Publicity: Top 5 Things Every Author Should Do When a New Book Comes Out
This guest post is by Barbara Fisch & Sarah Shealy, Co-owners, Blue Slip Media, a children’s book publicity and marketing agency www.BlueSlipMedia.com
- Current Contact List. Publicists at the major publishing houses are overworked and underpaid–they will welcome anything you can do to make their job easier. Chances are you sent a list of contacts who should see your book to your publisher in the past, but it’s important to send that list every time you have a new book. Publishers tend to work by season, so while the list you sent for your spring 2008 book might still be perfectly valid and up to date, it’s going to be a bit of a hunt for your publisher’s publicity department to locate it. Sending a fresh list with each book will also insure that your list gets back on the publicist’s radar screen. Remember, the average publicist at a publishing house is working on 20-30 books a season. The best way to get your book to the top of the pile is to provide complete information on your contacts list so that the publicist will know this is an easy one to do quickly and cross off her ‘to do’ list.
Tip: Consider sending personal notes to go along with each book to contacts you know well so that all the publicist needs to do is pack and ship to those addresses.
Tip: Make it easy by including all pertinent information (your neighborhood for local papers, or graduation year and major for your college alumni magazine) in your contacts list.
- Unusual markets. Think out of the box about potential markets for your book. Sometimes surprising niche markets can be a major source of publicity—and special sales—for a title. For example, if your book is about a ballerina, approach dance supply stores, professional ballet companies, ballet academies, performing arts magnet schools, dance teachers, etc. Are there trade shows for dance professionals? Unions? Consider buying a list of ballet schools nationwide and sending them a postcard about your book. Don’t expect that your publisher can do all of this for you. An outside publicist can help but you can probably do much of it on your own as well through internet research. You need to be willing to pick up the phone and send e-mails. You very well may get a “no thanks,” but it’s worth a try to see if a non-traditional book outlet might be interested in telling their membership about your book.
Tip: If you’re hoping to garner sales in non-traditional book markets, be sure to include accurate ordering information as well as a contact in your publisher’s sales office on any printed materials.
- Share publicity expenses with publisher. Consider asking your publisher to meet you halfway. Marketing and publicity budgets are slim but if you’re really keen on making a postcard to advertise your book and it’s not in your publisher’s marketing plan, see if they will consider putting $100 toward your cost if you make the postcard yourself. Often this is an attractive compromise for them. And it’s not usually something they’d offer to you unprompted; they have to be asked.
Tip: Keep timing in mind. It’s best to ask for something like this when your book is new. Don’t wait till it’s a backlist title.
- Court your local bookseller. You need a great relationship with your local bookstore and a new book is a great opportunity to say thank you for all of their hard work on your previous titles. Your local bookseller is tapped in to the book scene in your community – pick his/her brain! What’s hot right now? Which publishers offer the best support for books? What local schools are best with author appearances? What themes seem perennial? What brings customers into their stores the most – events? Advertising? Book reviews? Being savvy about your industry is always an asset.
Tip: Take your local bookseller out to lunch.
- Be nice. This one may sound simplistic, but you’d be amazed at how many big time authors forget it: Be Nice. Let your publisher know you’d like to be an asset to their marketing and publicity plans, and always be flexible and willing to listen. As the saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Let’s face it, publicity and marketing personnel at every publishing house have favorite authors for whom they’re happy to put in a little extra effort. You can find yourself on that ‘favorites’ list by being kind and helpful and not petulant and demanding. It’s as simple as that.
Tip: Send thank you notes.
Best of luck to you!
Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy have over 20 years experience (each!) working for major publishing houses. Prior to opening Blue Slip Media, they were Associate Directors of Publicity at Harcourt Children’s Books.
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