After years of drafting, critiquing, revising, submitting and watching rejections pile up, you’ve finally landed a publishing deal and your book is coming out in several months.
Over those years you’ve worked hard, too, to build a platform — giving webinars on craft, writing articles that have run in places like the Huffington Post and contributing regularly to a popular blog (maybe WU?) drawing thousands of readers from around the country.
Yet, when you sit down for the long-anticipated meeting with your publisher’s marketing team, you’re told that despite your strong online connections with readers in cities from Portland, OR to Portland ME, your publisher won’t sponsor a book tour.
You’ve just come up against the false divide between ‘author promotion,’ which spotlights you as an author and an individual, and ‘book promotion,’ which focuses specifically on a given book. In promoting yourself as an author a book tour can be an important part of leverageing all the connections you’ve built as a voice in the literary world, and doing so makes perfect sense. People who’ve enjoyed your blog posts and articles, whom you’ve exchanged comments and tweets with, may well want to meet you in person when you’re in town. They’ll come to your talk in the local indie bookstore and possibly invite a couple of friends. Some might host book club events for you or feature you on their own blogs. If well-organized, such a tour can spark both sales and a word-of-mouth ripple effect.
On the other hand, from your publisher’s perspective, the link between you as an author — a person — and your book as a product for sale simply isn’t strong enough to justify the expenses of certain author-focused initiatives like a book tour. There are plenty of compelling reasons: your Huffington Post articles are not about your novel, so their audience and your book’s audience aren’t necessarily the same. Ditto your blog posts and webinars on craft, which appeal to a broad group of writers who don’t necessarily read your book’s genre. You might also have another book in the pipeline that your publisher hasn’t committed to; or maybe you’ve already published other titles with other presses. Any promotional efforts focusing on you as the author will give you a chance to talk about those, too. Why would your current publisher want to subsidize publicity for its competitors?
Then there’s the simple formula connecting the marketing budget for any given book to its sales. Expenses for advertising, book blog tours and generating reviews can be directly correlated to the specific title they’re for, while the expenses for an in-person book tour or feature articles about you as an author are harder to assign, specifically, to one title. So “author promotion” is as good a place as any for publishers to draw the budgetary line.
But the truth is, promoting yourself as an author does help spread the word about your work. In fact, an author-focused platform will most likely sustain over time far beyond any book’s moment in the spotlight, keeping your name out there and increasing the chances that whatever you write next will have an audience and find a home in readers’ hearts.
So where does that leave you? There are four important points to bear in mind:
First and most importantly, recognize that that author and book promotion together are essential to both a book’s success and a writing career. If you’re traditionally-published, this may mean not relying solely on your publisher for promotion. Instead, you should can take steps on your own, such as:
- Organizing your own book tour.
- Arranging other public speaking engagements (for example at conferences, professional forums in your field, etc.).
- Seeking guest blog posts.
- Writing articles and opinion pieces for news publications.
- Making sure your web site’s in excellent shape.
Second, recognize, too, that you’ve got work to do and that you can’t do it all yourself. Enlist help where you can, whether that means asking friends in various cities to help you set up talks there or hiring an independent publicist.
Third, think like a self-published author (if you aren’t one). Self-published authors and those published by a very small press typically handle most promotional initiavies on their own with little or no distinction between initiatives that are book-focused and those that are author-focused.
Last but by no means least, plan a budget — in terms of both money and time. Just like the act of writing your book, shepherding it into the world will require energy, resources and plenty of support.
Have you or your publisher taken steps to promote your book alone but not you as an author? How about vice versa?
What steps have you taken that you’d place in one but not both of these categories?