I was only able to make it to one session at Thrillerfest yesterday, but it was one I had a particular interest in as it focused on book marketing, a huge black hole in the industry as the minuscule budgets publishers set aside for it are invariably dedicated to the can’t miss A-list authors while the mid-list and debut authors receive little if any support at all. And that’s for commercial fiction; it’s even worse for literary fiction and poetry, never mind comic books.
M.J. Rose and Doug Clegg have their “Buzz Your Book” format down cold and after a brief introduction that noted how they both got lucky (translation: opportunity met preparation) with what they did for their own books, they explained that, while their successes aren’t necessarily duplicable, they do offer a fundamental model that any author can follow up on. Instead of prattling on in generalities, or offering examples of ideas that can’t be duplicated, they called on volunteers to pitch their own books and then offered specific ideas for them to market them effectively and interestingly.
Sadly, none of the ideas included traditional advertising in writing magazines!
Some of the better ideas were based on:
- Real world marketing tie-ins to the book’s theme, plot or character
- Write a brief novella featuring main character and distribute it free to bloggers based on either location, demographics or author favorites
- Connect with bloggers and websites based in/on book’s setting or plot for reviews
- Tap into personal networks/communities as people who share your passions are most likely to enjoy your writing
The bottom line: find an interesting angle on your book and work the hell out of it, matching and potentially exceeding the effort you put into writing the book itself.
(NOTE: Also, check out Rose’s 5 Simple Marketing Tips over at Writer’s Digest.)
It was noted that many authors are now taking their advances and using them for self-directed marketing programs, which makes perfect sense as an investment in one’s career since a single bestseller doesn’t guarantee a long and profitable career as a successful author, and unless you’re a celebrity already (which is no guarantee of long-term success, either) you’re still going to have to market the hell out of your book and yourself. You can also pay someone to develop and execute a marketing plan for you — the existence of which can sometimes make the difference between a receiving publishing deal and a rejection.
One typical investment that’s a huge waste of money, at least before you have a solid backlist, is a website. These days, it’s easy to create a functional and attractive website using free platforms like WordPress or Joomla, and registering unique URLs are the only worthwhile expense. Any writer’s website should include a regularly updated blog — unlike mine, lately! — separate landing pages for each book, with cover shots, character info and excerpts, plus links to any reviews, interviews and ecommerce availabilty. Extra goodies, as technical skills and budgets allow, can include viral downloadables including wallpaper, screensavers, AIM icons, signature banners, podcasts, etc.
Getting a book published is only the first step on the long journey towards becoming a successful author, and these days, it’s arguably becoming the easiest step of them all.