Many would-be nonfiction authors make the mistake of not beginning to think about publicity for their book until after they have written it. In fact, they don’t even need to write the book until after it has been purchased by a publishing house, but they do need to begin working on publicity prior to ever submitting a proposal to an acquisitions editor. The proposal itself includes a section that details how the author plans on publicizing the book once published; these days, publishing houses do little to help an author in this vein. The publicity and promotion section, along with the author’s platform section, represents a vital part of the book proposal.
If nonfiction authors plan on self-publishing their books, then they also must have a strong, well-thought out publicity and promotion plan long before the manuscript is completed or printed.
One of the books I purchased and read when I first began work on my books Jacqueline Deval’s Publicize Your Book, An Insider’s Guide to Getting Your Book the Attention it Deserves. When I contacted her about participating in this year’s WNFiN blog, she offered me information on how to get started publicizing a book.
There are three core areas of book marketing, according to Deval: advertising (paid ads), promotions (discounts, displays and co-op funds offered by publishers to booksellers) and publicity (getting your book mentioned in the media). The reason authors (and publishers) focus so much attention on publicity is simple: it’s free and it works. As Deval writes, “Publicity—getting your book mentioned in any form of media—earns you the legitimacy of a third-party editorial endorsement, can reach large audiences, and requires relatively little spending. Publicity is where your greatest opportunity lies to contribute to the shape and scope of your campaign. The right media coverage for your book can stimulate measurable sales results that turn your book into a success.”
However, as with all business aspects of writing, we writers have to be coaxed into thinking of ourselves as anything other than writers. “We aren’t publicists,” we say. “We are writers.” But we can be publicists—and we must. “Learning to think like a marketer is a commonsense process that takes place over time,” explains Deval. “It is accomplished largely by paying attention to the media and to the marketplace and thinking about how your book fits in.”
And here’s how she suggest we writers begin:
How to Publicize your Book: Getting Started
by Jacqueline Deval
(From Publicize Your Book)
Look at what other writers have done successfully.
Before you set up a web site or blog, look at other authors’ sites to see what works. Start doing this a year before your book is out.
A site to look at: Jeff Carlson—jverse.com—to see how a site can provide one-stop shopping for readers and the press with press kits, photos, appearance schedules, contests.
Find out what your publisher is planning to do to launch your book.
Talk to your editor about what the house is planning for publicity 6-7 months before your book will be published. Then you can plan whether to hire a freelance publicist or supplement with your own efforts. Many books get a simple press release and review copy mailing. There’s much more to be done, but you may have to initiate it. Start by reading everything you can about book publicity. What to read? Here are four great resources:
- PublicityHound.com, a publicity and marketing site run by a former journalist, offers many great ideas for publicity as well as plenty of advice about how to approach reporters—useful in the event you ever set up your own interviews.
- Buzz Balls & Hype (mjroseblog.typepad.com/buzz_balls_hype) Lots of smart publicity advice here from novelist MJ Rose.
- Galleycat.com This site covers the business of publishing. Check out the frequent coverage of effective author promotions and videos.
- Publishers Weekly (publishersweekly.com) Learn about the publishing industry here. Search the word “promote,” and you’ll come up with tons of information about what authors and publishers are doing to market their books.
Build your tribe.
What is a tribe? The people who know and like you or take an interest in your work. Build a mailing list of everyone you know, professionally and personally. You’ll market to this list through emails, postcards, press releases, and invitations to readings. Then you’ll build on that list, particularly as you being to network through online marketing.
About the Author
Jacqueline Deval is vice president, publisher of Hearst Books, and publishes lifestyle books in association with Hearst Magazines including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the author of two books: a novel called Reckless Appetites (Ecco Press, 1993) and Publicize Your Book: An Insider's Guide to Getting Your Book the Publicity It Deserves (Perigee, 2003 and 2008, www.publicizeyourbook.com). She has held associate publisher, marketing and publicity director positions at William Morrow, Villard Books/Random House, and Doubleday.
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