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.

Posted by Patricia Rosemoor

Filed as: eBooks, Industry Guests, Marketing/Promotion