10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #6
See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
#6: Once my novel is accepted, my publisher will take care of the rest.
The “rest” as in . . . what exactly?
The printing? Yes, you don’t need to worry about that.
The editing? For the most part, though you will be involved in final edits of some kind. Perhaps even a revision. And of course you’ll have a last look before the printing.
The marketing? No, not all of it. This truth was one of the biggest surprises for me. After my first novel was accepted, I was amazed by how much I was expected to do myself.
Once upon a time, authors could (for the most part) write their books and not worry too much about marketing. Those days are long past, especially after this nasty economy walloped the publishing world across the side of the head. Publishers must work extra hard to sell their books and make a profit so they can pay their staff and remain solvent.
Since publishing is a joint venture between author and publisher, publishers lean on authors to take a more active role in selling their own books. In fact, while publishers do a good deal of marketing of their own, they expect authors to market their own books as much as possible.
What does author marketing look like? Here’s a list of tasks various agents, authors, marketing agencies, and publishers recommend authors should be doing:
♦ Launch an author website. This task requires a financial investment, namely annual/monthly fees for your site’s domain and hosting; additional fees may apply if you need to hire a graphic designer or webmaster. I used to be a webmaster and have just enough knowledge to be dangerous and do this myself. Thank you to my cousin Todd of SDG Systems for free hosting and the setup of WordPress on his server.
♦ Create an author Facebook page. Invite friends. Post there regularly. I borrowed some brains (thank you, Bonnie Calhoun) to make my Facebook page happen. When my first novel launched, I held a virtual book release party at my Facebook group. It was a big hit. I gave away three or four copies of my novel, interacted with visitors, and signed up many new folks for my e-mail list.
♦ Design and send out a regular e-mail newsletter (purpose: book news, book giveaways, connection with fans). I use Mail Chimp for design and e-mail marketing. I found the best deal there—it’s free for up to two thousand e-mail addresses. During the launch of my first novel, I sent out a monthly newsletter during the months leading up to my novel’s launch. I shared details about the various stages of the publication process and held various book giveaway contests. This strategy helped build enthusiasm.
♦ Build an e-mail list for the newsletter. For list maintenance, I use Mail Chimp. I promote signing up (using Mail Chimp’s free signup forms) to the mailing list at Facebook, my website, and my personal blog.
♦ Create or hire someone to develop a promotional book trailer. I designed my first trailer using Microsoft Windows Movie Maker. Making the trailer was a bear—let me tell you. Then my wife’s cousin, Brian Roloff at Time Capsule, offered to create the second trailer pro bono. Thanks again, Brian. Pianist David Nevue graciously gave me permission to use his song “While the Trees Sleep” for just the right background music. Free photos came from Stock.XCHNG.
♦ Blog as faithfully as possible. Preferably write about the writing life and your upcoming novel to create online buzz and develop relationships with readers. This year I’ve been blogging on Fridays.
♦ Set up a Twitter account. I use Hootsuite to manage it. Get involved tweeting about your book and developing relationships. This is definitely a sacrifice of time but make the most of it. A lot of marketing is relationships.
♦ Contact other authors and invite them to serve as endorsers for your novel. For my first novel, my publisher’s publicist took care of contacting authors I recommended and mailing manuscripts. For my second novel, I’m doing this myself. Thanks to e-readers, sending copies is much easier now.
♦ Create an Excel sheet of thirty or so influencers, who will help spread the word about the book in lieu of receiving a free copy. Think pastors, ministry leaders, anyone who influences others. For my first novel, my publisher took care of mailing out free copies to those on my list. For my second novel, I believe my publisher will be offering free e-book downloads. These folks help spread the word.
♦ Schedule book signings, a launch party, or both for the novel’s release. Since I literally live in the woods, I had only one Christian bookstore within an hour’s distance to choose from for my signing, but it has since closed. The nearest Christian bookstore is now 90 minutes away in Marquette, Michigan. Therefore, online promotion is the best way to go for me.
♦ Contact your local newspaper about the novel’s release. My local newspaper, The Daily News, published a positive review of the book in lieu of receiving a free copy. They also advertised the book signing in the article.
♦ Participate in blog tours, radio interviews, and other promo opportunities. Your publisher’s publicist may or may not set up these events for you. For my first novel, my publicist scheduled my novel at the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and FIRST Wild Card Tours. I also participated in several online interviews and novel giveaways. My publicist and I will be doing some of the same events for my second novel.
♦ Distribute promotional bookmarks advertising your book in as many venues as possible. Kregel provided beautiful bookmarks and postcards to help promote my first novel. I handed them out at my book signing, at the writer’s conference I attended, and at other locations.
♦ Mail signed bookplates as freebies to those who bought your book but live too far away for you to sign it. I designed my own bookplates, print them at home, and mail them for free.
♦ Sign books for local family and friends, who’ve bought your book.
♦ Attend a writer’s conference, talk up the book, and sell copies there. I sold a good number of copies of Fatal Illusions at the 2009 Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, Illinois.
♦ Do an “author talk” at the library and other venues. I twice tried to set this up at my local library. Hopefully, you’ll have better success than I did.
♦ Ask your library to purchase copies for patrons. Libraries routinely purchase copies for a local author. When I bump into local friends (who are readers), I recommend they check out my novel at the library.
♦ Set up account at Shelfari, Goodreads, Pinterest, and so forth.
Yep, there’s a lot to do—and authors do all this in addition to working a regular day job and writing the next novel.
This list may seem a bit overwhelming and discouraging to some, but remember that God will empower you to do what He has called you to do. Just take things one step at a time.
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How important, in all of that, do you feel the newsletter is? Do folks really want to get a newsletter from an author on a semi-regular basis? And do they really open them and read them?
Effectiveness is another topic. I’m unsure what’s really effective and what isn’t—I just try to trust the experts and do what they say. A marketing expert I talked to recently frowned on book giveaways, blog tours, and book signings. He says they don’t do much at all unless relationships are developed. I know that a good number of folks on my e-mail list apparently never even open my newsletters (according to Mail Chimp stats), but there’s a core who do. I guess, like anything, our role is to throw something at the wall and hope it sticks. If one things doesn’t work, maybe something else will. I can’t speak more highly of Facebook. I think I have a good, faithful core there who respond regularly to my posts and thoughts about life. I think FB works because of developed relationships.
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