Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Marketing and Promotion, 101


By: Sandra Novack


I am notoriously bad at self-promotion and marketing, probably because I am cursed to be one of Jung's INFJ personality types.  Still, most writers (okay, ALL writers I know, myself included) do their fair share of book promotion, and this quickly translates to expending time and financial effort.  Here’s some things I’ve learned over the course of having two books—my literary debut, PRECIOUS, and my short story collection, EVERYONE BUT YOU—hit the market with a major publishing house.

***

If you have a traditional publishing contract, squirrel away some of that "big" advance for personal efforts at marketing.  You'll probably need it!  The truth is that unless your book becomes a smashing bestseller or tops out at “x” amount of sales the first week, your publicist only has so much time to spend with your book, before moving onto the next.  Designating some advance money specifically for promotion will allow you to travel to events not paid for by your publishing house.  It might mean you have some cash on hand for buying ads, or have funds available to hire a personal publicist over and beyond what your house provides.

***

Have you ever thought about grants?  You might be able to get some free money! Who knew? I didn’t, until my second book, EVERYONE BUT YOU.  In Illinois, for example, you can apply for an individual artist grant (a free $2,500.00) for promotion of an artistic work.   Having this grant allowed me to travel to NYC overnight and do a reading gig at The Center for Fiction.  That, in turn, allowed me to meet some pretty cool people, so it paid for itself and more.  I also had money left to put toward cyber ads.

***

Talk with your publicist, agent, and/or editor about things you can do to help promote and market your work.  The reality is that the burden of promotion falls more and more on writers these days.  When I got my grant, the marketing department at Random House weighed in, advising what would give the most bang for my buck.  This leads to a second point: Just because a house has legitimate constraints on how much time and money they can give any given book doesn’t mean you are alone and can’t get solid advice.  They do this for a living, and they are a resource.  Use them.  Also, be nice when you do...it's not their fault the publishing world is changing, either.

***

Making Actual “Contact” with People (INFJ Sandy says: Ack!):  Most writers like to give readings and meet their audiences in person, but every writer will also tell you book readings and signings are a crap shoot.  I’ve been at readings where a bunch of people attended, and I've felt loved and appreciated and (nervously) sold a lot of books.  I’ve also been to ones where 2 people showed up (probably enticed by the bookstore owner), and I spent the time wishing no one had showed up at all, just so I could hit the bar early.  All the publicists I’ve worked with (four (?) now, all of whom seemed to be named "Jennifer") have said that readings don’t generally yield great sales results, but they seem to keep readings around regardless.  Anyway, and for both my books, I’ve done my share of readings, events, lunches, book clubs and signings.  On my own, I’ve visited local bookstores and talked with the owners or sales staff.  I’ve contacted colleges in the area.  I've contacted libraries.  I’ve reached out to book clubs and offered to give talks.  I’ve researched what literary events are in my city, and offered to be on panels.  Every little bit helps, and many of these local connections are lasting.

***

Cyber Contact:  It goes without saying that having a nice FB and Twitter presence is useful. (Confession: I don't 'tweet', nor have I once stalked someone on FB.)   In addition (and for both books), I’ve used Blogads.com, which yielded me a lot of hits at various high profile websites.  The benefit of Blogads is that they run continuously for a specified amount of time.  They are also awesome and very professional/fun to work with.  The downside is that it can be difficult to say how exposure translates to actual SALES.  Same thing with FB ads, Goodreads ads, Shelf-Awareness, and Author Buzz.  I’ve used each of these at least once.  Would I do it again?  Sure.  Exposure is exposure.  Additionally, I was very pleased with TLC Book Tours.  Basically that site books you with various blogs, and there you might get your book reviewed, do a Q&A, or hold a giveaway.  Nice exposure, for a relatively small cost.

***

Always keep a working list of contacts.  I am sort of bad with this, because I don't like to bother people at ALL, but I'm getting (a tiny bit) better.  The world is getting more and more informal, and I think all of us need to get on board with that.  This might include other writers who have blurbed your book, people you’ve met at events, or people who have reviewed your work previously.  I am pretty shy myself, but I make a point to seek out Facebook friendships with people after I've met them, or to make contact with reviewers.  I have this weird pre-req, though: I have to have actually (and intuitively) LIKED them when I met them. :)   It's important, imho, to be sincere.

***

When you're scrambling to promote yourself and your work, always remember: It's still important to be decent.  It's really, really more important than ever to be that.  Expect the best, not the worst, from other people.  Most people are decent.  Most are even better than that.

***

My grandfather always said, “A faint heart never won a fair lady,” and these days that holds even truer when it comes to book marketing and promotion!  But it's also true that however you handle your own marketing, you need to do what you can, as you can, and always be truest to yourself.  In the end, it could be that an old-fashioned idea still carries the most merit:  There are no easy answers for getting a fan base quickly, so at the end of the day, writers still build their base over the course of many years, one book at a time.

With that in mind, I say:  Try and write and publish consistently and with all the love and heart you can muster.

Happy Writing, My Beautiful Friends!  Much Love, and Luck, and Many Good Wishes for Success.


Sandra Novack’s literary novel, PRECIOUS (Random House), was a Booklist Top Ten Debut of 2009.  Her short story collection, EVERYONE BUT YOU (also from Random House), was published in 2011.  Currently she is at work on a new book.  Visit her at: http://www.sandranovack.com.

16 comments:

  1. Great tips! Thanks for sharing :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome, Amy! Thanks for stopping by GBC.

      Delete
  2. This was a wonderful article. I found you through a google alert for "book marketing" - and what a nice surprise to find something that is not only worth reading but reads like it's from a friend to a friend.

    The best kind of book marketing that can be!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, Patricia...thank you for your very kind words. You made me smile, first thing in the morning. (That's a task!)

      I'm glad the post offered some helpful advice. Good luck with your own work, and all best to you!

      Delete
  3. It's going to be end of mine day, but before finish I am reading this impressive post to improve my experience.
    Here is my blog post ... seo companies

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the tips. Filing away for future use. *hopefully*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :) I will you all best. (It will happen!!!)

      Delete
  5. Thanks for all the wonderful advice, Sandra! And I LOVE that quote from your grandfather. Must keep that in mind while promoting....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thanks, Brenda. Grandad was a character, for sure.

      Delete
  6. Great ideas. Appreciate this post and your grandfather's wisdom!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Awesome post Sandra. Solid and real advice. I really stopped, paused, read the whole thing and learned! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you, Samantha! I'm so happy it helped people. XO Sandy

    ReplyDelete