Pee-ew! It sure stinks when you’ve worked so hard to write the absolute best book you can and it fails. You’ve sought mentors in your genre. You’ve created a team of trusted readers (beyond your friends and family) to help tweak plot and character development to make it perfect. You’ve found the right agent or publisher. You’ve chosen the route to your readers. You’re committed to your publishing vehicle of choice and have researched it well. Whether traditional publishing, vanity press, indie press, small press, self-publication, joint-publication, POD or e-publication; you’ve done all the homework and it’s perfect for your book. After all, we writers are in a blessed time and there are so many wonderful options these days.
But … oh-oh … nothing or very few books sell. So, what happened?
The three ‘P’s, that’s where something went wrong. Promotion, Publicity and Procrastination.
We writers are basically solitary creatures living inside our imaginations and moving with the impetus to tell our stories. Some, like me, hate to even leave the house. Out there is the black hole. Out there are distractions and time sucking activities that steal away our precious writing time. But our prospective readers are out there, so what’s a writer to do?
Let’s take these ‘P’s one at a time and explore them.
Promotion. Trust me, I’ve been in PR, marketing and promotions most of my professional life and this is a ‘P’ you simply can’t ignore. I’ve seen it happen in every industry, not just the business of being a writer. It goes back to the basics of being a professional.
The basics are the basics and these principals have been vital since the cavemen convinced each other to trade shells and feathers for goods and services. If you don’t tell someone you’re an expert at something, how will they know? If you don’t show them your skill, how can they decide they want it? If you don’t promote … you basically don’t exist.
Promotion is vital and it’s vital early. As writers, we’re all told to have a web presence. I have heard several people tell me that yes, they have a website for their book but it’s basically static. Not good. You MUST update your site often, just like your blog. Granted, a blog may receive far more self gratification through responses and viewer numbers, but don’t confuse numbers with creating awareness. Your site is where your creative juices get to really shine.
Update it at least once a month, more if possible with anything that works. If you write literary novels, add a page that can feature your research techniques. Fantasy? Explore fantasy through the ages. Update information as to where you are on your next book, or how to buy your current book. List where you will be showing or signing your book and what events you’ll be attending. Do small pieces on your characters. Be sure to put sample chapters up; more than a small excerpt. Some publicists recommend as many as five chapters to hook your visitors. Make sure you have a ‘contact the author’ button so visitors can communicate with you.
Your website should NEVER be stagnant. It needs to be a living, breathing sales entity AND you need to tell as many people as possible that there’s something new to see there.
Another promotional tool is social networking to shout out your accomplishments, but always remember that social networking loses its power when all the viewers see is you trying to sell your book. Be a person, make some friends, have some fun and your new found circle will be interested in knowing more.
Find other venues to promote yourself and your work. Step outside the box. Find other websites to become visible on. Share excerpts with other authors. Look for other authors to promote when you tweet or blog or update your own site. Friends help friends. It’s a basic key to good promotion.
When do you start all this? Here’s the kicker, you should have started when you got the idea to write a book. Honest. When an agent or publisher is interested in you, the first thing he or she does is goggle your name. When was the last time you googled yourself? It might be a good time to check your online presence by taking a look. If you have little or no presence, no matter how great your book is, you may discover that not only is an agent or publisher less willing to look at you seriously … but so are prospective buyers for your book. They just don’t know you exist and it’s your job to tell them.
Publicity. Again, let’s talk about basics. You have a product. It’s not performing well. What do you do? It’s like a failing baseball team who finds themselves in last place far into the season. The only thing that could be causing this is a failure to perform the basics well. A smart manager knows it’s in the fielding, team dynamics, ball handling or attitude. He shifts the line-up and schedules more practice. He has his coaches work with the pitchers and he takes a look at the farm team for possible replacement options. He eliminates what doesn’t work for techniques and players that do work.
Hope is never a good strategy. Just because your book is published and available does not … ever (unless you’re Dan Brown or Charlaine Harris) … mean it will simply sell. Promotion and Publicity are hand in hand tools and must be used in tandem. Needless to say, if you haven’t promoted the fact that you are a writer with a book for sale … publicity will not work as well.
Publicity requires a ground floor on which to build. If you’ve adequately promoted yourself, you can get those platform slats and two by fours and start building. Publicity is the cannon explosion in Beethoven’s fifth. It’s the panicle of the build-up.
And like promotion, it has to start early. Like promotion it has to be creative and be targeted, well thought out and rooted in the basics to help you succeed. Publicity isn’t just a press release; it’s a well crafted, exciting and interesting press release. Publicity isn’t one press release; it’s a well planned series of press releases that feed the media excitement a bite at a time. Publicity is creating the thrill for your upcoming book. It’s laying the groundwork for speaking or book signing events. It’s telling the world what you have and making them salivate to read it.
A press release is designed to inform the media, but it works for so much more. Make sure you send your press release to every friend, relative and business associate you know. They need to be aware of your upcoming launch too. Sending them a press release makes them feel important and, you’ll be surprised how many friends will take that release to the nearest book store and ask the manager to carry the book.
Publicity is about planning your exposure carefully and building the momentum … and it has to happen BEFORE the book hits the shelves. Done correctly, you may find yourself scheduled for live interviews or written up in magazines and newspapers. If you’re super lucky, these events will be scheduled for immediately after your book is released. Done right, the promotion/publicity double team is unbeatable.
If you can’t write a press release (and I doubt there’s anything a writer can’t write), find one and figure out the formula the same why you figured out the formula for your genre. If you still don’t feel confident about it, get a book. Guerrilla Publicity by Jay Conrad Levinsen, Rick Frishman, and Jill Lublin, and Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Michael Larsen are spectacular but there are many more to choose from. If you are adamantly against planning, writing and implementing your own publicity campaign, hire a publicist.
Either way, publicity is vital and can’t be ignored if you want success. Making every venue or bookstore and every reader known or unknown who loves your genre, aware that you have a book coming out is vital. Period.
Procrastination. Buck it up. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t believe that if the book isn’t in hand yet you have nothing to sell. Always remember, YOU are the product as much as your book. Creatively promote and publicize yourself NOW and your book will be successful. You can put off the laundry only so long before you run out of underwear. Treat your hard writing work better. Procrastination isn’t a bad habit, it is a sin and can leave you with a failure you don’t deserve.
Whether your book is with a big publishing house or a small e-publishing venue, there’s nothing better for your career as a writer than to take your success in hand and make it sterling. Be successful … and start NOW.