I released my sixth poetry book (My Soul Is From a Different Place) last April (just in time for National Poetry Month!) and as usual started out with a marketing plan. I do this with my nonfiction too, but I take a slightly different approach to promoting my poetry.
I start creating my marketing plan by taking a look at the general vibe of my book. For my book, Yes, You, for example, I targeted sites that celebrated a woman’s spirit. These were sites that encouraged women and helped them step out and be creative.
One such site was an artist’s blog for Kelly Rae Roberts. I’ve been a fan of her mixed media artwork for years and the “feel” of her art matched the feel of my book. In fact, I created the cover of the book using my own mixed media art, so I figured it was a good fit. Roberts often runs monthly giveaways and advertising opportunities on her site, and I did both. I created a special link so I could track sales and was pleasantly surprised to have sold many books this way.
Who Likes Poetry? I Mean… Really Likes Poetry?
Poetry is a hard sell. I see a lot of book reviewers say they will accept poetry, but if you read the reviews they’ll also start out with “I’m not really a poetry reader…”
You definitely don’t want to send your poetry book to someone who isn’t sure they like poetry.
I get that poetry seems inaccessible to people. It’s because we’ve made it snobbish or “out there” when describing it. What’s more, sometimes people like reading it but the thought of reviewing it gives them a rash.
When I chose sites to send my poetry to, the theme of the blog usually matches the theme of my book. This is where it’s important to have your poetry centered on a running point rather than a collection. (Not that you can’t market a general poetry book, it’s just harder that way.)
Who Can Relate to Your Story?
One mistake I made for my Christian poetry book Father’s Eyes was assuming that people who were Christian and liked poetry might like it. Wrong! Many of them liked Christian poetry like the Psalms, or enjoyed poetry that mimicked written prayer. But for someone who told a story through poetry? Not so much.
I quickly changed course, and looked for bloggers who shared their struggles with physical and emotional abuse. This was the storyline of my poetry book, and even the people who didn’t normally read poetry related to Father’s Eyes because of the overall message. In focusing on this specific group, I found my target audience.
Where Can You Do Book Signings?
My first poetry book was about empowerment and female independence and strength. (I talk more about the background with this book in my “This I Believe” essay.)
So the first place I did a signing? A spa!
Think about it, what better place to encourage women to be their strong, beautiful selves? I sold 12 books at that event. Not bad for newbie poet.
Incidentally, if you think 12 is a low number, consider that many professionals like this one claim that most authors sell anywhere from 5-8 books on average. I had the chance to interview a couple authors that I went to see at book signings and they agreed this number was pretty accurate. Book signings, they said, were more a way for them to connect with readers than to move a ton of books. Still, any book sales are good, so even if you do only sell a couple, I think that’s a good thing.
Cost Effective Marketing
More than with nonfiction or fiction, marketing poetry really needs to be done inexpensively if you want to make money on your book. I’ve always been really frugal and have done most of the marketing and promotion myself, but for a couple poetry books I hired a virtual book tour company. I did this because at the time, I was really busy with my day job (freelance writer) plus I knew nothing about virtual book tours. I’ve learned tons since, and now do my own.
But in hiring the virtual tour company (who charged anywhere from $300-$1,000) per book, I asked them if they could barter with me. Between offering up a deal with them here and giving some marketing advice, I was able to trade these services in exchange for a free virtual tour. Doing the virtual tour helped kick start my book release but I didn’t have to start out in the negative because of the cost of the tour.
Marketing Your Poetry Book Like It’s a Trusted Corporate Brand
I was totally green when it came to marketing my first poetry book, The Difference Now. I released that book for my own satisfaction, and only marketed it as an experiment. I had spent the previous 20 years in corporate marketing, so I went ahead and pretended my book was the same as the companies I promoted.
I sent press releases, pitched news stories, and created lots of “trinkets” just like I did for the businesses I represented. Part of what that approach did was help market me. I quickly learned that it wasn’t about the poetry so much as it was my story. I was pitching myself as a creative person, and not just my books. The great part was that I sold a lot of books this way, over 1,000 in just a year. I’ve been able to build on this with each new book and article I write.