Writers are introverts. We have to be dragged out of the house to socialize. Promotion of our books and ourselves as writers is something we find really difficult. So what is an author supposed to do? Finding the answer was my goal at AWP 2015, before the debut of my novel, In the Context of Love. I found several great tips on book promotion that are timeless, and not that difficult, even for an anxious author.
A Publicist’s Advice
I learned several pointers about promotion from Michelle Blankenship, who’s an independent publicist after being an in-house publicist for 16 years. Working for herself, she can focus on a smaller number of books a year, rather than the heavy load the big houses gave her. She gave us several good ideas, but she stressed it’s important to be realistic. There is always a chance you won’t get any media coverage no matter who you hire or what you do. Publishing a book can be a lesson in humility; there’s no magic wand for success. If you’re self-published, unfortunately, your chances of getting media coverage are lower, so rather than hire a publicist, she suggested hiring a marketer. What’s the difference? Publicity can’t be bought. Marketing is buying ads that target your market.
Here’s what Michelle shared about promotion:
1. Plan early. Ten to twelve months before your publication date is great, six is the minimum.
2. Make a list of all your connections, media-wise, who can help get you articles or press.
3. Ask your publisher how many galleys you will have and how many copies you will get. An an author, you can pay for more galleys or ARCs (advanced reading copies) to send out for reviews.
4. Think about essays or op-ed pieces you can write that relate to the subject matter of your book or your inspiration for the book.
5. Write a self Q and A. Envision your dream interview. What five questions would you like to be asked?
6. What are you an expert on as it relates to your book? Watch and read the news and pay attention to popular culture for opportunities to promote yourself as an expert.
7. Think about the back story to your book. Did you come to the topic in in some unusual way? What sets you apart from all the other authors who have books coming out?
8. Is your book coming out on any particular anniversary that you can use to your advantage? Consider even obscure events.
All of the above can and should be shared with your publicist. Michelle said you may spend more money on publicity than you earn, but everything you throw into the water creates ripples, and that may help you with your second book. Push for as many places as you can go for readings or speaking engagements.
Working with Booksellers
A panel of booksellers from Minneapolis discussed how to use independent booksellers as your partners. Book selling is alive and well, but each store may have a different audience, so they stressed doing your homework to be sure your book would attract their customers. Some resources for lists of booksellers near you are the American Booksellers Association at bookweb.org, the Regional Trade Association, and Book Life on Publishers Weekly.
Booksellers love having author events, but they are busy people and don’t necessarily appreciate an author walking into their store only to shove a book under their noses, so email them first. Think of yourself as a marketer. Send information about your book, the story behind it, who you are, who your audience is, and how you plan to market the event. Be sure you include the ISBN. Then call them. Be sure to contact bookstores before your book is actually on the shelves; six weeks after it’s been published may be too late. Booksellers want you in the store before too many people have already read the book.
If they agree to host you, you may want to bring a few books for them to use for a display prior to the event.
What makes a good event?
Entertainment and energy, not just a reading or signing. Be creative in finding a way to draw people to the event.
A panel on Small Press Marketing suggested making a list of contests where you can submit your published book. Make videos. Do Goodreads giveaways. One author on the panel referenced a lot of music in her story, so she made a playlist on Spotify. Including a gift or token with the book you send to reviewers can help get attention, as long as you don’t go overboard. One author had her book cover printed on a matchbook box, and filled the box with sticky notes. Another sent a candy necklace because there was such a necklace in the story. Book clubs are a great way to get the word out about your book. You local bookseller may have a list to share with you. Let them know you will speak for free about your novel if they choose it for their club read.
Dealing with Anxiety
You may still have deal with your social anxiety. Sure, you’d much rather work on your writing, rather than dressing up to face an audience, but you got this.
Prepare yourself to talk confidently about your book. Practice your pitch. There’s absolutely nothing wrong in saying “I think you’d really like it.” When you look out at a crowd of people, remind yourself that, to the public, anyone who managed to get a book published is fascinating. They want to know how you did it, how you write, when you write, and what you do when you get writer’s block. And never discount a reading that isn’t well attended. If three people show up, get out from behind the podium and sit down with them for a chat. Tell your story. They’ll love it, they’ll buy your book, and hopefully tell their friends what a great person you are, and they’ll buy your book, too. That’s good promotion.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love, adult contemporary fiction, a 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist.
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
“Sienkiewicz captures the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters beautifully in her debut novel, In the Context of Love. She brilliantly twists and turns the story. I highly recommend this book. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.” ~Anthem Book Review