Book Promotion 101

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I headed to New York City a few days ago to meet with the Touchstone publicity folks about the marketing plan for The Black Girl Next Door. It was a thrilling, overwhelming, and confusing meeting.

I’m in no position to offer advice, but I want to offer some insights that might encourage authors and aspiring writers.

Note: The following list represents what I have learned but have not yet mastered.

It’s never too early to consider marketing and book promotion.
My book proposal included a brief discussion of marketing and promotion, but I spent most of the space talking about the target audience rather than how to reach that audience.

The craft of promotion is an important as the craft of writing.
Once you complete the manuscript and it goes into production, all energy and effort shifts to talk about promotion. Promotion is a craft and a skill so spend some time getting educated. Scour the Web and take a look at what has worked for other books like yours. Publicity folks and others want to know what you are prepared to do. They want to know how you plan to promote you book. In other words, if you don’t tell them, they may not have time to create a particular plan for your book.

It’s all about your platform.
Get used to hearing this word—it’s your calling card. Your platform is your brand, image, and base of recognition and operation. Your network and contacts are another crucial component of your platform. The stronger and bigger your platform, the bigger the advance, the more attention in terms of promotion. That leads me to the Catch 22: When you are a newbie writer, you may not have a huge platform. If you lack a platform, you will have to build one by connecting to communities of interest to you. The Web is a great for this.

It’s all about your list.
No, I’m not talking about your list of allergies of favorite foods; I’m talking about your email list. Yes, you need to develop an email list. You need to manage it and keep it updated. I’m learning about how to do this and will keep you posted.

You and your publisher might share the same goal but might have different agendas.
You and your publisher are united in the quest to sell as many books as possible. But publicity is all about contacts and insider information, both of which are assets. Publicists cultivate relationships that they want to control and may not grant you the direct access you might want. Don’t waste time being offended. Understand the business. Cultivate your own contacts. Be open, but be aware of how and what information you decide to share and recognize that you are cultivating proprietary information as well.

Get creative.
Think “off the grid” about how you might promote your book or connect with potential readers.

Get help.
Most newbie authors can’t afford to pay a private book publicist. But there’s a great deal of help and information available to motivated writers. Note: keep checking my blogroll to see what I’ve found in terms of resources. Recognize that you might want to pay for a consultation or seek out other authors who will be willing to share their experiences.

Get organized.
This is not the time to write on scraps of paper or on your hand. Set up a database and get an email list management program. Keep track of the sites you visit.

Get serious.
You can’t be half-hearted about promotion. If you’re lucky, the publicity people at the press will focus on your book for a few months before the release and then watch the results of what they’ve done. After that, they have to move on to the next new thing. Again, don’t waste time being offended. Get clear and get in gear.

Never give up.
No one can define how much energy you are willing and able to devote to promotion or spreading your book’s message. Don’t substitute other people’s expectations for you own.



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