Something we hear often is that authors should take an active part in the marketing and promotion of their books…we can't expect publishers to do it all. Wise words, to be sure, and much of the reason behind this blog, but the tough economic years ahead (ouch!), will likely see publishers changing the ways they promote and market, as editorial staff cuts and general belt-tightening also mean cutbacks to promotion and marketing budgets.
In these times, I'm just thrilled Stampede! is still being published. And hoping for the best for my next book.
Yeah, me too.
But...there is good news...
Publishers want to sell our books and they want our books to do well. So although the days may be over or numbered for new authors to automatically receive individual publisher-funded promotion, the folks in the promotion & marketing department are eager to support authors. And they can get very creative when their budgetary hands are tied.
Here are some successful ideas from my experience or authors I know. Since times are a-changing, and what was possible last week may not be next week, I'll keep names out of it:
Find out your publisher's plan for sending out review copies and ask how you can support that. Your publisher may be open to good review leads specific to your location, contacts, or book, or to sending out books for specific promotional efforts such as to blog tour hosts for review/discussion and prizes. Advance copies to your "Just One Thing" folks last week is a perfect example, Laura.
And several folks from my Just One Thing adventure talked about how important those advance copies are.
The publicist at HMH is happy to send to established bloggers, too, as long as I contact them first to make sure they are open to receiving it, which seems fair enough. I'll be contacting blogger/reviewers early next year to start putting together a list.
Ditto for the C-bridge folks.
Has your publisher already issued invitations?
For example, some publishers automatically send out a "New Author Package" in which ideas for working with the publisher are embedded. My Bubble Homes and Fish Farts publisher included a few suggestions in its regular author/illustrator newsletter: for example, if authors supply postcards, the publisher would pay to send it out to its contact list.
That's a nice offer--better than nothing!
It's nice to see. Not all publishers make blanket offers to their authors.
So true. I have a writer friend having her first trade book published by a major publishing house. She has had no contact with her editor (in more than 6 months), her illustrator (ever), or a publicist (she can't even find out the name of her publicist, in fact), and her book comes out soon. She can't get replies from anyone...and this was true many months before recent shakeups. Did I mention this was a house that's part of a major publishing group. Well respected, not some fly-by-night house.
[gulp] You and I are lucky to have such supportive publishers.
What are your publisher's in-house capabilities?
--- Some publishers can print materials at low cost and are more than happy to supply bookmarks or postcards, if you'll take care of the postage. One author's publisher took care of printing up a couple of big signs for a splashy launch signing.
--- Some art departments are willing to take on layout and "making things look pretty" if authors supply content for things such as teacher guides and downloadable activities, especially if the finished product can be linked from the publisher's website.
--- Some publishers will issue official press releases upon request for author events.
I guess I always thought of these things as being done mainly for established authors or for titles expected to really break out.
Not necessarily. The above examples were all for first-time authors. Of course, it'll vary from publisher to publisher.
I supplied the publicist with my planned promotional tasks, and she thought the list looked good, but the publisher certainly didn't offer to pick up the tab on anything. Darn!
Same here. I got "your plans look great" but that was it. But...it pays to ask your publicist/marketing guru what the publisher can do. The answer may be surprising. (hint: some of the above is me :^)
I think publishers have been doing less and less promotion for writers over the past five years, especially, and I only expect that trend to continue. As they struggle to stay in business, I'm guessing stuff like postcards and banners for unknown authors is not a high priority in the budget!
Exactly. Things have changed even in the last six months.
But, the publicist at HMH I'm working with did offer to do something online--something new they're trying out. It's not any huge thing, and it hasn't happened yet, so I'll hold off on sharing. But I was grateful that they wanted to try it with me! It's something that doesn't cost them anything but time--hopefully less than hour, maybe less than 15 minutes. So it's not a big investment. But it's something that's different, that isn't done for every book in the spring line, so it's exciting to me.
That sounds intriguing. I look forward to hearing more about it when you're able to share.
And that's the crux of what we'll see in the future: publishers less willing to do things that involve a dollar cost, but much more willing to undertake promotional ideas that involve only time or resources already budgeted and available.
What about your publisher's website?
If your publisher website has a web page for each author and/or book, make sure you've supplied a web-ready author photo, bio, and any other necessary info to make as much of this web presence as possible. Some publishers post author interviews, behind-the-book stories such as How this Book Came to Be, blurbs, reviews, teacher guides, activity ideas, links to the author's website, etc. Ask your publisher what you can do.
Good point. Another way your online press kit comes in handy.
Definitely. You can pluck elements from your online press kit for that. Love being able to get mileage out of these things!
I did mine, by the way. Here it is. I still hate my photo, and this is a real basic setup, but it'll do.
Cool. Good for you for getting it up ahead of schedule! My online press kit is still in progress.
I'm going to put on my to-do list to peruse Clarion's site and see what kind of extended material they use, if any, and offer up some of my stuff. I hadn't thought of this before. Thanks, Fiona!
So...pick up the phone and talk to the marketing & promotion guru at your publisher. Ask how you can dovetail with their efforts, share your ideas, and see what they can do for your book. Taking that initiative shows them you're an author who is willing to take an active role in promotion, and you may find it reveals more opportunities. It did for me!
What? Surely you jest! Pick up the phone and call the publicist? No way. Can't do it. I did do this by email and got an enthusiastic response. They seem very happy that as an author, I'm interesting in and willing to promote my book.
LOL... Okay, okay...I hear ya. Email can work, too, but tone of voice and immediate feedback and back-and-forth conversation can be valuable when establishing this kind of relationship. I decided to bite the bullet and call because I wanted to gauge receptiveness from tone of voice, and I wanted my publisher to hear my tone of voice, too, so they know I'm interested in dovetailing with their efforts and not being demanding or high maintenance. The main idea is to establish a dialogue.
I totally agree that a phone call would be much better (exactly for the reasons you mentioned), if the idea doesn't make you ill. I wish I had the guts to do it. Maybe next book (she says, optimistically).
So...what creative ideas have you and your publisher worked on to promote your book? Leave us a comment!