You've been waiting and waiting, emailing for hints, finally it's Thursday and Lissa Warren is back with the answer to that question every writer asks. And who better to ask than Lissa, Senior Director of Publicity at Da Capo Press and author of that must-have, The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity:
Q) We've heard again and again that writers need to help promote their work once their books are published, but not every one knows how to do this (other than buying THE SAVVY AUTHORS GUIDE). What are your best author do's and don'ts?
A) Lissa Warren: It’s true—these days, authors need to be actively involved in the promotion of their books. They need to be partners in the campaign—not just the recipients of it. Here are my do’s and don’ts:
Create a website for your book—and keep it updated. By adding new content on a regular basis—even if it’s just your latest media coverage and your newest events—you’ll make it a place people want to come back to, rather than a place they visit once.
Be agreeable. If your publicist asks you to wake up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday to do a phoner with a small radio station in a city no one has ever heard of, do it—not just because you never know who could be listening and what it could lead to, but because publicists tend to work extra hard when authors are cooperative.
Follow the news, and let your publicist know what’s happening in the world that you can speak to, and what your take is on it. She can then use that info to get you more coverage. Don’t have a publicist? Then send out a well-crafted pitch via email yourself. When news is breaking, the media needs experts and will sometimes be receptive to authors even when they’re pitching themselves.
Write—and try to find a home for--op-eds and original articles (preferably tied to your book) that mention the book in your bio line.
Blog. Start your own blog, or blog for established ones like the Huffington Post.
Secure some speaking gigs for yourself. Bookstores, libraries, literary festivals, universities, corporations, churches, synagogues and JCCs, professional conferences—there are tons of places to talk. Check with your publicist to see what she’s pursuing—then fill in the gaps. If it seems like too much work, investigate the possibility of enlisting the services of a lecture agent.
Consider hiring a freelance publicist or outsourcing for a radio satellite tour and/or Web campaign for your book. They’re not cheap, but they can really help you get the word out.
Be hard to reach. If you don’t have a cell, get one (and return messages from your publicist and from the media promptly). Same goes for email (and check it frequently so as not to miss opportunities). The three months before and after your book comes out are not a good time to take a vacation—so don’t.
Be your usual unselfish self. Every book has a very small window in which to succeed—usually a couple of months after it pubs. You may need to set limits with family, friends, and even your employer. To the extent that you can, try to view promoting your book as a full-time job.
Don’t have unrealistic expectations. It’s good to aim high, but not everyone can be on Oprah or Fresh Air, or reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. Start small, start niche, start local—then build from your base. And remember: publicity begets publicity begets publicity.
Engage in shameless self-promotion. Find ways to put yourself out there that aren’t tacky. For example, in any press material you create don’t say your book is fascinating—make it sound fascinating. Don’t praise the book yourself, but instead quote positive reviews and provide blurbs by other authors.
Fail to do your homework. Spend time researching shows, publications, and Websites that might be appropriate for your book. Before going on a radio or TV show, try to listen to or view it online—or at least check out the show’s website. Before speaking with a reporter, Google them to see what kind of things they’ve covered in the past, and what their approach has been.
Be a forgettable interview. Go into every interview armed with 3-5 talking points—things you’d really like to convey that you think will resonate with the intended audience. Learn how to sound bite well. If necessary, hire a media coach to help you. And the same goes for your reading/talks—select your passages carefully, time yourself (20-30 minutes is usually sufficient for a bookstore talk), and practice your delivery. And be sure to send thank you notes once the segment airs or the article runs/posts.
Forget that this is supposed to be fun. Most people never even write a book, much less get it published. Try to enjoy your time in the spotlight.