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Ali Piacente delivering Bootlicker to Ashish and Rucha Gupta in Chennai, India.

As a self-published author without much stashed for advertising, I routinely manage to get a little attention for my novels all over the world. It begins with a friend, an airline ticket, and my modern day “message in a bottle.”

Here’s how it works. The next time a friend (or relative) is heading overseas, send along a copy of your book. Get a photo of the novel (with the cover nicely displayed) beside a famous landmark. My current Facebook cover photo was taken by Jade Ryan in Prague.

Then have the book left in some well-trafficked area, say a hotel lobby or busy cafe. Inside the front cover, you will have already pasted a short note. Mine says:

Dear Friend, By chance, you have happened on my “message in a bottle.” It has made its way into your hands all the way from my home in Rockville, MD, a quiet town outside of Washington, D.C. My message is simple. I have written a story about two unlikely political allies, and the dark secret upon which they have built their careers. You can learn more about me and my first novel, Bella, at www.stevepiacente.com.Though we are worlds apart, I hope you will send me a message as well, at: steve@getbella.com I very much appreciate your interest. If you like Bootlicker, please tell your friends and help us spread the word.

The idea has produced exotic photos from Greece, Italy, France, Ireland, Jamaica, Switzerland, Peru, Argentina, and India. They’re all here on my Pinterest board.

My daughter Ali was recently in Chennai, India, and left a copy of Bootlicker with Ashish and Rucha Gupta, owners of the Footprint Bed and Breakfast.

And the aforementioned Jade Ryan was en route back from Germany when she struck up a conversation with Cheryl from California. Somewhere over the Atlantic, Bootlicker wound up in Cheryl’s hands. Sometime later, I received an email that said:

“I was on a flight home from Europe when I met a very nice young woman who had been one of your students … As we were about to get off of the flight, she handed me your book, Bootlicker. I enjoyed it and the end brought tears to my eyes. Maybe it’s because I’m a 60-year-old Californian and can remember the injustice of the early South. In any case I will be passing your book along to some other readers!”

I’d love to know what others have done to build grassroots support for their novels. Please drop a comment and share your stories.

 

 

 

22 Comments so far »

  1. Julie said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2012 @ 12:18 am

    Steve! I love this idea! Wonderful! How lucky for the unsuspecting recipients of Bootlicker!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Julie, Cheryl’s note really did make my week!

    [Reply]

  2. Renee Pawlish said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2012 @ 2:32 am

    I’ve left copies of my book at my parents’ condo in Maui (they rent it out when they’re not there)…but I haven’t done the picture idea. That’s great, thanks for sharing it!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Hmmm, the idea of renting a condo in Maui strikes me as a pretty good idea too, Renee! Thanks for dropping by.

    [Reply]

  3. Jo VonBargen said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2012 @ 5:13 am

    Genius! What a brilliant strategy. Hats off to you, Steve!!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Jo, this actually began with our local Starbucks, which has a “library” where folks can leave or borrow books.

    [Reply]

  4. David L Atkinson said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2012 @ 7:10 am

    Brilliant idea Steve

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Appreciate it, David, what’s really been striking is the creative way folks take on the mission. I’m always surprised when friends send me photos. Really, how many ways can you photograph a book in front of a building or statue? And yet …

    [Reply]

  5. Caleb Pirtle said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2012 @ 11:02 am

    A great and innovative idea. I love it when an intriguing mind works in intriguing ways.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Caleb. Shaw, referenced in the opening of Bella, said, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last create what you will.” I like that!

    [Reply]

  6. R.S. Guthrie (@rsguthrie) said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    Love the humanity behind this idea. Message in a bottle, indeed. Also a kind of “pay it forward”. Great post, Steve. Rob

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Kind words, Rob, thanks. There’s a book with a friend now in Italy, so I’ll be posting more soon. The photos are great, but making a new “pen pal” is really rewarding.

    [Reply]

  7. Cora Brantner said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    my book is still in the works and I’m struggling with the expenses and complexities of creating a blog now, so that, by the time it’s done, I’ll have a forum to sell it. Thanks for the “message in a bottle” idea. I don’t get around much, but know some folks who do.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    One step at a time, Cora. Most essential is getting your book in the best possible shape. I wouldn’t worry much about marketing until that’s done.

    [Reply]

  8. Beca Lewis said,

    Wrote on July 22, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    LOVING This idea! Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Becca! In case you missed it in the post, here’s the link to my Pinterest boards, including the travel board: http://pinterest.com/stevepiacente/

    [Reply]

  9. Alexis Sclamberg said,

    Wrote on July 23, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    I love these ideas! Thanks for sharing them.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    You’re welcome, Alexis! Thanks for dropping by; your self-help site (alexissclamberg.com) is very intriguing.

    [Reply]

  10. Juli D. Revezzo said,

    Wrote on July 26, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

    That’s a really neat idea, Steve! Thanks for sharing.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Juli, appreciate you dropping by. Just posted a new pic from England if you’re interested. http://pinterest.com/stevepiacente/travels-with-bella-bootlicker/
    Also, noticed you’re in FL. I used to write for the Tampa Trib.

    [Reply]

  11. Chris Hill said,

    Wrote on July 29, 2012 @ 11:19 am

    Interesting idea – my novel’s published in October and I have a brother who works as an engineer all over the world – so who knows, maybe I’ll pester my publisher for a few copies for him to take with him on his travels.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    A traveling brother? Awesome, Chris, absolutely get your publisher to provide some books so your brother can plant some seeds. Good luck!

    [Reply]

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