Stuff in the ‘Marketing Your Book’ Category

6 March, 2018

When your book isn’t selling…what’s an author to do?

There’s the exhilaration when your agent sells your book.  Suddenly, you are real!  You are going to be a published author. The contract comes.  Now it is truly official.  The manuscript is delivered, edited and accepted. Yes!  You send in answers to an exhaustive questionnaire listing every contact you have.  If you are one of the luckier authors, there comes a day when you are put in touch with the in-house publicist, or if you’re really lucky, the marketing and publicity “team.”  A lot of brainstorming ensues.  An early trade review appears.  A few appearances are booked.  Publication is looming.

And then it comes.  The quiet.  OK, there’s  a trickle of communications, but it doesn’t seem to be adding up to a much.  Panic ensues.  What’s an author to do?

This is a challenging moment, one that needs to be navigated with persistence and grace.  Of course, every situation is individual.  But in the moment of reckoning, you may find out that your book is not the most important book on your publisher’s list.  Your publicist is twelve years old and overwhelmed.  Copies of your book that were supposed to show up at a launch event went astray or the number of copies ordered is woefully inadequate.  Your publicist tells you that there the pages of the review media have shrunk.  The budget for sending an author around is nonexistent. The publisher’s response to every idea you have is “Great!” but it seems like you are the one doing all the heavy lifting.  You thought there was a marketing team, but maybe there isn’t?

At this point, if you have an agent, you may want to enlist her support while understanding that your agent really doesn’t hold the cards, but does have insight and should care about the long-term success of your book. Here are a few things to keep in mind.  You want to be smart, but you also want to be an author who is viewed as positive and a pleasure to work with.  Many things that your publisher is doing for you or has done for you are not that visible.  These days, publishers may put a lot of effort into positioning your book, enhancing the searchability of your book online and in-stores.  Your publisher is at the mercy of vendors.  For example, your publisher cannot update your Amazon listing with a new review–Amazon has to do the input–but they can send in that information in a timely manner to Amazon and follow up.  Your publisher cannot schedule a review of your book but they can send your book out for review or pitch a feature or interview with the author, and it is all about follow up.  We’re all screaming in the wilderness, trying to get attention.

So…do what you can.  By studying what other authors you admire, you will have a template of what can work for you and your book.

*Ask your publisher if they have marketing guidelines or a DIY guide to marketing your book.

*Make sure that your website is clearly designed and updated well before pub date and that your book is front and center on it.  Post early endorsements and reviews as they happen.  Inform readers of your upcoming appearances. Ask your publisher to weigh in on your website to make sure that it is effective in supporting you as an author–and focusing on your book.

*Choose one or two social media platforms that have more currency for you and use them wisely. It’s better to be really good at Instagram or Twitter than to try to be all things to all people and not be effective.  Build a community by interacting with others and being generous in your interest in their work.  Keep making noise about your book and your activities but not just in a way that is self-serving.  When using social media, speak often and always in your own voice.  It’s often transparent when a tweet, for example, is written by the actual author or by a proxy.  Ask your publisher for help.  For example, if you’re using Twitter, learn to use hashtags effectively so you are tying into your publisher and other supporters.

*Ensure that your Amazon author page is current.  Having a great author photo is essential.

*Communicate often with your publisher but keep the communications short and to the point.   Do not send long, detailed emails on a daily basis or invite your publisher to “brainstorm” with you.  Do not send these communications on holidays and weekends unless it is absolutely necessary.

*Thank your publishing team for all the good things that they do for you.  It’s easy to focus on what’s not happening and not on what is.  Letting your publisher know that you appreciate them will go a long way.  No one likes a whiny author. As with any relationship, folks at the publishing house will work that much harder for you if they like you and feel appreciated.

*Working in concert with your publisher, reach out to any and all contacts you have. For example, you may have a relationship with a local bookstore or organization that will partner with you to do an event to support your book.

*Take a long view.  Every day, wake up and say: Is there anything I can do today to help sell my book?

–Joelle Delbourgo

 

 

 

 


11 October, 2012

Are you a mega-engine? (When “platform” is not enough.)

