Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Writer's Journey Continued

Publicity and promotion are a big part of marketing a new book. Writing the thing is just the first step. Then comes rewriting and editing, editing, and more editing. Finally the finished product rolls off the press. Now what?

The best book in the world won't sell unless people know about it.

So most new authors assault Media World: newspapers (send press releases and query for articles), online reviews (very important but don't expect 100% five-star reviews; there may be a dud now and then), radio (register local book events on community calendars and query guest spots/interviews), blog tours (often professionally arranged; online tours have pretty much replaced live bookstore tours due to expenses involved), bookstore visits (to introduce your book personally to managers and establish relationships so when they see your future books in catalogs, they'll jump to buy them), and even television (query local or related-genre talk shows for interviews).

Public Relations (PR) firms may be hired to carry the bulk of obtaining publicity, but they tend to be pricey (average $5k for a 6-month contract). Traditional publishing houses may assign an in-house PR representative to help get word out, but with departments tightening their belts these days, it's generally up to the author to network and beat the bushes for publicity opportunities.

Doesn't leave much time for writing the NEXT book, which everyone asks about, but 3-4 months of concentrated marketing surrounding the release of a new book is an expected part of the publishing process.

Since the release of Mom Needs Chocolate in April (three months ago), I've been featured in eight newspaper pieces, done two TV interviews and six radio interviews (most were arranged by my publicist). Each of these required sending a press kit (including copies of MNC, a bio, suggested talking points for interviews and other items of interest about the author/book topic) and some also requested book trailers or CD's/DVD's (I'm a speaker, so I sent a 3-minute DVD sample of a speaking event along with a MNC book trailer).

Radio and podcast interviews are usually done by phone, and can last anywhere from 3 to 60 minutes (they tell you ahead of time). I've done two in-studio radio broadcasts, which I find a bit stressful but nevertheless fun. Being able to observe the production process of both radio and television is quite entertaining and educational.

My first blog tour is coming up June 29, when 30 bloggers and book reviewers will post reviews of Mom Needs Chocolate. The point is to generate buzz about the book so that readers will check out my website and/or purchase my book. Naturally, copies of MNC are mailed to each participant ahead of time.

They won't have an opinion about your book unless they've read it.

Sounds like a lot of free copies, doesn't it? Yup - it feels like it, too but an author must understand that an average of 50 give-away books is necessary to garner even modest media attention. Traditional publishing houses will furnish most if not all of these promo books, but small press and self-published authors have to dig deep to cough them up from their own pocketbooks at an average cost of $5 to $7 each copy.

I heard that gulp. I feel your pain. Been there, done that with my first three small press books. I'm cheap by nature and each promo book I gave away scorched my guts. That's why knowing ahead of time and creating a budget are so important (nobody warned me before my first book; that's why I'm informing you!).

Of course you can choose NOT to send out promo books and you and your mother can enjoy the distinction of each being 50% of your total sales. But to give that dead horse one last whack, in order for people to buy books, they have to know about them - and what better way than through tried and true media outlets?

I'd be happy to answer questions or give you a sympathetic hug via the e-dress at my website above. (Did you catch that? Another marketing tip: Keep sending people to your website so they can learn about all your wonderful books that they just can't live without but don't know it yet.)

Keep breathing!