I confess– I spend more hours than I want to admit online. Yet as a debut novelist, I needed a more extensive network of media contacts I could call upon when I released Things Unsaid a year ago.
Yes, all authors have to be willing to learn how to market their books. You will be a writer without a readership without good marketing and publicity. Reaching readers to make them aware of your book requires a team effort, and the publicist is part of the author’s team. You have to be realistic about what you can do on your own, and what requires a helping hand. Publicists provide:
- research on social media strategy
- introductions to brick-and-mortar bookstores with a cult following,
- book award contests and book review opportunities.
- chances to write columns for online magazines.
The competition is fierce for a small number of slots from traditional media. Coverage is a brutal blood sport and newspapers, radio, even television increasingly have limited outreach in a cyberworld. Furthermore, traditional media coverage may feel very good when it happens, but it doesn’t necessarily move the needle all on its own. The authors who work best with a publicist are those who understand what they’re up against, but feel positive about how much there is they can do. It will take some time to see the effects of an effort and there are no overnight successes. Effective marketing yields increased momentum for your book. In contrast, publicity is more about getting people to recognize who you are in a world of oversaturation and elevates you above the rest of the chatter.
“I don’t want to ask for reviews.” Yet that’s the job. You avoid reaching out to friends and family yet again to come to a bookstore event or write another review for another website. You have to constantly pitch. I hired my partner JKS Communications three months before launch date with a lengthy Excel spreadsheet of blog sites I had already contacted for possible reviews of Things Unsaid. I needed someone to help with the heavy lifting.
The first thirty days after publication can feel a bit surreal. You expect something to be different, affirmed, if not sanctified, by the rights and privileges of publication. You should be happy and enjoy this major accomplishment. But when you visit your local indie bookstore, you notice there isn’t even a copy of your book on the local authors bookshelf. Everyone starts to ask when your next book is coming out and you’re exhausted because there hasn’t been time to write while you’ve been promoting this book.
Book clubs may invite you to speak and plan to borrow copies from the library or buy used copies on Amazon. A year after the release of the book, your royalty check won’t even pay one month’s electric bill. Before you know it, they’ve remaindered the rest of your books they have in inventory.
Your publicist is there to support you through that period too, when post-partum-publication depression sets in. Success will take longer than you think and your publicist is a touchstone to that reality and managing expectations. She can also be a shoulder to lean on when you are just plain tired of the task at hand.
Marketing and publicity never really end—but with the right publicist you can start out of the gate prepared for what lies ahead and energized by a partner who knows what you are going through. The timeframe for success stretches over years rather than months. It can be a slow burn, or even a simmer.
Thank you, JKS Communication! “Successful marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.”
DIANA Y. PAUL is a former professor at Stanford University. Her short stories have appeared in multiple literary journals, and she is the author of three nonfiction books, Women in Buddhism, Philosophy of Mind in Sixth-Century China, and The Buddhist Feminine Ideal. She lives in Carmel, California with her husband and loves to create mixed media art. She is working on her second novel, tentatively titled A Perfect Match. Visit her author website at: www.dianaypaul.com Twitter: @DianaPaul10