Can a publicist meet a new author’s needs?
Let me take a few minutes to share with you. When I share posts like this, I inevitably get angry emails from people who feel like their investment was a good value. For some, it may be. My goal is not to knock down publicists, but to give authors enough information to make good decisions with their money. For some, a publicist may be a perfect match for their marketing strategy. But this is my story.
As a new author, I see the need to put the extra effort in getting my book before a reading audience. Since I’m mostly unknown outside of my circles of influence, no one is going to come looking for my book. It’s the challenge of every author.
The truth about publishing is that most books flop. This is also true for good books. When I look at the rankings of many of my writing friends, it can get discouraging. Very well written books are ranked in the millions. Which means no one is buying them. The publishing world is a sea of information. Literally millions of books are in this flood of literature. Someone happening to find your book is like painting a coin, mixing it into a pile of a million other coins, and sending a blindfolded man into the mix with the hope he will find your coin. It’s not going to happen – not without something to guide him.
When I see friends whose books are ranked in the millions, it reminds me that good writing doesn’t sell books. Good marketing sells books.
My Publicist experience.
A few months back, I followed the advice of hiring a publicist. I got several recommendations and settled on an expert that several people spoke highly of. Indeed, if I knew nothing about marketing, this person may have been a good value. However, I quickly realized I had made a mistake when the publicist began doing what I had already done.
I had assumed that my publicist had a network of people who would help promote the book. Instead, I discovered that I had a stronger network than what I was paying for. The Facebook marketing strategy of my publicist produced nothing. I knew it wouldn’t. I had just launched my book and everyone in my network already knew about it. Any who didn’t probably doesn’t follow my posts. In essence, I paid the publicist to create an author page on Facebook. That’s something I could easily do myself.
The next step was a blog tour. Once again, I felt my money evaporating when I realized the publicist had the same network of contacts that I had – plus or minus a few. Some of the blogs were people I already knew and had planned on reaching out to after this campaign was done. The new sales produced by this campaign will be nothing compared to what I paid.
There is no sweeter lesson than to learn from someone else’s mistake. So I’m going to give you a free lesson that could save you hundreds of dollars or more.
The Sweetest Advice is Free
Build your network. Do this with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and through organizations. Authors like to help authors. That’s because of two reasons. One. We help each other as a professional courtesy, knowing other authors will extend themselves when we are ready to market. I know, it sounds a little selfish, but it really isn’t. It’s a business relationship. Hopefully, our relationships will grow beyond the mutual benefits and extend into friendships, but at a minimum, it is an opportunity to meet each other’s needs.
Second, many of us have been where the next new author now stands. When I’ve struggled and felt the pain, I can empathize with those who are now feeling the same pain. Publishing is a hard world. Writing is a solo endeavor, but publishing is a social venture. Start now. Connect with as many writers as you can through the social networks.
Join a strong writing community. I’m a member of The Christian Authors Guild, Atlanta Writers Club, and ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). By participating on forums and email loops, there is an opportunity to connect with thousands of writers. Most writers are bloggers. A publicist can connect you with 20-30 bloggers for a fee, but you can reach countless more for only the cost of membership. What’s more, over half the bloggers on my paid tour are occasional posters. This means they have little or no readership.
One blogger even posted all the reasons why she hated my book. It didn’t fit her interest, but she stated that since she agreed to do the tour, she felt obligated to read a book that didn’t interest her. Not everyone can be pleased by every book. My goal of paying for publicity isn’t to force-feed a book to a blogger that doesn’t enjoy my genre. And it sure isn’t to get negative reviews. Thankfully, my rating shows that readers in my genre love the book. For this reason, targeted marketing is much more effective.
Even dedicated bloggers won’t put you on the NY Times best seller list, but it keeps your book in the sight of readers. As I said earlier, connecting with quality blogs is something you can do yourself. It takes time and some blogs are booked months in advance. If you’re going to do it right, start connecting months before the book is to be released.
Advertising by engaging the reader.
Gratuitous advertisements don’t work. People ignore blatant ads. Interviews do have an impact. Each time an interview or relevant article shows up in front of readers, they are directed to your book. Only a fraction will buy, but that’s the nature of advertising. The key is to capture a reader’s attention. “Buy my book,” doesn’t capture people’s attention. An interesting interview or article does.
Most interviews are bland, so do something that captures the reader. Here is the average interview:
I started writing when I was twelve. I love reading historical romance. I write every day. Blah blah…
Doesn’t that just make you want to buy the book? Don’t put readers to sleep in an interview. Come up with anecdotes that are interesting, witty, or unusual. Engage the reader.
With just a little effort on your part, you can do more for yourself than a publisher can do. Build your readership with relevant articles and then use Facebook, Google+, and Twitter to alert readers to your work. Use hashtags to make your tweet visible to conversations of interest.
Use Humor, practical advice, and other things that draw people to your site. Then plug your book. A plug is not selfish advertising. If I’ve given something to the reader that took my own time and effort, and I provided that for free, it’s not presumptuous to share my book as well. Marketing for authors is a relationship with the reader. The attitude is: I’ve given, and if you see the value, feel free to give back to me. Then I will also have given to the reader through my book, and some readers will give back as they see the need. Readers give back by telling others about the book, emailing the author, posting a review, etc.
Blogging as a marketing tool.
Developing a healthy blog following is one of the best marketing tools for new writers. Blogging only works if you have the time to dedicate yourself to producing relevant articles. Visitors come back when they know content is being updated. The best thing about blogging is that you are targeting people who are interested in what you are writing. By default, it becomes target marketing. When I make a new post, I can see my book sales respond. It won’t make me rich, but it does draw in new readers as others share articles with their networks.
On my ‘paid for blog tour’, I watched my sales and saw very little response to any of the blogs that hosted me. There were exceptions, but for most blogs, I wondered if anyone knew the blog existed. The truth is that some may have high readership, but not the type of readers that are interested in my book. The blogs that did generate a response were the blogs that I would already consider as being in my extended network. By extended network I’m referring to bloggers that are connected to organizations where I can already connect with them. A blog outside of my extended network probably won’t benefit my book sales. A Christian fiction book won’t appeal to readers of blogs not related to this genre.
Here’s a valuable tip to evaluate your blogging. Connect your blog to either Google Analytics, or Woopra. Both are free tracking tools. It helps to evaluate reader interest in the types of articles you are posting. If you’re posting articles that people aren’t reading, it may be something to re-evaluate. Making posts that are focused on updating close friends and family are fine, but the blog won’t become a tool for drawing in readers. Experiment and find the voice of your blog. Find something that focuses on your interest and appeals to readers. If you have tracking, you can identify articles that people are responding to. Then you can shape your blog into a theme that is both relevant to readers, and interesting to you. Readers who like your voice in the blogging world will probably like the voice found in your books. Then you are targeting the right kinds of readers without blasting them with shameless self-promotion.
The best dollar you’ll spend this year.
I hope this is something that will save you money. A publicist can be costly. Do the work yourself and use some of these ideas to move your personal marketing ahead.
Now that I’ve saved you $800 or more, feel free to donate .99 cents. In return, I’ll donate a book to your kindle titled, I Called Him Dancer. It’s also available on Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and other e-reader formats.