Columns > Published on May 29th, 2015

25 Book Marketing Ideas for the Desperate and Shameless

Sometimes you spend hours and days and weeks and months and years trying to figure out the best way to promote your book, and a lot of the time, nothing seems to work. Nobody reads. Books are for jerks. Let’s all watch reality TV and play Trivia Crack. You try and you try and nothing gets through to people. You no longer care about playing it safe. You’ll do whatever it takes to sell this stupid book you’ve wasted your life writing. You’ve finally crossed the line between “P.C.” and “READ MY BOOK READ MY BOOK HEY YOU HAVE YOU READ MY BOOK?!?!”

These marketing ideas are my gifts to you.

01. Jump into the middle of every online conversation and comment about how the topic reminds you of your book.

02. Jump into the middle of every offline conversation and slap somebody in the face with a copy of your book.

03. Jump into the middle of a game of jump rope and start singing an old school jump rope rhyme with references to your book.

04. Send the police anonymous notes crafted from cut-out newspaper clippings and pretend to be a ruthless serial killer. Claim the secret to your identity can only be found within the pages of your book.

05. Find an empty table at your local Barnes and Noble and set out a dozen copies of your book. Even if the store doesn’t carry it, you can always bring your own. Hire actors to line-up at the table like a legitimate book signing.

06. Start socializing with criminals and convince them to keep a copy of your book on them during all illegal activities. If enough people get arrested with your book in their pockets, a conspiracy is inevitable. Maybe you’ll get lucky and one of them will shoot a celebrity.

07. Uh…shoot a celebrity? [Editor's note: please don't do this.]

08. Change the title of your book to Stephen King.

09. Gradually check-out every title in your local library and replace the interiors with your own book.

10. Start an open call for submissions for an anthology of stories sharing the same universe as your book. Make sure you specify writers will need to buy a copy and read it before submitting, otherwise they won’t know what to write about. Offer ten cents a word. Cancel the anthology one day away from the deadline.

11. Wait until a national tragedy strikes. Create advertisements suggesting those who died would still be alive if only they'd purchased a copy of your book.

12. Make fake Amazon accounts and leave horrible one-star reviews of your book. Be cruel. Be a bully. The worse you make fun of yourself and the less you focus on the book, the better. Then show people on social media, accompanied with a sad emoticon. Now watch as people feel sad and buy/review your book to "get back" at the bully reviewer.

13. Print out hundreds of stickers in all shapes and sizes featuring the QR code for your Amazon page. Walk around the city and replace all preexisting advertisements with QR codes.

14. Write articles claiming authors wrote books they did not actually write. For example, you could say Dean Koontz wrote Odd Thomas, which would be a ridiculous lie, since any true Odd Thomas fan knows Stephen King is the actual author, but the temporary confusion will outrage readers and spark them to share it.

15. Write a listicle. The topic doesn't matter. Just write one. Or ten. Write a listicle about listicles. 10 Listicles That Listed Lists Better Than Other Listed Listicles. You Won't Believe #7.

16. Announce a contest. First person to crack a secret riddle found within the pages of your book wins $100,000. After four to five months pass, pay your friend George $50 to pretend like he won. [Note: this only works if you have a friend named George.]

17. Post a link to your book on Twitter while also tagging random celebrities and using whatever hashtags are currently trending.

18. Stand on the street corner with a box of your books and a cardboard sign reading: "WILL WORK FOR 5-STAR REVIEWS."

19. Or, alternatively, stand on the street corner with someone else, each of you dressed like homeless psychos and holding signs claiming the other can read the other's mind. This insanity will intrigue passersby, and might lead to a few "pity sales."  [Note: this only works if the other person is Christian A Larsen.]

20. Give spontaneous book readings in the middle of the street. Shout like the apocalypse is nigh. In the past, I've read from the copyright page, but I suppose you could pick from any of the other pages. Whatever floats your crazy little boat.

21. Begin texting every possible number combination you can come up with into your cell phone with a link to your book. But don’t be too obvious. Prelude the link with something like, “Hey, here’s the you-know-what you wanted” or “Oh my God, Grandma is dead.”

22. Go to your local bookstore or library and stand next to the shelf holding your book. Whenever someone walks past you, start groaning and holding your stomach. Shout, “Help! Help! My stomach. Oh, my stomach.” As you fall down, knock your book down to the floor. The other person will have to pick it up, because your stomach is in too much pain. When the person asks where the book is supposed to be, say, “In your hands.” So smooth, right?

23. Travel the truck stops of the world and, with your trusty Sharpie, scribble the following on bathroom stalls: “FOR A GOOD TIME, TYPE 9789197972550 INTO YOUR AMAZON SEARCH BAR.”

24. Go to Walmart and purchase the following: silly string, rope, a frozen supreme pizza, and season three of The X-Files on DVD. I don’t know exactly how this will help promote your book, but I feel like there’s a real opportunity here.

25. Write an article—preferably a listicle—full of writing advice you are in no way experienced enough to hand out. It doesn’t matter if you have no idea what you’re doing and spend every waking moment of your life afraid you’re going to explode, nobody else knows what they’re doing, either, so they’ll just go with it.

About the author

Max Booth III is the CEO of Ghoulish Books, the host of the GHOULISH and Dog Ears podcasts, the co-founder of the Ghoulish Book Festival, and the author of several spooky books, including Abnormal Statistics, Maggots Screaming!, Touch the Night, and others. He wrote both the novella and film versions of We Need to Do Something, which was released by IFC Midnight in 2021 and can currently be streamed on Hulu. He was raised in Northwest Indiana and now lives in San Antonio.

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