Promoting your book is the big gig for all authors. I saw a great example of this at a book launch last night. The place was packed. I know the author, Lennox Nicholson, a little and can’t wait to read his book, On the Wagon. It’s a sober version of On the Road, the American beat generation Jack Kerouac’s journey of self-discovery. Nicholson’s has a happier ending; Kerouac died of alcoholism in his forties! But my point is this: writing the book took Nicholson three years, yet his journey as an author is just beginning. His big gig now is to get the book into the hands of his fans.

Silly me

I’m going to confess to something a little silly right now. I have a fantasy that all my hard work as a writer will one day be recognised without me lifting a finger. Like a knight on a silver charger, fame will come and sweep me into his arms and carry me away, protesting (slightly), and flapping my hand in front of my face to wave away the crowds of admirers and cool down that flush of pleasure suffusing my face. I step onto the stage; the crowd roars. Who me? Well, I never!

Back to reality (sigh). It has never been enough to put your book on a shelf and hope that someone will find it. But you don’t need to pay for airport advertising either. The truth is that Nicholson, without blowing his own trumpet, had quietly invited half of Melbourne to his book launch. Every time anyone expressed some interest in his achievement, he invited them along. That is how I got a ticket.

Will your launch promote your book?

I’ve heard arguments against launching a book – expense, diverting energy from money making ventures, that kind of thing – but I’ve come to believe a launch is a great idea. We all bought a copy (or two) of On the Wagon. We heard Nicholson talk about how he came up with the idea, found time to write the book (in the small hours), and overcame self-doubt (he didn’t).

Book launches make us feel part of the writer’s journey. I’ve been to a launch where the author and international speaker, Yamini Naidu, gave us all a copy of her book, Power Play, which was generous and got us all reading and talking about it.

Carolyn Tate, the author of The Purpose Project, sold tickets to her book launch ($37) but also gave everyone who came two copies: their own, and another to give away. With over 100 people at the launch, Tate made only one request of her readers. ‘I asked them to give the book to someone with the power to amplify their “why”, such as the head of human resources, or a chief executive,’ she tells me. Her fans have sent her book to board chairs, industry association heads and company executives.

‘The reality is I am giving away a helluva a lot of books, but I think you have to do that to get the movement going,’ says Tate, who is also a master of networking (and a former marketing consultant). ‘I’ve spent seven years in Melbourne building up strong networks. I am getting in the door because of I focused hard on building networks. I am not giving it to every Tom, Dick and Harry.’

Promote and launch; launch and promote

A launch is not enough on its own, of course. If you have a publisher, you must promote the link to your book on their site. If you are self-published, create a website for people to read about you, social media networks (here is Tate’s Facebook page). Jenny Magee, the author of A Bold Life, followed her book launch up by contacting book clubs and women’s groups (women are her market) and presenting to them. Her book became a tool to win opportunities to speak and present.

Publishing your book is just the start of your journey into authority. Back the hard work you put into writing your book by thinking of a million creative ways to get it into the hands of readers. Fame is claimed, not given away. Claim yours.