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Promoting Books on the Internet: Part 1

Being able to effectively publicize and promote books on the Internet is a vital marketing skill essential to small, mid-sized, and specialty publishers being able to succeed in today's fiercely competitive marketplace. Selling books on the Internet is not a luxury for a bit more cash flow, it's a necessity for sheer financial survival.

Here are some "tips, tricks & techniques" for identifying and accessing Internet newsgroups, e-mail lists, Web sites, and online bookstores that will enable the independent publisher to succeed in this new and growing medium:

  1. Assess your book in terms of key descriptive words. List them all down.

  2. Assess your book's author in terms of background, experience, associations, credentials, education, previous published works (articles, essays, books, etc.). List them all down as well.

  3. If you have AOL go to the AOL home page and type the word "newsgroups" into the search feature. This will take you to AOL's newsgroup identification and sign-up feature. Just follow the on-screen instructions. They are simple and straight forward. Identify all the newsgroups that are thematically linked to your book and author lists (Steps 1 & 2).

    For all other service provider (ISP) accounts, go to at:

    On the home page of this search engine for newsgroups and e-mail lists you will find a "Quick Search" function. Type your key words (Steps 1 & 2) into it (one word per search) and locate those Internet discussion groups that are thematically appropriate to your book and/or author.

    Note #1: Netscape will work smoothly on For some reason Microsoft Internet Explorer may not work -- there's some kind of bug in the one I tried and I'm not a good enough computer expert to figure out a way around it -- or it may be site specific and fixed by now.

    Note #2: All publishers, regardless of the nature of their book, should include because that is a generic or generalist book oriented newsgroup of librarians, bookstore retailers, and the general reading public that has about 90,000 subscribers worldwide.

  4. Go to the Web Search Engines section of the Midwest Book Review web site.

    There you will find a section devoted to Search Engines. Go down them (you might want to start with Google, it's my personal favorite) entering in your key words to locate thematically appropriate Internet discussion groups and Web sites.

  5. Go to the Midwest Book review Web site section: Book Lover Resources

    There you will find a huge section for on-line bookstore links. It contains links to hundreds of specific bookstores, as well as to Web sites that have bookstore databases of hundreds more. Bookmark this page for future use.

  6. Once you have located a thematically appropriate discussion group, Web site or online bookstore, either bookmark them or just "copy & paste" their URLs onto a "future contact" list.

  7. Sign up with all thematically appropriate newsgroups and e-mail lists. Download them for a few days to read their communication "traffic" and get a feeling for the kind of discussions that go on.

    Explore the bookstore Web pages to determine if they are a general store or a specialty dealer. All general online bookstores are feasible for future promotional contacts. Specialty stores only if your book fits within their area of focus.

  8. For those discussion groups that appear to be appropriate for your book's contents, form four alternative postings to select from:
    • The short PR e-mail: a hundred words or less.
    • The medium PR e-mail: 100 - 300 words
    • The long PR e-mail: over 300 words
    • An article based on or drawn from your book.

    You will want to register your individual Web page with some of the Search Engines. Some of them want the short description, others the medium, still others allow unlimited (long) descriptions). This is all material that can be easily drawn from your PR write-ups.

    More about what goes into PR e-mails and article a bit later.

    Send your book's publicity release in the form of an e-mail to all the thematically appropriate bookstores.

    Contact thematically appropriate Web site owners with an offer to exchange links.

  9. Framing the PR e-mail:

    Take the same information that is to be found in any competent paper format PR statement and re-write it within the body of an e-mail document. Never, ever, attach a PR to an e-mail document -- ever! Put all of your information into the body of the e-mail cast in the form of a letter to the recipient. As follows:

    Dear XXX:

    The descriptive content of your book here.

    The citation of your author's credentials and background here.

    The ordering or contact information here.

    Your signature and Web site URL here.

  10. The Article:

    Prepare an article on the subject matter of your book. Pretend that you've just been invited by a major magazine to do a couple of hundred words on the subject and given permission to cite your book as a reference for further study on the matters covered.

  11. For most newsgroups, all e-mail lists, and specialized Web sites -- you will be using the article, and not the PR e-mail to promote and publicize your book.

  12. For online bookstores you will primarily use the PR statement, followed up by the article.

  13. For online bookstores: One of the things to note is whether or not they allow visitors to post comments or reviews of books already in their inventories ( does this, as do a few of the others). When you see this opportunity, post all the positive reviews you have received from other sources (Midwest Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, local newspapers, etc., etc.)

    If you don't see this "posting" feature on the Web site, then send such positive reviews (as they come in to you from reviewers) to the bookstores as simply e-mail messages.

  14. Once you've established yourself with an Internet discussion group and have led off with your article, you can then post (not all at once, but spaced out over time, no more often than once a week) those "review" e-mails that you've prepared for use with the bookstores. This keeps your title visible and by noting those reviewers and their publications as the sources. Preface each of these posts with something like "Another great review just came in and I thought I pass it along. You can find more information on our Web site at..."

  15. The key to an effective e-mail PR announcement is the "soft sell". A brief (one paragraph) description followed by a sentence on why it should be of interest to the subscribers of that particular newsgroup or e-mail list, or the owner of that particular Web site, or that the potential readership is of a size to be profitable to that particular online bookstore. -- In other words, what's in it for them -- entertainment, information, profit -- gear the payoff to the recipient.

Currently, every review generated by the Midwest Book Review is posted to, Review Index (a Gale Research Company interactive CD-ROM), and the newsgroup ( for comic books and graphic novels).


Internet Bookwatch e-mail subscription list: 420
Children's Bookwatch e-mail subscription list: 178

Particular review columns (cookbooks, parenting, theater/cinema, money/finance, metaphysics, etc., etc.) are sent via e-mail to their own list of subscribers -- folks who didn't want to wade through an entire IBW issue to get the reviews in their particular areas of interest. Several of these folks use the reviews (giving credit to MBR as the source) to bolster the informational content of their own Web sites.

By the way, you will also find a list of links to online magazines on our Web site in our Periodicals section -- consider any of these for submitting that article drawn from your book for publication. Just another way to get a bit of promotion on the Internet.

Incidently, once you have joined a newsgroup, you don't have to download their messages automatically or forever. You can set them to simple store up, then after a period of time either flush them, or scan them for headings that you might want to respond to. Same for e-mail lists.

The technique for successful e-mail marketing posts is:

  1. Keep your message short, simple and complete
  2. Identify the value of the message for the recipient
  3. Be thematically appropriate in who you send it to

And remember that Internet marketing has a lot in common with door to door selling. You may need to make a hundred contacts to get a single sale. Some folks will object to being interrupted by you. Others may be to busy to respond. But the virtue of the computer is that you can knock on those cyberspace doors with just the touch of a keyboard button -- and without the overhead costs of gas for the car, stamps for the envelopes, or dogs going for your pants cuff.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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