You've Written the Book. Now What?
Drum roll. Here they are, as promised, ideas from critically-acclaimed and award-winningauthors about what they actually do to bring their books to the world. (No, I wasn’t able to get Lee Child’s thoughts on the subject, but I have a feeling his advice would be something like, “drink coffee and write.” It works for him!) There are DIY ideas and thoughts on hiring a publicist. I love Robin’s word “authorpreneur.” Reading what my fellow Miss Demeanors have done is motivating. I came away with three principles to follow as I embark on my own path to pub date: (1) There’s no harm in trying anything and everything, (2) Do what makes you happy, and (3) There’s a difference between pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and doing something that is a bad fit for you. Learn to distinguish between the two. Please, take your time and read their advice for inspiration. Maybe there will be an idea that works for you. Susan: One of the benefits of working for Gotham Writers, is that after a book comes out, they set me up for all sorts of Gotham events. So when Maggie Dove’s Detective Agency came out, I spoke to a very large crowd at Bryant Park. Of course, I was giving a lecture on character, but I made sure to include lots of references to Maggie Dove. That’s my favorite type of promotion, when I can combine talking about myself with talking about something else. I’ve also loved appearances at Scones and Bones at the Madison, NJ library because everyone there loves cozies. I did hire a publicist for my first book and I paid a ton of money and was named one of More Magazine’s book of the month, which was fabulous, but I also spent my whole advance on that, and I’m still not sure I got my money’s worth. Of course, I absolutely love twitter and Facebook and have connected to so many people that way. Paula: My favorite advice for PR and marketing comes from Glenn Miller, book marketing guru and founding member of Career Authors. He says you should find the strategies that work for you, the ones you’ll actually do consistently, and do them. This is basic brand building for you as an author. Then you can supplement your efforts for every book launch: work with a publicist, hire a social media manager, do ablog tour, etc. For me, this means Twitter, Facebook, and events. Like Susan, I prefer events where I’m talking about something else and to get to slip in references to my books occasionally. The debut of the first novel in my mystery series comes this fall, where I’ll be doing supplemental things as well for the launch. Mostly this means I’ll do whatever my publisher wants me to do. Starting with Instagram, which totally goes against the grain for me in that I am not a selfie person. Live and learn. Tracee: I agree with Paula. We listen to what our publisher wants; however, at some point we each have to develop what works best for us. Some social media doesn’t feel like the right fit at first, then you find your own way of using it, or simply get comfortable and keep going. I do like being in front of real people – partly because I think you get feedback or at least a reaction. A Well-Timed Murder just launched Tuesday and I’ve been in bookstores in Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky so far. In Little Rock I had the great pleasure of meeting the B & H Book Club in person – a follow up to our Skype chat last year. That was a lot of fun, to talk to readers you’ve developed a relationship with. It’s the same with the amazing people who work in the bookstores. Every time I visit a store I hear about other authors and new books, and when you see that “Staff pick” sign by your own book it’s a nice adrenaline rush. We couldn’t do this without them! Michele: First, do treat yourself to a splash of a launch for your first book. It truly is a once in your lifeexperience. Find what social media you can work best and stick to it. I started with Facebook, added Twitter, and am now easing myself onto Instagram. I used a book trailer for my first book because I knew readers who love the beauty of St. John would be drawn to it. I’ve done blogs, interviews, appearances at libraries and bookstores. But what I am convinced works best is the age old advice. Write a damn good book. Here’s a photo from my book launch for No Virgin Island, where mentors Hallie Ephron and Hank Phillippi Ryan celebrate with me. Robin: My nonfiction books were published by small presses who did zero on the publicity front so it was all up to me. The first book also preceded the ubiquity of the Internet thus there were no social networks. Still, I am the daughter of parents who were both involved in advertising and PR when I was little and I guess I learned creative self-promotion without realizing it. I turned promoting that first book into something of a career – I had t-shirts made of the book cover then took those to the largest industry conference of the year. I sought out the big “names” and gave them t-shirts. I’m actually kind of shy but I forced myself to talk to EVERYONE which is how I met magazine editors who remembered the shirts, thus the book, and threw freelance work my way. One of those people contacted me to co-author the second book. Living in a major media market, I also called radio and TV stations until I got on air on a local morning television show. Eventually a sports-themed startup contacted me and I ended up teaching for a couple of years which gave me a platform to sell more books. At its peak, that first book cracked Amazon’s top 100 ranking in its niche-within-a-niche category. Even though it’s now out of print it’s still in the top 500 and being sold as a collectible. The second book, still in print despite being almost old enough to vote, is currently ranked #371 in its category. Apparently, I do okay at the authorpreneur thing. I can’t wait to tackle promotion in crime fiction so I’ve already started by jumping in and volunteering to speak at conferences as a cyber expert, and connecting with other authors on Twitter and through organizations like MWA and Sisters in Crime. Cara Black just let me know last week that she thanks me in the acknowledgements for her next book, coming out this summer. Cate: I am still figuring out the publicity thing. I agree with Michelle’s advice of write a darn good book. Word of mouth does a ton and if the book isn’t great, people won’t talk about it. I think identifying influencers on Instagram and Amazon, and then offering them ARCs or free copies helps. If they like it, they give it a good review that then their 1,000 to 50,000 followers read. I think being paired with the right books on Amazon makes a difference (though I don’t know how to do this). I observed that The Widower’s Wife was lumped with two best sellers from Harper and Penguin on the site. I guess people who bought the latter two books were also buying mine. It gave me a tail wind to ride (those other two books had a ton of marketing behind them coming from a larger house). The Huffington Post also helped with the Widower’s Wife because they picked it as a book to read if you liked Big Little Lies. I don’t know how it got their attention but that was a Hallelujah moment. I am still hoping for something similar for Lies She Told but it’s been more difficult because I think there aren’t as many books that it easily compares to. That Hollywood pitch thing: It’s like Game of Thrones, in outer space! Or it’s like Big Little Lies on a cruise ship works, as trite as it may seem.