I’ll be honest with you. I just wrote an entirely new scene in a different POV and tense for my novel RADIO HEAD, inspired by the phenomenal workshop I attended at UCLA with instructor Lisa Cron. She has graciously agreed to critique it for me, and so here I am, with breath held. I’m stymied because I can’t write another word of my novel until I hear from her–I want to know whether the new point of view, and the fresh tense, really work. I loved writing the scene, and would like to continue, but can’t help but wrestle with the doubts clinging fearfully to such a wildy different approach the story. If it works–please work!!–then I will begin rewrites on existing scenes, to match the intimacy and immediacy of the experimental style. Until then, I’d like to obsess further on the fine points of publicizing your about-to-be-published novel. (Think I’m not obsessing? I also posted Inara Scott’s top five publicity tips here.) An author must work just as hard on a book’s success after the deal is won, and preparing this info helps me proactively keep my eye on the prize while I await what will hopefully be a green light.
Complementing my last post on Agent Laurie Abkemeier’s tips for connection with your readers, I’m pleased to share author Teddy Wayne’s clever publicity tips learned after publishing his debut novel, Kapitoil,
last April, for both before and after your book comes out.
BEFORE YOUR BOOK IS PUBLISHED:
- Make a Web site, preferably from your name (not your book’s title—it’s a long career you’re trying to build). Author pages on publishers’ sites rarely do a good job. A decent site costs $500-1,500, depending on the designer and the complexity, or you can make one on the simple-to-use weebly.com that’s either free or low-cost (pay to use your own domain name, not one with weebly at the front). Use your book cover as the graphical theme. Teddy Wayne’s site displays review excerpts on the homepage, and has separate pages for additional press coverage, a summary of the book, events, news, my freelance articles, my biography, and contact information; you shouldn’t need much else except a blog link, if you maintain one. Simple is fine; unprofessional-looking is not.
- Tactfully prevail upon any media friends and acquaintances. Ask politely if they’d like a galley, and if they accept, let them know you’re available to contribute something to their publication or do an interview down the road.
- Likewise, cold-email people you don’t know at media outlets with the same (tactful) offer.
- Pitch your hometown newspaper and alumni magazine; they’re more likely to run a profile on you.
- Diversify. This is common sense, but print plus online exposure remains far more influential than solely online.
- Pay attention to the publication where you’ll be hawking your book. Do the people who read the publication also buy this type of book? A small literary website may be a better bet for promoting an avant-garde novel than a national gossip magazine.
- Publish an excerpt of your book. If you’re lucky enough to land a well-known print publication, then doing so in advance can build up buzz. Otherwise, it’s probably best to wait until the publication day so readers can buy it immediately.
- Similarly, try to score a couple of other publicity mentions elsewhere a month or two before publication—but don’t burn them up before the book is available.
- Set up a Twitter account under your name. Since my book is set in 1999, I created a gimmicky Twitter feed for the name @TeddyWayne1999 and, for the first couple of weeks, satirically unearthed my supposedly archived Tweets from 1999 (such as “7/13/99: Stepping out for a night of swing-dance lessons in my new Hawaiian shirt.” I eventually started using it to dispense regular news about the book. Create a Facebook fan page under your name, too, but Twitter is superior at disseminating information to people who don’t already know you.
- Make a video trailer only if you can do so cheaply. Keep it under a minute. Be creative and, if appropriate, funny—don’t make one where it’s just you talking about your book. I put mine on my website, YouTube, and my Amazon author page, and it’s been embedded in a few other places.
AFTER THE BOOK IS PUBLISHED:
- This is easier for nonfiction, but publish essays and anything else relevant to your book after it has come out (which means pitching editors the ideas beforehand, and months beforehand for print publications).
- Get your friends to buy from a bookstore. (Generous) friends may ask you what the best way for them to purchase your book is. Although authors like seeing their rankings shoot up, buying books on Amazon doesn’t help nearly as much as in a bookstore, since the store is more likely to reorder it and prominently place it if the book is selling. Amazon doesn’t care. And you’ll be supporting a bookstore.
- For Amazon, however, sign up for and use your individualized link for the Amazon Associates program, which gives you a small percentage of money back for every book ordered through it—and every other item ordered alongside the book.
- After you’ve reached out to mainstream media, focus on independent book bloggers who have sizable followings. Your publisher should have relationships with some. Send them finished copies; bloggers don’t care about timeliness the way mainstream publications do. There are also places that arrange book-blog-review tours, such as TLC Book Tours. Note that most book blogs lean heavily on female readerships.
- Offer to go to friends’ book clubs if they read your book—and, if you’re willing, visit or speakerphone-call with strangers’ book clubs.
- Don’t waste money on an extensive book tour unless it’s something you want to do for fun. Traveling to a place where you don’t know anyone will result in few sales. Instead, give multiple readings in your current city and anywhere else you know a lot of people. Try to set up an event at your alma mater; they may provide an honorarium and spring for your flight, which you can use for a reading in another city. Get in on group reading series, especially in other cities. Turn your first reading into a launch party—a few bottles of wine help bring people in.
- Media attention begets further media attention. Overall, image, sadly, counts more than substance when it comes to publicity. Few people read books, but they do read capsule reviews and interviews and browse Web sites.
- Lastly, just because you have to turn into a one-person self-promoting machine doesn’t exempt you from gratefulness and humility. Profusely thank everyone who has helped you; they didn’t need to. Spread word of your achievements in the hopes that others will spread it further, but unself-conscious boasting about your success on Facebook turns people off. Karma has a way of popping up—if not for this book, then the next one, and if not for your career, then for your life. Promoting your book can be a stressful experience, but keep in mind that no one else cares as much as you do, so don’t jabber about it incessantly. Try to enjoy it, do the best you can, and remember that the point, ultimately, is to connect with readers; everything else that’s mercenary and businesslike is a means to reaching that rare moment of intimacy.
Teddy Wayne is the author of the novel Kapitoil (Harper Perennial, 2010), which was named one of Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels of 2010 and The
Huffington Post’s 10 Best Books of the Year. He lives in New York.