Don’t Wait to Get Advice on Marketing a Book

Pink hourglassI love marketing books. However, it’s inevitable—I hang up the phone after receiving a call from another prospective client, and the last words I hear before we sign off are: “I wish I’d spoken with you sooner.”

I hear this same lament over and over again. Mainly because a good number of the authors who are call (and often it’s their first call to any publicist) didn’t complete some of the crucial marketing steps that must take place before they release their books.

When It’s Too Late for Marketing to Help

In many cases, it’s too late for me to help them. Especially if the authors have already done one or more of the following:

  • waited over a year before trying to get publicity for a book already released
  • didn’t develop a social media platform
  • didn’t have their covers professionally designed
  • didn’t have their books professionally edited
  • signed publishing contracts without reading them
  • allowed publishers only to issue their books in hardcover
  • released their books late in the year
  • didn’t workshop their manuscripts before publishing
  • wrote a book in a genre that is overcrowded or difficult to sell
  • wrote a book that doesn’t have a newsworthy angle or point of view.

Arguing Doesn’t Help

When I mention that these situations that might make it difficult for me to help market their books, I inevitably receive the following arguments:

  • but I didn’t know that a book should be marketed within the first six to eight months after release
  • but I’m computer-phobic and don’t know how to use social media
  • but I’m a good artist and my friends and family like my book covers
  • but I was an English major and don’t need an editor. Or my publisher is going to edit my book (even though the publisher is most likely not a professional editor)
  • but the publisher told me that she or he would do ________ (so I didn’t read the contract)
  • but the publisher said that she or he would issue the book in softcover after I sold an (unknown) amount of hardcovers
  • but I didn’t know that releasing a book in late winter would make it difficult to promote because of the holidays and that most venues will be already booked for the year
  • but my cancer survival/parental issues/adoption story or memoir doesn’t have to be unique—everyone I know likes it
  • but the fact that I wrote the book makes it newsworthy.

Successful Authors Listen and Seek Advice Early

In many of these cases, the authors don’t like what I have to say. They try to convince me that somehow I’m wrong about these important steps. Some of them try to tell me that because a few reviewers liked the book, they feel they can somehow bypass the rules. And some of them don’t listen at all—instead, they call to tell me how important their books are and, thus, whatever I have to say doesn’t matter to them.

In the end, every author has the right to do whatever he or she wants with his or her book. But if authors (especially new authors) want to be successful at selling their books, they have to be willing to educate themselves about the selling process. And they must realize that marketing is different from what they learned (or, in many cases, didn’t take the time to learn) about creating a successful book.

Book Marketing Basics

What I end up suggesting to those who call me with these issues is the following:

  • educate yourself about the book industry. Know the statistics and requirements for your genre and be realistic about where your book might stand if your genre is difficult to sell
  • educate yourself about the promotion process: take classes, attend workshops, go to conferences, read books on marketing, and talk with other authors who have successfully published and sold their books
  • don’t wait to hire a publicist: make contact (preferably by email) at least four to six months before the book is released
  • don’t be afraid of social media—learn how to set up and manage at least one or two sites (I recommend Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads) and place your blog posts on all of them, including your website (get help from a social media consultant if you find this process too daunting)
  • plan to promote your book during the first six to eight months immediately after the book is released
  • don’t ever release a book that hasn’t been edited by a paid professional
  • never design your book cover
  • don’t sign a publishing contract without reading it word-for-word and, if anything is unclear, discussing it with a publishing attorney
  • don’t let a publisher talk you into only releasing your book in hardcover—hardcovers are too expensive for readers and booksellers won’t stock them. Insist on softcover and ebook versions, or pass on the opportunity
  • don’t release a book at the end of the year (any time after October is too late); instead, plan to release in either January or February. That way you have the entire spring and summer to schedule events, make appearances, and promote
  • don’t assume because you received one or two positive reviews that selling the book will be easy
  • don’t assume that because you have an interest in your content/story that others will feel the same way you do.

My Best Book Marketing Advice

Finally, my ultimate advice to all authors is to write the best book you possibly can. For most, this means workshopping the manuscript with a writing group and taking the feedback that is given to heart. I see too many books that should never have been published. Not only because they have been improperly produced, but because the writing level is not where it should be to compete in today’s crowded market. Educate yourself about the promotion process as early as possible. Make sure your book is truly ready to be released into the world.

