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Marketing 101: DIY isn’t just for home renos anymore

Marketing books has always been tricky, but it’s become even more so in the hyper-connected Web 2.0 world. And with atrophying review space and publishers’ limited marketing budgets, authors can’t rely on getting coverage in traditional venues.

An article in The Washington Post focuses on one debut author, Kelly Corrigan, who sold approximately 80,000 hardcover copies of her 2008 memoir, The Middle Place, and an additional 260,000 in paperback, despite not having a book tour or a review in any major newspaper.

She cobbled together a trailer for her book on her home computer, using iMovie software, downloading a free tune off the Web for background music, and stuck it on her Web site. Her agent helped get her on one network television morning show. About 20 friends hosted book parties, which she hit on a self-funded three-week blitz, selling books out of the trunk of her car. A guy shot video of her reading an essay at one of these parties, and she posted it on YouTube when the paperback came out.

This DIY approach, the Post suggests, is becoming the rule, rather than the exception, for the majority of authors.

Book publishers actively market and promote authors, of course, particularly the big names, but for thousands of writers it’s a figure-it-out-yourself world of creating book trailers, Web sites and blogs, social networking and crashing on friends’ couches during a tour you arrange.

“Being an author has become much more of an ongoing relationship with your audience through the Web, rather than just writing a book and disappearing while you write the next one,” says Liate Stehlik, publisher of William Morrow and Avon Books. “You have to be out there in the online world, talking and participating.”

(Of course, it’s not just new or mid-list authors who are marshalling the power of new media to promote their works: Margaret Atwood is on Twitter and has a blog to promote her latest novel, The Year of the Flood.)