How to hype an aging book: too old to be “new release” and too young to be “classic”

Old books

As a rule, there are two kinds of books we discuss as book-lovers. One is the new release (“new,” as in “negative 6 months to one year old”) and the other is the classic.

I understand why this is so.

Classics are well-loved, perennial favorites, and new releases are our fellowship reads by which we bond with our fellow book-lovers as we semi-collectively take the same flight-of-fancy with a bold, new protagonist for the first time.

But what about the book that is neither a new release or a classic?

Unless the algorithms that govern the hyping of Amazon books have changed a whole lot in recent history, authors must obtain a significant number of reviews in the first few days or even hours after his or her book is released (I want to say the number of reviews is between 30 and 50). Otherwise, that book, like an uncourted debutante, languishes in a corner, unloved and forgotten before it’s gotten so much as its first wrinkle.

With so much value placed on new releases, how can authors hope to promote their books if they are too old to be “new release” and too new to be “classic”?

I’m still trying to subdue the elusive marketing beast with the rusty, old harpoons aboard my own authorship, but here are some avenues for the dispensing slightly older books that I have unearthed in my Melville-esque quest:

Joke book

In order from least to most expensive…

1. Offer books free in exchange for reviews. This item is #1 on my list because as a fledgling author, my well-meaning advisers said things like, “Never work for free,” and “Don’t undervalue your merchandise. You’ll make it look cheap.” To folks who may have heard similar advice and are hesitant to disobey it, consider this: your book doesn’t have to stay free. In fact, a limited time offer might spur potential reviewers toward acquiring your book, even if they don’t read it right away. Also, in the case of pursuing reviews, it’s less that you’re giving your work away than it is a trade; 1 review in exchange for 1 free book. That beats the living hell out of a Kirkus review, which costs $425 for one, lousy review (I can’t say enough nasty things about Kirkus, actually. If you like’m, cool, but I think they’re slimy, dishonest predators). For more on how to offer an e-book to potential reviewers, check out or

2. Talk to the local press. Whether it’s your hometown or a town you’re merely passing through, sometimes news days are slow, and reporters could use a human interest story to help fill the pages of their periodicals / time allotment on their broadcast. If they say “No thank you. We’ve got bags of author interviews,” that’s that, but sometimes they don’t. And again, it costs you nothing to ask.

3. Donate your book to a library. There’s no guarantee anyone will pick it up, but unlike giving away dozens of free copies to individual reviewers for maybe one read apiece, you can give away one copy and potentially get dozens of people to read it. My favorite is Little Free Library, but if ever you visit a brick-and mortar library that is a trifle underfunded, they’ll likely be overjoyed to take any free books in good condition, including yours.

4. Stage a radio give-away. If your platform is new, and you can’t picture fans signing up for a give-away on your website, contact your local radio station (by phone, not e-mail. E-mail is too easily ignored these days), and tell them you’d like to do a give-away on their morning show. This might cost you something, but morning shows are boring, and there are people at work / on route to work who listen every day just for a chance at the give-aways. Better yet, if you can line up an event later that week, then encourage the radio host to announce that anyone who missed out on this give-away can find you at Library / Book Store du Jour at your upcoming event, you can increase your odds of a successful book-signing* through radio advertising.

*Notice how “book-signing” doesn’t have it’s own bullet point? That’s because book-signings are long, excruciating ordeals seldom worth the headaches they induce… unless you’re famous already or you’ve done a kick-ass job promoting it which–let’s be real–if we were good at self promotion, our books wouldn’t be the languishing orphans we gotta bust out butts to promote years after their release.

5. Network at trade shows. Three ways authors get into trade shows are “Buy booth space,” “Speak on a panel,” or “Be famous already.” Booths can be expensive, but sometimes, you get what you pay for (for instance, Book Expo America in NYC is a yearly pilgrimage for bibliophiles of all sorts, and there’s a high likelihood of making money back, whereas high-profile conventions in Hawaii or Puerto Rico are likely to be little more than super scenic tax deductions). If you are charming and can speak with authority regarding anything at all in the writing world, that may qualify you to be a panelist or featured speaker at such an event. While you often won’t get paid to speak, someone will want to buy your book as a result of seeing you on stage. And since lots of book-oriented introverts would rather get hit by a truck than speak in public, it may be you get pegged as “That [guy or gal] who speaks at events so more timid writer-types don’t have to,” which could lead to more speaking gigs. Plus, YouTube. So many convention visitors are there specifically to get footage for their YouTube vlogs. You never, never know how much exposure you’ll get from one brave moment of mingling with the book-friendly public.

So, those are my tips on hyping older-but-worthy book titles.

If you can think of some I missed, feel free to comment. I’m still learning much of the marketing junk we all need to know to be successful. I’d love to know your thoughts on how to keep your marvelous books in the hands of readers and out of the sad realms of obscurity.

Have a splendid week. I shall word at you more soon, I hope.

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