How many people can you count as friends? You will soon find out when you ask for their help with this book marketing technique that works for even the most shy of authors.
With a little work and a big ask, you will soon find your book listed in public libraries all over the country.
I’m sure this trick has been used before, but one day it occurred to me out of the blue. I simply thought I’d ask all of my friends to request Book Design Made Simple at their local libraries. So, using the principle of “the easier the better” for my friends, here’s what I did.
- I dug out my address book from the bottom of a drawer, opened my email contact list, and went through the names of other authors I had met. I noted physical locations of anyone who seemed likely to help me out.
- I composed a friendly individual email for each person, asking them to request the book at their public library. To fellow authors I promised to return the favor. I gave everyone my book details, including the authors, title, publisher, ISBN, copyright date, and price. Also a short book description and the book’s URL. But I didn’t send the message yet, because I still had to complete the next crucial step.
- I went to the website of each friend’s local library and looked for the book purchase request form; they were sometimes quite well hidden, and some libraries simply didn’t have an online form. In the process I saw that no two library websites were organized the same way—very interesting. Below are some examples of the various locations of the form you are looking for:
- In each email, I added the link to the relevant book request page. If there was no online form for a particular library, I explained the process for requesting a purchase either in person or over the phone (of course supplying the phone number).
- I clicked the SEND button.
Now why couldn’t I have simply requested the book myself from all of those libraries? Because invariably the library asks for the patron’s library card number.
You are probably wondering what kind of return on investment (ROI) we had with this marketing scheme. The monetary investment was zero, and the time was 5–15 minutes per email message (about 4 hours total). The numbers are fuzzy, but here’s how it worked out:
- Of the friends whose libraries had an online patron request form, 100% of them put in the request!
- If their library did not have a way to request the book online—requiring a stop at the front desk—about 75% of the folks took the time to do it, and that is pretty remarkable.
- A couple of friends asked not only their public library but also an academic library they were associated with to purchase the book (with both of the academic libraries agreeing).
- About 17% of the libraries had no book purchasing budget at all. However, I have since donated copies to some of them.
So I have some amazing friends! And all of them now have an investment in the success of our book.
But how many of those libraries actually ordered the book? About half of them ordered it soon after the request. In the intervening months, many, many public libraries have ordered the book, and perhaps some of them were the ones approached by my friends. I haven’t kept up with that.
And here are the fuzzy sales numbers:
Out of the 24 people I contacted,
- 16 put in an online request, and half of the libraries complied right away (sales = 8 books).
- 3 requested the book in person, and again, about half of the libraries put in orders (sales = 2 books).
- 2 also requested the book at an academic library, and both of them bought copies (sales = 2 books)
- 4 found that their library had no budget for new books (sales = 0)
- 1 did not respond (sales = 0)
Summary: 50% immediate ROI (12 books from 24 requests), with more later on. Do you know of any other marketing scheme that works as well?
So try it! Be sure to spend time crafting a friendly but persuasive message, and supply all the information that could possibly be needed, plus the all-important link to the book purchase request form. And then sit back and watch the sales roll in.