If I have heard it once, I have heard it over a thousand times. “I don’t want to market my books … I just want to write.”
I get it … many authors would rather just be writing. After all, the blood and guts, heart and soul are already in the book. What else could anyone want?
One word: Plenty. That’s what they want. If you have a publisher, today’s expectation is that you will market your tush off. You. And put money in. The “free ride” of being taken of … where the editor actually bought the book because she thought it was the cat’s meow and really, really believed in it. The hand of her personal editing was apparent throughout and her voice was a factor in any marketing and publicity strategies. An editor was a kick-butt advocate for any author she or he took under her wing. The publicity department would create a “media attentive” press release; pitch the book to all the major shows and print … and follow-up to re-pitch and hopefully, book your appearance. In many cases, author tours were planned for multiple cities with the publishing house picking up the tab for all expenses. The good old days.
Much has changed. Many publishers have Acquisition Editors … scouts so to speak … that find the author (or are pitched to); get a proposal of some sort which must get the seal of approval from the marketing department; sign the author; agree on some type of advance; and then formally assign the book to the editor overseer. Today’s traditional publisher does editing, but not to the degree of yesteryear with the exception of the front list books and major authors in the publishing stable. Advances have been slashed and the expectation is that the author will take those moneys and use them for marketing and publicity purposes. Author tours are basically passé and the depth of editing has been reduced.
What’s an author to do? Three words: get over it. You’ve got two choices to support your book. Hire someone(s) to handle it, or learn and implement marketing and publicity strategies yourself.
The 80-20 Rule comes into play. Truth be told, 20 percent (possibly less) of your time is dedicated to creating your book; 80 percent (or more) is directed toward marketing and publicity to support it.
If you hire someone to do the pitching … someone, meaning you, has got to gather up the info and content to get it to a literary publicist. Don’t expect a publicist to be a mind reader—she or he needs your attention when engaged, meaning you hired them. Who knows your book better than you?
- You should know who your reader/audience is. You want your demographics to be spot on. If your book is about personal finance or personal growth, being pitched to a rap station is a wrong fit.
- You should know the ahas and the hooks. Ahas and hooks that roll off your tongue in a nano-second. If you don’t, the snooze factor surfaces quickly, especially in programs that are crunched for time and your segment is just a few minutes.
- You should be able to instantly identify any newsworthy items that your book/expertise can tie into. Pay attention to what’s happening—nationally … and do a search for the local news of the city/state you have your interview with at least an hour before your interview-tying your topic to what’s in the viewer’s eyes/ears is a big plus.
Whether it’s a flat fee for the “book publicity project upon launch”; a monthly retainer arrangement; or one is hired for a variety of projects—from the initial book publishing date to ongoing projects related to the book over a period of time, a good publicist can do wonders … but they can’t guarantee anything. Pitching is what a publicist does—based on what you provide. Pitching to TV, radio and print resources. Yes, they often morph it; tweak words, phrases even come up with quotes that “you made” to incorporate in the media release. And yes, rejection is an everyday common occurrence in any publicist’s life. Rejection of pitches they make on you and your book’s behalf. And when there is a major hit, there is absolutely no guaranteed that books will be sold.
In reality, even Oprah didn’t move that many titles when the author was a guest on her show—it was a hit or miss for book sales. Oh, the publishing house made a big deal and let’s face it, the internal publicist gets a check-off on her list that she booked “something” for the department and the author’s ego got a nice stroke.
If you are going to do publicity with a primary motive to create sales … understand this clearly: books have got to be readily and easily available. Today, that means Amazon at the minimum. Support your favorite book store and use its name with live media. Most authors, especially new ones, want to drive buyers to the website. Don’t. Get them to the one that is easiest to remember.
Books are impulse buys.
Oprah’s Book Club moved books … because it became a “go-go-go” to her fans. During my book touring days, I did all the biggies—from Oprah to Good Morning America; from a four page spread in People magazine to the Wall Street Journal to the National Enquirer. Each served its need.
If I was to pick one TV show that I could actually see a measurement of book sales it was from Donahue. As a guest multiple times, Phil Donahue not only probed into a book and the topic with a deep-dive, he wanted his guest to really get the theme and how-tos out. The day he held up one of my books and said on air, “Anyone who is thinking of getting married, this is the primer, get it …” was golden. When I guested several times on the woman and sabotage topic I pioneered, he asked, “Would you stay after the show and just talk with the audience, they want to talk with you?” clearly pushed the buzz forward. I can only imagine what it would have been if social media was alive then.
Although radio was my favorite because it was usually live and you had more time, print pushed books. Why, because readers would tear out the article and save it until they got the book. When I toured or did speaking presentations, attendees would show up with the article in hand.
Today, it’s social media. Not an 800 pound gorilla—it’s an 800 ton gorilla. And with most social media, here now, gone shortly. That means you duplicate and spread to any and all who keyword your keywords in their profiles. Authors must incorporate a vigorous social media strategy … and yes, there are publicists who are savvy in this arena.
An author does not have the luxury to say, “I don’t want to market my books … I just want to write.”