Saturday, March 2, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Poet as Marketeer

The Poet As Marketer…..Noooooooooooo…….

Don’t be scared. I’m not going to try and turn you into a salesperson. You worked your butt off and now you have a book. Let’s talk about some painless ways to get it into the hands of people you’re NOT related to!!

Before we talk about you, let me introduce you to my friend John Dorsey. He’s a regular guy, and a great writer, who has set the bar on book sales. He’s amazing! He does some pretty incredible things, and not only does he sell a lot of books, but he does a lot of nice things for other writers, and publishers as well.

John is in his early 40’s. He’s been writing since he was thirteen, so he’s written a lot. He is humble and kind, not fat-headed about his success at all. We (Blue Horse Press) just published a gorgeous book of his, Your Daughter’s Country. Of course we posted it on our Facebook pages but so did John. He has 1,500 friends. They started ordering as soon as John made the post. Because he is a great poet and also well-liked.

One key thing John does, is set up a lot of readings. Not just to his beloved coffee house and local bookstore. Traveling ones.  To the beloved coffee houses and independent bookstores of poet friends. To universities. To writing programs. John doesn’t have zillions of dollars but he does the legwork, makes the phone calls and emails, and makes it work. And as Rich told me last week when we were discussing this, “poets that bring books to readings sell boxes of books!”

This was just posted on John’s Facebook page last Thursday: 

The article says “The reading is free and open to the public; a book sale, reception, and signing will follow the readings.” This is wonderful. I can’t do this. I don’t have the contacts, or the mobility. And you can see, it’s not just about John, it’s about another poet as well. I love that he includes others in his opportunities.

So now let’s talk about you, and me too.

Besides going to readings, a few things you can do are:

Keep a copy of your latest book with you all the time – in your glove compartment. In your luggage. In your purse if it’s large enough. You never know who you’re going to meet, or who might want one. I gave a book to a TSA agent once, when I was on the way to a writer’s workshop. He remembered a poet who went through his line the week before! He told me she gave him a book. He was delighted to get one of mine. Did he pay for it? I didn’t ask him to. I knew that if he liked it, he’d go online and order a different book. And he’d probably talk about it too!

Come to think of it, I had already given a copy to the cab driver and the passenger who shared a ride with me to the airport. One of the poems resonated with the passenger and she was thrilled for a copy. The cab driver? Even if he gave it to his next fare, someone will have gotten a copy of it. On the bright side, my luggage was lighter. That’s a win-win for me =)

Don’t feel you have to cram every poem you’ve ever written into one manuscript. That sells one book. Plus putting a manuscript like that into some sort of order is hard. Make smaller books. They won’t cost as much for people to buy. If they like them, they’ll buy others. It will be a win-win for both you, and your growing fan club. (Note: making smaller books is FUN!!)

KEEP YOUR BIO UPDATED! There are two kinds of bios: the 50-word bio that goes with journal submissions, and the “big” bio that goes under “About the Author” at the end of your book. Make sure your 50-word bio includes the names of your latest book, and the publisher. Not all journals publish bios but most do. Every time you have a poem accepted to a journal, you want your book to be in the bio; if someone likes your work, they’ll read your bio. Make it easy for them to buy your book.

This is my 49-word bio:

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” was published by Kelsay Books. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (

It has no individual journal credits in it because in my opinion, it says what it needs to say. This is very much a matter of opinion though, so do what works for you. Just be sure you keep it updated with new books.

Write reviews on Amazon of books you like, and ask people to do the same for you. You do not have to have bought the book on Amazon. You just have to be an Amazon customer. If you’ve ever bought anything at all, you are a customer.

Make an “author page” on Amazon, and keep it updated. Unless you have a website, this will be the easiest place for people to read about you. This isn’t perfect…I have a lot of credits under my old name (Tobi Cogswell). The author page only accepts credits by “Tobi Alfier”. I personally don’t care, but you might. So full disclosure.

If there’s a journal that publishes you a lot, you may want to consider buying an ad, if they take ads. Chances are a lot of people will already know you from reading your work in that journal again and again, they may just need a little nudge.

As you meet fellow writers and buyers of your book, keep in touch with them. It’s easy for me because I’m addicted to email and these people are my friends. I know not everyone is that way, but try. I love when I finally get to meet someone I’ve been emailing with, and I’m shy! Just try.

You don’t have to be pushy!

You just have to write kick-ass books, be a good person (in my opinion), and make it easy for people to find you.

And most important? Be nice to the presses who publish you so they’d welcome a chance to work with you again!
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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.


  1. Alrighty then. Plus a good dose of humor about those rejections from those "errant fools" who wouldn't know poetry if it was served with Brie and 'Slices of Alice' or a nice Charcuterie of poetic genius.

  2. It's always good if you don't let yourself be derailed by rejections, it's a part of writing. Get a rejection? Do three submissions! Someone doesn't want your book? They may have 20 books stacked on their bedside table already. Don't spend too much time being irritated, and don't even try to rationalize someone else's behavior - it takes away from otherwise productive time. Buy a baguette, eat the Brie and Charcuterie, and move on :-)

  3. Great advice as usual from a wonderful person and poet. Thanks Tobi. All the best. Brent Pallas

  4. Thank you so much Brent, poet and photographer extraordinaire. You're home then? I have enjoyed reading about all your travels, meals...have you ever considered being a food writer? You could style the photographs AND write the articles!!! Thanks again for reading the blog post.


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