Monday, July 05, 2010

The Great Big All-You-Can-Stand Super-Self-Promotion Post, part 1

So you have a book coming out. Congrats!

I'll assume for the sake of this post that you are like most authors. You got a Just OK, Pretty Good or even Fairly Great advance, but you are by no means taking gold coin baths. Your publisher may be big and imposing, or teensy and quiet, but either way they are very busy and they don't seem to have much time for little old you. 

You might be feeling somewhat useless. Strangers in NYC are tinkering with your baby and you have no control over it. You want a way to do something (anything!) useful, but you don't know what, or how, or where to start. Well... I am by no means a publicist, but I do have some tips that are not hugely difficult (and may even be plain old common sense!) but that I hope will help you:

1) WRITE YOUR NEXT BOOK. Seriously. I know it doesn't SEEM like obvious marketing advice, but this is truly the most important thing you can do for yourself. If your first book comes out to a lukewarm reception or does poorly, you will need something fantastic to follow up with.  If your first book comes out and is a smash hit, your time will become even more precious than it already is. In any case, nerves, self-doubt and exhaustion may well start playing havoc with your writing once you have that first deal. It will help if you are working diligently on a new project whenever you can, so you either have it ready when you need it or at least have something else to focus on besides your own neuroses. (And let's face it, you're a writer, you probably have neuroses aplenty.)

2) WEBSITE. In my opinion, there is NO excuse for not having a website. Whether it is something flashy that cost a ton to set up, or something simple that you made yourself using free software, or anything in between... you have to have something. Preferably something that is clean, professional, has your and your agents info, has your book info (including links to buy your books, and isbns, and reviews/blurbs/contests/excerpts etc...).  This doesn't have to be the fanciest site in the world, but it has to exist. Not having a website is like a businessperson not having a card.  Or like a retail store that refuses to have a public phone number. It just doesn't make sense.

3) MAILING LIST. Your mailing list is important, and you need to actively cultivate it. Start with all the people you know personally, right now.  Whenever you do an event, have a little notebook and get people's info to add. Get to know the folks on your alumni committee. Get the info of people you work with. Go to bookstores and make friends with the children's person. Meet the teachers at your kids school. Join (and participate) in onine writer's communities. These people will all be the seeds to start a great mailing list.  Oh it will grow when you have real fans from "the wild", but I can't overstate the importance of getting that base layer in yourself.  These are the people that are going to get you school visits, or buy your books for their classroom, etc etc.  If you get postcards, you might send them to these people, or invite them to your launch party if they are local. Make new friends, and keep the old.

4) SOCIAL NETWORKING.  No matter what anyone says, you don't HAVE to have a blog, or do Facebook, or Twitter, or Tumblr. You don't have to join a debut authors group or subscribe to list-servs, or anything of the kind. For many authors, these sorts of activities are a time-suck that takes them away from what they should be doing (which is of course, say it with me - WRITING THAT NEXT BOOK!) But if you do happen to want to test the waters, I think that it would behoove you to at least try Twitter and/or Facebook. There might well be new sites next month or next year that are even better, but for the time being these ones are where its at, and will help you build up that mailing list! :-)

As for blogging - if you are a natural blogger and you enjoy doing it, by all means go for it. If you find yourself exasperated or worse, please don't bother. Blogs that are a chore to write are generally a MEGA-chore to read, and will end up reflecting badly on you.

5) NICHE MARKETING. You have a book about a tween Ice Skater coming to terms with popularity vs. family? Consider promoting this book to Ice Skating groups, and Mother-Daughter book groups. Get an ad in a popular skating magazine, if you can. Give a few copies to Skate Bloggers.  Or say you have a book about a Jewish kid who explores space. Try promoting this book at the JCC, and the Planetarium. See if you can get a local Jewish neighborhood paper to write an article about your fascinating book. Befriend the Jewseum in San Francisco and the Skirball in LA. Find out when the Jewish book fests, what your local Jewish schools are, and see if you can visit them.  These smaller niche markets are generally easier to approach, less expensive to advertise in, and very likely to be more receptive to hearing about your book, than huge markets. Whereas general-interest book bloggers get a million free books, so many they are tripping over them half the time (and they'll only read a fraction of them), your local shul or skate club president may be super-excited to get a free book and blog the heck out of it and tell everyone they know.

Doesn't seem like as big a deal as an ad in the NY Times? You'd be really surprised how many sales a few super-pumped moms, teachers or community leaders can generate. (AND you'd be surprised how little people actually pay attention to the ads in the NYT!) Remember - and this is certainly common sense, but it's amazing how often people don't get it: The personal always trumps the generic.  A recommendation from a trusted source always trumps seeing an ad you have no connection with. A hand-written note to a friend is better than a press release.

'BUT I'VE DONE ALL THESE THINGS!!!'  -- well congratulations, you are ahead of the curve. This is the most important stuff. But I am positive that you guys have more great ideas that'll be fodder for TGBAYCSSSPP part 2. Care to share them in the comments?

(And yes, the fact that there will be a part 2 means that this is NOT actually the All-You-Can-Stand ... it is the all I can stand. Sick of typing!)


  1. Okay, I've been meaning to get up a mailing list for ages and this feels like a sign that I really should do that...

  2. Say "yes," if possible. Granted, it's mostly us putting ourselves out there, but occasionally there's actually an invitation. For me, anyway, there's a bit of a temptation to say, "Oh, they're just being nice," or "They don't REALLY want me." I think we have to look at it as a door opening, one that may or may not lead to another door, but that won't take us anywhere if we don't go through and find out.

  3. clientm7:05 AM

    Thanks for posting this!

    I didn't know I should put agent info on my website. Who's it for?

    Can you also write about what NOT to bother with? Or relative importance? Should everyone do bookstore events? School visits? Book festivals? How do we know what to say no to?

  4. Thanks for this post! Great info and it feels good to know that I'm doing some of these and helpful for the things that I can do more of :) Looking forward to part two!

  5. I don't have a book, or an advance (or a website or a mailing list). I just wanted to say that I have always LOVED that illustration of Harriet M. Welsch, but had forgotten that it existed. Thank you for posting it.

  6. Do NOT beat people over the head with your book while using social media. If all your Tweets contain links to your book, people will unfollow you. Yuck. I mean, link to your reviews, and talk about your process, but don't have every piece of info be 'buy my book'.

    Be yourself and show the readers that there's a real person behind the cover.

    Oh, and my word verification thing says "crating". Which is just weird.


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