Supplementing Your Publisher’s Efforts: What You Can Do to Support Your Book

– photo by Flickr’s darkmatter –

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? 


About Elisabeth Weed

Elisabeth Weed formed Weed Literary LLC in 2007. Prior to that, she worked as a literary agent at Curtis Brown, Kneerim and Williams and Trident Media Group. Weed Literary is hands-on in every stage of the publishing process, from developing proposals, to submitting books to the all of the major houses and negotiating contracts with those houses, to involvement in marketing and publicity of books, as well as in the selling of foreign and film rights.


  1. says

    No comments? Really? This is a wonderful list with a lot of lessons.

    Another key point, I think, is to maintain relationships between books. Otherwise, you’re starting from scratch. That probably means different things to different authors. Maybe it’s attending other authors’ events and “checking in” with those booksellers or librarians. Maybe it’s keeping up with your Twitter feed when you don’t have a book you want folks to BUY NOW. Perhaps it’s simply updating your website, interacting on FB, or sending infrequent newsletter updates. I’m not a fan of barraging the public with what I had for breakfast, but I do try to keep my hand in everything so that I’m not a newcomer, but an old friend, when my next book comes out.

  2. says

    I think there’s a lot of good advice here. I have come to realize that Twitter is a lot better for connecting to writers, editors, and agents than it is for connecting to potential readers. (As is something like having a blog on writing). While those connections are obviously important too, it makes sense to focus on other areas when trying to reach readers.

  3. Deb Watley says

    Thank you for emphasizing working with our editors/publishers. We need to treat them as partners.

    I’m curious: how effective are online ads? Personally, I tend to ignore them, so I don’t see how it would be worth my money to pay for them.

  4. says

    Thank you for the point about social media. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, though I used to be. I found out the hard way that neither was good for the health and well-being of my brain; I dropped them, reasoning that mental stability was more important than platform building when I wasn’t even close to being published. If it works well for other writers, then that’s great. It’s just not for me. So it’s nice to know that there are other ways to promote my book.

    I really like the idea of writing op-eds about the novel’s non-fiction hook. When I read an article by a novelist, it gives them credibility and shows that they’ve done their research for the novel, and I’m more likely to look for their novel in the bookstore or library.

    Thank you for the very informative post.

  5. says

    I’m not published yet, but I’ve made it a point to say “yes” to as many opportunities as I can. I help out published authors in my genre, blog on multi-writer blogs, etc. You not only get your name out there, you make good allies with established authors, agents, even publishers. You still have to deliver good writing, but it never hurts to have a publisher see your manuscript and recognize the name.

  6. Marcy McKay says

    The 2 things I needed to hear was: 1) You don’t know if you don’t ask, and 2) Social Media isn’t the end-all, be-all. I love Facebook, but flat-out don’t get Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest. I refuse to do them. It’s best to invest your time in what excites because that passion rings through. Thanks, Elisabeth!

  7. says

    Thank you for this helpful article, Elizabeth. I especially like what you said about building a team to help promote your book.
    One effective tool that was left off your list was blogging. I created my blog in October 10, 2010 and I currently have over 197,500 page views. Unlike face-to-face events–which is the most effective way to sell books–blogging allows me to connect with readers world-wide during a time that suits them. They don’t have to remember to mark an event on their calendar or dragging themselves out of their house. My writing is there when they want to read it.

  8. says

    There is some strong advice here about communicating well with editors and agents, and working together to create a plan/get feedback on ways to use promotional dollars that will bring the greatest amount of return. :)

    I do think though that caution should be recommended regarding bringing in a publicist on one’s own or attending events. First, with poor royalties and small advances, it’s easy to end up “in the hole” if the author puts too much money into travel/book tours/conferences/publicists/ads that may or may not work. I also think that with the explosion of SPing, there are many promotion firms and publicists out there looking to profit from authors. Some may be professional and know what they are doing, but there are many more who will do a poor job of promoting the author and the book, doing little more than spamming social media with yet more untargeted promotion. If you want to hire a publicist or someone to help with promotion, then shop wisely. Ask other writers who they used and if the fee paid was a good return on investment. If you want to attend conferences and events, choose ones that are cost effective, offer you value beyond “being seen” (such as going to learn yourself), or are local. Libraries, schools and book clubs love local talent.

    Also, the last point makes it sound a bit like SM is a poor time investment, and on this, I have to disagree. I’m not saying to become a slave to social media, but done right and this can be the best thing for discoverability and word of mouth building. Social media is worth doing well because it builds relationships with fans, finds support networks for audience sharing and buzz building, and helps one discover new readers. It allows an author to become known beyond his or her own personal connections in day to day life. Case in point–I am far better known and sell more books in the US and UK than Canada, despite being a Canadian. This happened because of social media reach.

    Many authors think they have to be on all networks, and do each well. This is not the case. Pick one or two that you enjoy being on, and concentrate on building a strong presence there. :) Be genuine and let people know what you’re about. :) Look for opportunities to interact with people most likely to want to read your book. :) If you promote, do so creatively & offer something of value (and not just free books) so that you stand out, not get lost in the white noise of promo. :)

  9. says

    Solid, realistic points. Best point, if you’re fortunate to have an agent, partnership for the best plan to move the book. For the ocean swells of recent self-pubs, it’s hard to locate an audience without prior reputation. Good stories get muddled in the mediocre and downright terrible. There has been a great deal of controversy about SM. It has a place, but recent wisdom states that readers don’t use it to select books. One area I think hurts authors, is when they create a website/blog, then post/visit once every other month or less. Key take away for me, the industry needs a reliable place for readers to go and get good recommendations for both traditional and self-pubbed books. Amazon isn’t going to do that.

  10. says

    I’ve found you’re got to go from writer to Johnny Hustle. Pester bookstores to give you readings, beg coverage from local TV, try to agglomerate as many mentions as you can and at some point, things go exponential and then you have to keep feeding the fire. That’s when you have a chance to hit a long ball and attract major media attention. And I agree about social media, highly overrated for pushing books.

  11. says

    Oh, and I forgot–absolutely hire a publicist. My agent advised me to hire one from the get-go and I’m glad I started a relationship with Sharon Bially, she’s been terrific–couldn’t have done it without her.

  12. says

    I’m always looking for more ways to connect to readers. I’ve attempted to target my blog to readers (not writers, as so many of my peers seem to do).

    I confess marketing intimidates me. I’m still scarred from a charity cold-calling job I had during my university years.

    What I want to know is how to make readers care about your book. Lots of people promote their books but neglect a hook. After all, it was a hook that caught our agent, our editor, our legions of loyal fans.

  13. says

    I really like the idea of op-eds and only recently figured out that I have a whole new potential audience in history buffs. Since I love talking about history also, those relationships will be fun to build. :)

    Thank you for the advice on hiring a publicist. I’m still clueless when it comes to such things.

  14. says

    I’m glad you mentioned about social media. I don’t belong to Facebook or Twitter because I felt it would take up a great deal of time that could be spent in writing. Happily you confirmed what I’ve been thinking.