When I first envisioned a life as a writer, the Internet was not invented yet. So, I assumed promotion and marketing would be limited to a glamorous book tour. Oh, little did I know…
These days, with Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr (I’m still not sure what that is, though I have an account) and whatever else, promotion is a way different ballgame. These days, book tours are rare. Blog tours (where they send your book to different blogs) are more common. It’s all very overwhelming for someone like me. I don’t like to talk about myself. I don’t like to annoy people with my virtual megaphone, telling them to check out my new blog post. It makes me feel weird and pushy. I wish I could just WRITE and my publisher could just promote and publish my writing. That would be so nice and simple.
Alas, I’ve been told most publishers spend their big bucks on a select few authors–authors who will guarantee them a return. It makes sense, from their business perspective, but it kind of sucks for first-time novelists who have no past sales to prove they are worth the marketing dollars. Instead of griping about that, I’m going to focus on what I can do to promote myself so that my sales are decent and I can get more marketing dollars from my publisher next time around.
My agent sent me a document entitled “PROMOTION.” It’s 20 pages long and includes a variety of terrifying tips for promoting myself. It’s kind of a downer at first. It starts like this:
“The good news: you have a book deal. People, other than your family, your critique group, and your agent, will have the opportunity to read your book. But if you’ve walked into a bookstore within the last couple of years, or browsed titles online, you’ll realize that some of the largest challenges are still ahead of you. There are so many books being published every week–how will yours stand out from the crowd? The odds can be staggering. If your book doesn’t start to take off within the first few weeks of publication, bookstores will start to take it off shelves, making room for newer titles. Perhaps it will enjoy some longevity on Amazon and other Internet sellers–and an ebook version will certainly have a longer shelf life–but even then, you’ll need some way to spread the word about your title and create demand.”
That paragraph literally gave me heart palpitations.
The publisher does assign an in-house publicist, so you are not totally on your own. They work to help promote the book. They send out galleys for reviews. They try to get media attention, whether it be on the web, in magazines, in newspapers, or on the radio. Getting on TV is considered almost laughably impossible unless you’re very lucky.
The document goes on:
“It’s possible that your publisher will send you on a pre-publication book tour, or will run ads in the newspaper or on the Internet. Perhaps they will pay for banners aimed at certain Facebook groups, or send you on a radio or blog tour. Chances are, though, your publisher will do none of these things. Publicity departments are overworked, and often spend a disproportionate amount of time and money on a very small number of titles, which means that it’s largely up to you to gain attention for your book.”
More heart palpitations…
After that uplifting beginning, the rest of the document goes into detail about all the things you can do to confront the depressing reality. Here are some of most important things to consider with self-promotion.
Think about if you have any connections and/or can forge connections with other authors or well-known people who can provide blurbs for your book. Whoever provides the blurb should have some sort of connection to your subject matter.
It’s really important to drive readers to pre-order your book. Rumor has it that for every print copy of a book that a customer pre-orders on Amazon, Amazon orders 3 copies. Pre-orders help build buzz and can affect how many copies the publisher plans to produce in the initial print run.
You need one. I hired and worked closely with a designer and programmer to build my main website, KimHooperWrites.com. Your website should have your photo, the book’s photo and ordering info, links to all your social media accounts, a way for people to contact you, etc. Check out the post I did about author websites.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND NETWORKING
This is another mandatory. Here are just a few of the accounts that are good to have (I’ve included links to the accounts I have):
Facebook (create an author page separate from your personal page)
Amazon Author Central (set this up when your book is ready for pre-orders)
Goodreads (once your book is out, create an author page here)
Pinterest (This is a scary rabbit hole to me, sorry)
You’ll also want to connect with other bloggers, especially bloggers who are book nerds.
One way to build hype is to offer some kind of prize to readers who buy or pre-order the book. For example, you could have readers write a missing chapter and offer a Skype session with them as a prize.
Ok, not graffiti, but get creative with ways to promote your book. I’m thinking of doing postcards and giving them to friends to give to their friends–like a chain letter.
Publishers rarely pay for author book tours these days because oftentimes turnout is low and, consequently, sales are low. But, you can coordinate your own book “tour” by doing readings at bookstores. Spend time with your readers. Those connections matter. I wrote a little about book tours here.
There may be awards that you book is eligible for, but your publisher either doesn’t know about them or hasn’t taken the time to submit. Winning awards for your book can help generate more hype.
A good way to build an audience and connect with readers is to submit pieces to magazines or websites for publication. Your bio should mention your book.
Your in-house publicist will work 4 months before the book goes on sale to about 3 weeks after the pub date. After that, you’re on your own. Some authors decide to hire an outside publicist. Independent publicists charge by the month, and usually require a retainer plus expenses. The retainer is usually in the 4 to 10K range, and there’s usually a 3-month minimum. If you have an outside publicist, make sure they’re in touch with your in-house publicist so they’re not reaching out to the same media contacts.
Overwhelmed yet? I am. If you’re a newbie like me, get going and good luck!