narrow down your search by using key words like Independent, Christian, wholesale... whatever you're trying to find.



Since I've never done this myself, I'm repeating what I've heard. It contradicts itself in a few spots, but it'll give you some ideas.

To find a list of libraries in your state, you can use a search engine, or you can call your local library and ask how to get a listing of all the libraries in your state. They'll usually give you the link.

Many libraries have a budget to buy books and will gladly purchase from local authors.

Libraries won't let you sell your book inside the building, but they will let you talk about it. Talk with the 'Friends of the Library' chapter. Also, donate a book to your local library. It's good publicity, especially if you get a newspaper to pick up the story, and it's a good way to give back to your community.

You can also donate an autographed copy of your book to the library in the city where your book is set. If possible, do this in person. Many times the library will set up a book signing for you at one (or more) of the book stores in the area. Again, contact the 'Friends of the Library' group.



Send press releases to every newspaper in your state and the state where your book is set. Also look for local radio stations who will interview you. Kidon Media ( will help you find them. Stick to places that would be genuinely interested in you, as opposed to spamming everybody. If the URLs are stale, you can look up the names at Google.



Walk into any bookstore, log onto any e-publisher site, or visit Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Guess what you'll see? A whole lot of books. If one of them happens to be yours, how will people notice it?

I've gone into a bookshop more than once to buy something based on a review. There are print reviews and there are electronic reviews. You want to be reviewed as much as possible.

Your publisher will market your book, but you have to help. A lot. What you want is for a potential reader to walk into that shop or log onto that site with your name and title already in his or her head.

Your publisher will submit your book to reviewers. I don't know about the quantity, but reviews (even negative ones) generate sales. Work with your publisher to ensure everyone on the list below is covered. Also make sure you don't both send the same book to the same place because that's just plain embarrassing.

When you are marketing, don't think like a writer. Think like a reader. Of course you can think like another person... that's part of what makes you a great writer.

How do you choose what to read? I go by what my friends recommend, book reviews, and author loyalty. This isn't the end-all and be-all of marketing efforts, but it's a good starting place. (Word-of-mouth is the end-all and be-all.)

Here are some sources that readers use. Some will review your books, some will let you review other people's books, and some are just plain useful for getting the word out.



A Romance Review
Book Lore
Book Pleasures
Book Remarks
Book Review
Choice Magazine
Contemporary Romance Writers
The Compulsive Reader
Green Man Review
Love Romances
My Shelf
Reader To Reader
The Romance Reader
Scribes World
Scott London Book Reviews
Writers Write
Written Voices



Author Interviews
Author Network



All About Romance
Asian Reporter Book Reviews
Author Mania
The Best Reviews
Book Connector
Book Ideas
Booklist Magazine
Book Review Club
Curled Up With A Good Book
Erv's Book Reviews
Escape To Romance
Huntress' Book Reviews
International Gay & Lesbian Review
Kirkus Reviews
Know Better
Linear Reflections
The Literary Times
London Review of Books
Los Angeles Times
The McQuark Review of e-books for Kids
Midwest Book Review
Mostly Fiction
The Mystery Reader
The New York Review of Books
The New York Times Book Review
Notes In The Margin
PIF Magazine
Publishers Weekly Three months before publication
Rain Taxi
Rebecca's Reads
Rio Reviewers
Road to Romance
Romance and Friends
Romantic Times Magazine
Shades of Romance Magazine
Spiritual Bookstore
Want A Book Reviewed?
The Washington Post
Word Museum
Word Thunder



Brint Institute
Business Nation
Digital Women
Telecom Business Books



eBook Jungle
Once Written
Reviewers Choice
Substance Books
Wild East Links Machine



? Am I a HACK or NOT?



If you're selling anything, you should have a website. If you're selling ebooks, you should consider it mandatory. How many people do you know who read ebooks but don't use the Internet? None come to my mind.

The best thing about having a website is that you can do it free. Later, once you know what you're doing, you can buy a domain name and pay a hosting service if you want.

You can pay someone to design a gorgeous site for you, loaded with graphics, complete with a secure server and the option to buy right there, but I didn't. My publisher does the selling. Writing a site yourself, loaded with information and a place to click to send someone to your publisher, is simple.

Planning should take longer than actual execution. A bit like writing a novel.

'Hi, I'm Michael LaRocca and these are my books.' This approach will guarantee that anyone looking for Michael LaRocca will find my site. But when we consider that no one's heard of Michael LaRocca, how many people will seek out my site?

Unsolicited 'Buy my book!' messages don't work. They just piss people off. Plus, they're rude.

Spam doesn't sell books. Trustworthy recommendations do. As the author, talking to a total stranger who didn't ask you to start a conversation, you can't make trustworthy recommendations. So don't even try.

Here's a possible solution.

Let's say you've written a book where most of the action happens on a snowmobile. Put together the best damn snowmobile website in history. Everything that anyone wants to know about snowmobiles should be on your site. Make it the kind of resource that any snowmobiler will visit again and again.

Then slip a little note in there mentioning your book. People will find your site, and during one of those repeat visits they'll buy your book.

Basically, fill a need. Give folks a reason to keep coming back even if they think they'll never buy your book.

Being helpful is my 'sales gimmick,' but I just so happen to enjoy it. People don't log onto the Internet with the purpose of spending money. They log on for information or entertainment. Give them that and they'll keep coming back.

If you throw in just a little soft sell, and do it right, they'll eventually make that impulse buy as a favor to you. Hopefully after they read one of your books, you'll hook them and they'll come back specifically to buy the rest.

As an example, why are you reading this right this minute? To buy a book? No. To read my free advice. My site is genuinely useful. You want to bookmark it and come back. I know you do.

At some point, you're supposed to think 'What a nice man. Let me plop down a mere $5 and buy one of his novels.'

Maybe you won't do that. Maybe if I were you, I wouldn't do it either. But, I'd probably read the free samples. They're at

But I bet I can sell more novels this way than by screaming 'Buy me!' at the top of my lungs. And I teach in China without a microphone. I've got strong lungs.

I'm not your friend because you don't know me. However, I hope you think of me as a 'trusted advisor,' which is the next best thing.



When you search, how many hits do you look at before you give up and change your search terms or your search engine?

That's why you want to be in the top ten or twenty slots.

Start by studying everything at

Next, visit Search Engine Watch at and subscribe to the free monthly newsletter. Useful, timely advice.

When a search engine spiders your site, part of your score is based on incoming links and outgoing links. Incoming links from sites with a similar theme to yours are especially valuable. So naturally you'll be asking some webmasters to exchange links. But first you have to find them. For that, I use a free program called Web Ferret. I type in a keyword and it scours several search engines looking for matches. I picked up my copy at

Nope, none of these places told me to endorse them or even knows that I do. I just happen to find them useful.


» More on Writing