When approached by self-published authors for help with book promotion, I used to ask a single question:
“Do you have blurbs from at least two established authors?”
If the answer was no, I’d suggest they gather some before we speak. Blurbs are an essential piece of the vetting process and vetting is crucial to gaining the media’s interest. All the more so for self-published books, which don’t have the benefit of a publishing house’s stamp of approval.
While I still request blurbs, I’m beginning to think there’s another question I should ask self-published authors considering a PR campaign:
“Did you query literary agents for at least six months before deciding to self-publish?”
From down here in the PR trenches, this has nothing to do with whether an author opting to self publish tried to get a traditional publishing deal or how that went. It makes little difference to me whether somebody “almost” had an agent, got glowing rejection letters or received dozens of full manuscript requests. I’m not looking at agent interaction as a form of validation, since in the end, the only real form of validation from an agent is a contract.
Rather, the experience of querying agents provides crucial preparation for the experience of book promotion.
As we all know, the process of querying is charged with hope and expectation, trepidation and angst. Each query letter contains a piece of our heart; each inevitable rejection letter — or lack of response — breaks our heart in its entirety. The waiting and uncertainty break our spirit. Yet from these wounds grow the emotional armor we need to keep at it, the patience and resilience that allow us to shrug in the face of prolonged uncertainty and above all, the deep humility that is fundamental to every writer’s survival, and success.
It may come as a surprise, but the experience of book promotion has a lot in common with the querying journey. Your publicist is, in essence, querying reporters and reviewers on your behalf. With the market for book news and reviews just as crowded and competitive as the literary marketplace itself, your publicist will be getting far more rejections than hits. In fact she or he may send out hundreds upon hundreds of email pitches and many dozens of hard copies of your book to yield but a tiny handful of news items. [Read more…]