Thursday, December 16, 2010
Congratulations! You’ve finished the book you’ve always dreamed of writing. Perhaps you were fortunate enough to woo a traditional publisher (they pay you an advance), or, like me, you self-published (you pay them). No matter, take the time to savor your accomplishment.
Time’s up! Now, roll up your sleeves and get the word out. If your publisher granted you a publicist, lucky you. But lately, even the big names have cut back and are sending authors out with minimal publicity support. So, whether self-published, or abandoned by your traditional publisher, summon some chutzpah and do the marketing yourself. Or, if you have the dough, hire a freelance publicist.
As for me, I had 25 years of public relations experience to help market my memoir, “The Division Street Princess” (Syren Books, 2006). Through that journey, I compiled suggestions you might find useful:
While you book is being printed, make a list of media targets. If your publisher can provide galleys (proofs) several months before publication, you’ll want a pile to send to book reviewers at print, electronic (TV and radio), and Internet outlets. Because most reviewers disdain books once they’re published and on library or bookstore shelves, it’s important to have your list ready so you can take action as soon as the galleys are available. (In Chicago, an excellent source for these lists is the 2011 Getting on Air, Online @ Into Print compiled by Community Media Workshop.)
Along with sending galleys to the usual media, think ethnic, special interest, and alumni publications. Who is the likely reader of your book? Consider age group, profession, gender, shared experiences. Then, along with media, make a list of matching organizations that might welcome you and your book for their regularly scheduled membership programs.
Book signings are great publicity and sales opportunities. Publicists typically arrange these. But if you’re on your own, and can convince bookstores you can attract an audience, you’ve still got a shot. While your books are being printed, identify the person who produces programs at local bookstores. Draft a pitch letter so you’ll be set to mail once the galleys arrive. If you're successful in scheduling a signing, send a simple press release announcing the event to calendar editors.
Be creative when pleading for a bookstore signing. As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, when I launched my memoir at Women and Children First, I enlisted my family to join me. Also, each of them wore a grocery store apron with the words, "Irv's Finer Foods" printed on the front. Our group reading and props made for a fun evening for the 100 or so who attended. (A plea: try independent bookstores before chains. They need our support.)
Be prepared to give away books. Sending complimentary copies to friends who will supply a positive review on Amazon (if they can't swoon, tell them to keep their opinions to themselves), spread the word to buddies, or blog about your book, is a savvy investment.
If your book hasn’t garnered a review, you still have opportunities for publicity. When reading your daily newspaper (promise me you still do that), watching TV, listening to the radio, or surfing the Internet, be on the lookout for journalists who write/talk about your topic. Point that out in your pitch letter.
Because many book clubs welcome an opportunity to meet an author in person, search the Internet for local clubs. Ask friends if they belong to one. Send a query via your Facebook status update. (If you don’t have a Facebook page, stop reading now, and sign up. This social media site can help attract readers.)
Consider venues other than bookstores for readings an signings. If you’ve self-published, you can purchase copies of your book at discount. Profits from sales go directly to you. Perhaps a kitchen supply store for a cookbook? A toy store for a children’s book? Art supply store for a graphic novel? You get the idea.
Finally, look for fairs or craft shows that welcome authors. You may wind up sitting in the sun for several hours, or smiling at browsers who pick up your book then walk on, but you’ll likely sell a few and make new friends.
Once again, congratulations! You've done it! Now, get busy and get the word out.