Book marketing in the world outside of prison is fairly straightforward. The author writes a book, ideally has the foresight to build an author platform in the process, and then uses the platform and other tools to market their book once it is published.
These other tools often consist of a snazzy website, writing commitments at relevant and visible publications, outreach to book reviewers, optimizing Amazon sales page copy, and targeted advertisements. Many, many books profile this straightforward, yet work-intensive and challenging process.
But what if the author is in prison? What if they don’t have access to a computer, the internet, email, or even a regular landline or cell phone? Now things start to get interesting. This article focuses on my experiences as an incarcerated book author and my efforts to promote my books, even from within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, where I currently reside. It is presented with the hope of helping those inside prison in marketing their books, and to enlighten regular book authors of how good they really have it.
Find A Dedicated Outside Assistant
Authors outside of prison have it easy. Their first question is, “Where do I start?” This is often several steps down the road for incarcerated authors. For the incarcerated author, the first question is, “Who can help me do what needs to be done?” And this can often be a crippling issue.
Incarcerated authors understand early on that they cannot possibly market a book from prison without the expert assistance of someone outside of prison, someone who has access to a computer and the internet. Often this position can be filled by a dedicated family member or friend, or, if absolutely necessary — and if funds are available — then by paying an assistant or helper. Due to the hustle and bustle of regular life outside of prison, this latter option is often the best by far. While it is challenging, effective assistants can be found on websites like Craig’s List. It is this outside assistant that will help with most of the following tasks. Finding a good one is perhaps the most essential task in the book marketing process.
Create an Author Website
One of the best tools for an incarcerated writer — or any sort of writer — is a website with a hosted blog. While prisoners can’t access the internet, their outside contacts can. Through the use of platforms such as SquareSpace and WordPress, websites can be created and hosted fairly inexpensively. By using templates — and generous support services — the outside contact can get by not even knowing a bit of coding.
This website should have several different landing pages. There should be a succinct homepage which essentially summarizes the incarcerated author’s work. A bio page is also very helpful since it educates visitors about the prisoner and their plight. A contact page is essential for fans and supporters to have a mechanism through which to connect with the incarcerated writer. By incorporating a blog into the website, the prison writer can regularly appear in front of their target audience and grow a fan base. This blog should be hosted on the website itself, not on an external blogging service. And last, as they publish each new book, a new page should be published which focuses specifically on the book in question.
My website is an example of a good website for an incarcerated writer. At my website, we incorporate much of the advice in this article.
Let’s face it, most visitors come to a website perhaps once or a few times, forget about it, and don’t return. This is akin to a newspaper selling a single copy of their publication to a reader, then not bothering to remind them to buy another. Well, the same concept applies to websites. By incorporating an email newsletter feature — whereby visitors can input their email addresses to receive updates — not only will the incarcerated author be able to reach past visitors via email, but they will also be constantly growing a targeted email marketing list for when their books are published. Prisoners should have their website managers take a look at low-cost email marketing services like Mail Chimp and Constant Contacts. These provide tools for website integration and statistics tracking on all emails sent.