I had lunch yesterday with one of my favorite editors, Rick Horgan at Crown.  Rick is not only one of the nicest guys on the planets and a brilliant editor, but he is also a genuinely deep thinker.  In my ongoing quest to find a book to sell to Rick, I asked him about what books he had acquired recently that really excited him. While I won’t share the details of these buys, what struck me was the following:

*Each of the books had a truly unique central question or thesis, what we call a “high concept.”

*Behind each book was someone who was high profile. But beyond that, these authors were engines, indeed mega-engines. They didn’t necessarily have author platforms in the traditional sense–frequent media presence, thousands of followers on social media, tons of speaking engagements, frequent blog posts or op eds.   These people were truly obsessive and in their quest to answer that burning question or test a hypothesis, they’d reached out to vast numbers of people, many of them very high profile, or organizations that were huge and had come on board to help to create and promote the book.  Somehow, these authors had created a tremendous momentum behind their idea and convinced movers and shakers who were much more powerful than the authors themselves.

So my challenge now is to seek out a mega-engine of my very own, not simply a well-credentialed author but one who can create a tsunami and prove it before the book is written.  It is never enough to say what you plan to do but you need to prove at the proposal stage that you’ve already set this thing in motion, that the thing is vast and that you and only you could conceptualize and execute it in this fashion.

It’s a tall order, but I am determined.  So, if you are a mega-engine (and by that, I don’t mean someone with an over-inflated ego and unrealistic expectations), I want to hear from you!

–Joelle Delbourgo


14 September, 2012

When Your Book Hits the Shelves

by Anne Greenwood Brown

The experience of writing a book can be life changing, or at least personality changing. Even if you say, I’m just writing for myself, you’ll never be the same. Writing will allow you to explore fears you would never tell your therapist, say things that would get most people slapped, and do things (through your characters) that would land you in a Columbian prison.

When it’s over, you may feel liberated of those thoughts that plagued you. You may feel embarrassed. Or possibly taller. Or you may feel strangely emboldened to send the most private workings of your mind to a stranger to be critiqued, evaluated, and ultimately rejected. Or–possibly more frightening–that stranger might say, let’s share your 300 pages of catharsis with the world.

Now, jump forward eighteen months. Your book is on shelves. You, who used to sit around the house in coffee-stained jammies with a laptop on your thighs, are standing in  a bookstore in a knock-off designer dress, required to talk to . . .  (gulp) . . . people. Not just the online kind of people, but the “in person” kind of people who show up at speaking engagements and book signings. And these people are allowed to ask you questions, like, “What is it about your childhood that led you to write about mythological creatures who talk to corpses?” And you say the first thing you think of: I was afraid, if I didn’t, the voices in my head would never shut up.

Instantly you realize that it was a mistake to leave your note cards in the car. You wonder if your tongue was always this thick. But you also remember why you’re here. You remember how much you love the art of story, and you realize that (even if these people think you might be a teensy bit crazy) they love stories as much as you do.

Since my debut LIES BENEATH came out in June, I’ve enjoyed signings with 200 attendees, and signings with as few as 10. I’ve visited a book club that meets on a boat in the middle of a Minnesota lake, and a YA book festival in Pennsylvania. No matter where I am, no matter how many people show, I’ve found a wonderful community of book lovers, reviewers, writers, and readers, and a world of which I am so thankful to be a part.

It all makes me want to . . . you know . . . do it again!

— Anne

Please visit Anne Greenwood Brown and her murderous mermaids online at http://annegreenwoodbrown.com/.  You can also follow her on Twitter at @AnneGBrown and Facebook.

DEEP BETRAYAL, the 2nd book in Anne’s trilogy will be published by Delacorte in March 2013.


1 March, 2012

Why Do Good Books Fail?

SOMEONE NEEDS TO TAKE THE BLAME–OR DO THEY?

This morning, my twitter account featured a couple of posts from a well-known book publicist who bemoaned the fact that publicists are always blamed when a book doesn’t take off.  She’s not alone.  Editors and agents are also frequently fingered. Indeed, sometimes the entire publishing team that fought for the book is castigated.  The publicist on twitter raises an interesting point.  Could it be, she asked, that perhaps the book didn’t succeed because it isn’t a good book?

