A number of people have asked me to talk about what an author should do to raise awareness for their book for WU’s Inside Publishing month. This was asked in the context of “…if there are not a lot of marketing dollars in house to support said book,” but I think the answer to what you should do to support your book is the same for authors with huge marketing plans and those with modest ones.
Honestly, there is rarely the kind of money or manpower that you want/expect/desire in any publication so it’s always good to be prepared to do some heavy lifting. In fact, many of my authors, upon their second book’s publication, have said to me that they wished they’d had a better sense of the playing field the first time around as they would have done more, but that they also had to go through it to get to that kind of understanding. So, I am going to try to outline what you can do to be your best advocate in the hope that it sheds some light.
Be a squeaky wheel. I am a big believer that it never hurts to ask. You may have been turned down for certain marketing dollars, but those budgets are decided many months out. Closer to publication, it’s worth going back and asking for other things like online advertising, a blog tour or a flight to a well-attended conference or seminar. Hopefully you will be working closely with an agent who can help you decide what makes sense to push for. While you may not get everything you ask for, you are not going to get anything if you never try, right? So squeak away!
Make your editor your ally. I can not stress this one enough nor tell you that this is the first thing all editors say to me off the record when I ask them what they wish they could tell authors. Your editor is your in-house champion and your lifeline to all the major players within the publishing house (marketing, publicity, publisher, sales) and if you sabotage that relationship, you are really hurting your chances as he or she will be less likely to go to bat for you.
If your fiction has a non-fiction hook, publish as many op-eds as you can. That’s free advertising with your byline and book title at the bottom of the article. If this isn’t your background, you can try to engage your publicist in helping you place these pieces but remember that they are overworked as it is so make their job easy for them by doing the research on which publications would be open to such articles and going from there.
Get your book out to as many big mouths as you can. If you are on social media, you know who those people are.
Get to know your independent booksellers. Sign stock.
Attend every book club that you are invited to. Get on Skype so you can do it from the comfort of your home. I once asked Jodi Picoult’s editor how she became Jodi Picoult, thinking she would reveal some grand marketing effort, and while obviously she has those in place now, when she was starting out, she simply said yes to everything asked of her. I’m not saying this is easy and I imagine one would get burned out quickly, but if you have it in you, I’ve seen it work amazingly well.
Consider hiring an outside publicist to do outreach. I’ve talked about this before and know that some authors have felt burned by this process. It’s worth interviewing several, hopefully with your agent in tow, to see if they are offering something that you can’t do yourself.
Consider paying for some targeted online ads. Again, something to discuss with your agent and editor.
Don’t kill yourself with social media self-promotion. Let me start by saying that I am a dinosaur. I am not on Facebook and have lost my Twitter password and don’t know how to find it. And, while I think Twitter is a great way to meet other authors and make connections to people who might give your book a shout out, I am not convinced it makes a loud enough noise in and of itself to throw so many hours of the day into it. As one author said to me recently, it’s 300 people promoting 300 other people. The trick with getting the word out is to figure out how to break out of that bubble and honestly I think that’s done by making new relationships, be in via book clubs, big mouths, bookstores and of course media, which is never easy for books these days.
What do you all think? Am I forgetting anything? Is this fair? What have you seen that’s worked? What feels like a giant waste of time?