 

Be Focused, Be Prepared, Be Committed – Steps to Take Before Hiring a Publicist

hand holding microphone with black backgroundMost prospective clients who approach me about publicity are new authors who have never worked with a publicist before. Whether self- or traditionally published, the most common question is: What would you charge for promoting my book?

My response is always the same: What is it you’re looking for? A book tour? Media coverage? Internet exposure? All of the above? And how much do you want to spend? Without knowing what it is an author wants, it’s difficult for me to put a price on how much I can do for him.

It’s also difficult to say how much publicity an author is likely to get without having read the author’s book or knowing a little about her platform.

So, for new authors who are thinking about hiring a publicist, here are my top five tips to consider before calling or sending an inquiry email to a PR expert:

1. What kind of book have you written?

With over 300,000 new titles released each year, it’s important to know where your book fits into the overall market. Is it a young adult novel, targeted for teens, or younger kids, say five- to nine-year-olds? Does your mystery fit more in the true crime or fictional detective category? Is your love story a traditional romance, or does it fit more under the women’s fiction heading? Knowing what you’ve got to sell will help you pinpoint what you have to do (and where you have to go) to sell it.

 2. Is there a market for it? If so, who and where is that market?

Once you know what you’ve written, you need to decide who would read it. Is your audience both men and women, or are only women likely to purchase it? Are there targeted niche audiences for your book? If so, where can you best reach them? Be ready to discuss with your publicist who your audience is and where you’re willing to go to find them.

3. What kind of experience/expertise/knowledge do you have that can be used to promote your book?

Having a platform is essential for both fiction and non-fiction writers, especially when promoting your book to media producers and reporters. The platform has to do with you (the author), your background, and the level of expertise or recognition you have in your subject area.

Before you hire a publicist, ask yourself the following questions: Are you a recognized expert in your field? If not, would you be willing to educate yourself and/or work to establish yourself as such? What is it about your background and experience that makes you an interesting interview for the media? Are you willing speak, write, and blog about your book/subject area? Have you taken the time to develop a social media following and, if not, would you be willing to do so (or to hire a social media expert to help you)?

4. How much are you willing to spend on publicity?

Before you hire a publicist, sit down with your spouse or significant other and decide how much you can afford for book promotion. Review items 1-3 above and decide what will give you the most exposure for your type of book and audience(s). Decide if you’re willing to travel to speak, tour, and/or sell your book, and figure out how long you’re willing to do that. Plan to create web, blog, and social media sites for your book and estimate the expenses, both time and moneywise, for those.

Finally, create a budget that factors in costs for printing and shipping copies of your book, creation of promotional items (bookmarks, posters, flyers, etc.) website development and hosting, travel, hotel, food, etc., for signing and/or media tours, booth space fees, postage, advertising, etc. Also factor in the cost of hiring a publicist or other professionals (social media, graphic reproduction, ebook formatting, legal, etc.) you might need to help with your book’s promotion.

5. How committed are you to do what your publicist recommends?

I’m always surprised at how many of my clients do the groundwork for hiring me and then, once we begin their promotional tour, panic when they achieve some level of success. As many authors realize after trying to do it themselves, it’s extremely difficult in today’s noisy and crowded publishing landscape to get attention from booksellers and the media. It can take an experienced publicist repeat contacting and hours of follow-up and pitching to get a bookseller, reporter, or producer to agree to an event or interview for a client.

But, despite their desire for exposure, there are always a few authors who balk at doing appearances or radio and television interviews once they get them, which is frustrating on many levels. It can be awkward for a publicist to go back to booksellers and the media to say that a client is passing on an event after working so hard to get them to agree to it in the first place. It’s also time-consuming to have to revisit plans and goals with authors, who say they want publicity and then waver on following through.

Yes, it can be scary to be in front of the camera for the first time or, for some, to stand up in front of a group and speak. But a good publicist can provide helpful tips for overcoming those early jitters, and most authors agree that, like any other activity, they get better at it the more they do it. And successful authors know that without that kind of outreach, they would not be able to generate the essential word-of-mouth ripple effect that comes from continued audience exposure.

It’s a shame to waste opportunities, especially if authors have done the footwork and spent the time and money to get the hard-won exposure they need to promote their books successfully. Be committed to your book’s success, and if you hire a publicist, follow through on her efforts to obtain the promotional attention you seek.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/977641/