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Guest Post: Top 5 Tips on Promoting Your Book of Poetry by Jeannine Hall Gailey

Last week, I posted my review of Jeannine Hall Gailey’s latest book, PR for Poets, and if you haven’t check out that review yet, just click the link.

I love her poetry, and I love this book just as much, if not more. For a poet like me, who has no advanced degrees and no money to get any, this information is incredibly helpful. As an additional note, my firm Poetic Book Tours is mentioned as well

Today, she’s stopping by to provide us with her Top 5 tips to get you started marketing your own poetry. Please give her a warm welcome.

I’m happy to write this. It’s kind of hard to cram everything in the book into a top five tips, but these are the things I wish I’d known when I first started out.

1. Your marketing and publicity efforts should be authentic and align with both your personality and your book.

This is a tough and wide-ranging piece of advice, because it involves having to know yourself and know your book. If you write a book of comic book/fairy tale poems and are an extrovert in her early thirties (like I was for my first book,) then it’s a great idea for you to do a little book tour, a few ‘Cons, three separate parties in three different towns, visit colleges and do lots of readings. If you are an introverted nature poet who lives in a small town, however, your authentic path will be different – and unique to you.

For me, it was great to work with other creatives when the book came out – an artist who did comic book/fairy tale art and musicians who wrote fairy-tale-based songs and other people who aligned with my ideals and values. Some of that is luck or fate, some is going to depend on who you hang around with, what you like to do, and where people seem to be receptive to your type of work.

There is no right or wrong way – there is only the way for you and your individual book at the time it comes out. If you try things and they don’t feel right for you, follow those instincts. Not everyone’s going to be an Instagram star or a college-reading-circuit champion. Maybe you love visiting local book clubs, or you’re a star at reading on the radio. Maybe you’ll start a podcast. Everyone’s path is going to reflect them. I know a poet who was invited to mermaid festivals to read about mermaids. It was a very authentic choice for her.

2. Do as much as you can ahead of time and expect the life of the book to be long, not short.

One of the things I talk about in the PR for Poets book is doing as much as you can before the book comes out – because you’re going to be stressed and overwhelmed when the book comes out and you’ll be happy that “past you” did the work. And remember that for poetry, the best sales might be in the second year of the book, not the first. Poetry can be a slow burn, and a lot of the sales might be through good word-of-mouth. Maybe your book gets taught after someone sees you read at a festival a year after the book is published. You never know going in.

3. Find your audience. The weird thing is, unlike a fiction or non-fiction book, with poetry you won’t really know exactly who your audience is until your book comes out. Friends and family may be willing and want to support you, but they are not the main audience for your book. It’s interesting to remember this because it’s hard to think about the real audience for our work – imaginary beings that are out there and will be impacted positively by your poetry. So don’t be discouraged if your friends don’t line up at your readings and buy twenty copies of your book to hand out to strangers. You will connect with your audience eventually. They might be a different audience than you imagined.

4. Social media is important for sales, but it is constantly changing, so spend your time wisely. The same could be said of book publishing and book sales. All these games are changing all the time. We have to be willing to update and learn as we go along. Just be flexible and stay aware of how the book world is changing. I spend quite a bit of time covering social media in PR For Poets, but be sure to keep in touch with your younger, more tech-savvy friends and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s what.

5. Manage your own expectations. Don’t knock yourself out for your book; similarly, don’t despair if it doesn’t shake the world when it comes out. No matter how sales go, remember that you can and will keep writing. Don’t drag yourself to all fifty states to sell the book – choose a few places that you love and make those events special. Decide on a time, energy, and monetary budget that you’re willing to spend promoting your book and try to stick to it. It’s so easy to get burned out with that first book, when you don’t know what’s happening yet and it’s so easy to say “yes” to everything even when that isn’t a good idea. Try a few things, see what you’re good at AND what you enjoy and see what happens. Pajama party poetry readings? I’ve had friends who’ve done that. Poetry reading at a comic book convention? I’ve done that.

OK, so, as a final note and reminder, if you want more specifics and more details, I’ve written a 200+ page guide with just that called PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing, which contains wisdom not just from my own experiences, but the advice of publishers, librarians, public relations experts, and more. I hope this was helpful!

About the Author:

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She’s also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and The Best Horror of the Year. Her work appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, Notre Dame Review and Prairie Schooner. Her web site is www.webbish6.com. Twitter: @webbish6.