Now, that’s a bit harsh, but there’s a glimmer of truth.  It takes a village to publish a book, but at the end of the day, more books fail than succeed.   They may fail for myriad reasons:  1) maybe the publicist is right and it wasn’t the greatest book ever written. 2) maybe it was a good book but for whatever reason, it didn’t seize the public’s attention even if we all think it should have. 3) maybe the big (and sometimes known as “bad” Barnes & Noble chose to skip it as they do with so many titles by unknown authors, and it wasn’t well represented in bookstores around the country.  Readers get impatient when they can’t easily find a book. 4) maybe the publisher was well-intentioned but the publicist’s pitch didn’t take hold or wasn’t the right pitch (it’s always easier to make this determination after the fact. 5) perhaps Amazon bought it conservatively and ran out of stock just at the moment that a publicity break occurred. 6)  maybe everyone really was asleep at the wheel and the publisher ran out of marketing money.

Blaming the publicist, the agent, the editor, the publisher is a little like blaming your spouse 100% for your divorce.  It takes two to tango, and then there’s luck, good and bad.  The bottom line is that playing the blame game is not constructive, poisons relationships (never burn your bridges–this business is small), and stands in the way of a constructive analysis of what could happen differently in the future.  A smart author understands that there are many factors that contribute to success, not least of which is the inherent value of the literary property and the author’s own efforts.  So if your book doesn’t meet your expectations of success, it might make more sense to ask your “team” what they think, try to correct the situation if that’s possible, and to move on to the next project, applying lessons learned.

–Joelle Delbourgo

 


6 September, 2010

BUILD A PLATFORM–AND THEY WILL COME…

“If you build it, they will come…” That proves to be true about a baseball diamond carved out of a cornfield in Iowa in William Kinsella’s novel, SHOELESS JOE, which became FIELD OF DREAMS, the film. And it is equally true for authors about creating and sustaining a platform.

The word “platform” began rearing its head in publishing circles about a decade ago, and it is not going away. It is what you need to snag an agent, what you need to attract a publisher, and what you need to be published successfully.

So, just what is a platform? Why do you need it?

A platform is who you are, what makes you uniquely qualified to write about your subject, who you know, and the venues and means you have already established to reach your market.

Why do you need a platform? To cut through the noise–the noise in the culture. To stand out among the 150,000 new books published each year, in addition to the ones that are already established. Yup, it is a jungle out there. You are competing not only against books, but a myriad other choices reader’s have about how to spend their time: 200 tv channels, internet, ipod, etc.

In earlier days, the writer wrote, the publisher published. The publisher was an expert. Today, publishing is a partnership. A partnership between the author and the publisher, each of whom brings particular strengths to a common venture. The marketing and selling is a joint venture. That is why the more elevated your platform, the more appealing you are to an agent and to a publisher.

The elements:
*Who you are—your credentials, your affiliations, your expertise. If you are writing on a subject on which you are not a recognized expert, you can become the expert through the original research and point of view that you bring to the subject. You may be known locally, or to a particular constituency. You can also collaborate with or cite the experts who validate who you are and what you are writing about.
*Who you know. In the course of your schooling and your career, you may have come across people who have become well known in some way that can help you gain support for your work. You may have networks, organizations, associations.
*How to reach your market— First of all, you need to know who your market is, then establish a dialogue with your market, test your ideas.
How? Through your website (a statement of who you are), how you draw traffic to your site and use it to establish a relationship with potential readers, public speaking (from rotary clubs to national conferences), media experience, knowledge of associations, organizations, publications. In the age of social media, it is essential for an author to have a presence through a variety of tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Use these tools as a means of not only communicating who you are and what your work is about, but also to connect with your audience. These are interactive media. For example, if you are on Twitter, don’t just try to gather followers—follow your followers and from time to time, comment on their tweets.
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So…what impresses me as an agent? That wherever you are on the trajectory, you have a vision to carry yourself forward. If you are at A, how do you get to B? From B to C? In other words, however developed your platform, keep expanding it. Demonstrating to me (and to potential publishers) that you understand that this is part of the marketing effort will be persuasive.

Many prospective authors think that once they have sold their book, they can start building a platform. Wrong! The time to begin building a platform is now.

Make sure your query letter to an agent, and your book proposal, touches on all of these platform elements, in addition to selling us on your idea.

–Joelle

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