This is the first year of Thursday add-on material for PPWC. I chose Track 3: Giving it Wings (Publicity, Promotion, Marketing).
I have mixed feelings about the day.
The track itself, I think, was good, sound stuff. We even wrote trial press releases and gave interviews. But I talked myself into listening to the wrong stuff later in the afternoon, so I didn’t get everything I wanted. Lesson learned.
The Basics of Marketing:
One of the speakers, Sue Mitchell, kept telling us, “Become your own cottage industry.”
In traditional publishing, the publishing house coordinated all PR efforts, including marketing, advertising, and coop projects between authors in bookstores. Alas, most authors don’t get to go the traditional publishing route. However, nowdays, the publishing house handles just the editing, the cover, and distribution – the rest of it is up to the author.
It’s important to start early with publishing and marketing, so you can assure potential agents you know where you want to take your book and how. Your initial marketing materials should include a press kit with your log line, a 1-page synopsis, and a 5-page (i.e., more detailed) synopsis. Keep your press kit available at all times. Also helpful are a publicity photo and review copies (when you get them).
Then it’s time to start considering where you want to start marketing. One way is to find an author you like or who writes the same things you do, then use the same marketing techniques. Another is to research what markets are available locally, and spread out from there. Advertising can be coordinated with other authors.
Types of marketing:
Interviews – Practice in the mirror or on a camcorder. You should sound relaxed, informed, and competent even in the face of attacks, incompetence, and lack of preparation. Also, make eye contact with the camera, not the interviewer.
TV – Various news programs are always looking for content. Public access is an option.
Print – Newspapers (including independents), magazines.
Radio – More talk radio is on air than ever before (including on the internet).
Internet – Try mailing lists to register people for updates, promotions, and giveaways. Use blogs, vlogs to build a following and fan base before your book ever comes out.
The key is to find out what kind of author you want to be. Do you want to be an overnight bestseller or earn out your first printing and get a second? Your goals should drive your marketing efforts.
The basic elements of a marketing plan:
Your press kit (see above) is your marketing overview. Your marketing plan should also contain:
- A description of your next project. To help establish yourself as an emerging artist with a promising career, know what you’re going to work on next and be able to describe it and where you are on it.
- Your author bio. Include anything that will help an agent or editor decide what to do with your book (which line of a publishing house, which editors, etc.), anything that makes you more credible and interesting as the author of that book. Example: If you’re writing a military history and you used to be in the military, mention that. Include publishing credits.
- Your customers and audience. Being able to narrow your potential audience down to a core will save the publishing house’s marketing group time. Saying, “My audience is men, women, and – in fact – children of all ages” tells them nothing.
- Your competition. Sue said, “If you have no competition, you have no product.”
- An action plan. Include your objectives (goals, like pre-sales and additional print runs), strategies (author positioning, book positioning, establishing yourself as an authority on the subject), and tactics (press releases, author tours, reviews, volunteering, etc.).
A press release should have an angle, a purpose, and a goal or result and should not be a simple cry for attention. Press releases have a specific format that you customize to fit your needs. There are a lot of good examples of press releases online. For example. you can use PRWeb to search for and track response to press releases.
Press releases should contain:
- Your name/firm.
- Phone number, e-mail, and website contact information.
HEADLINE (the most important part of a press release).
- The date, the date of the event, or the date until which to hold the release (or “For immediate release”).
- The location of the event, if applicable.
- The headline should be pithy, short, active, and capture all important information.
- Being a headline, it should be in noun + verb format (e.g., “Local Author Makes Good” vs. “Booksigning”).
- The lead sentence should include the who/what/when/where/why/how information.
- Next section of the copy should expound on or explain the lead sentence and include any quotes (keep in mind, the quotes will probably get cut if the press release is published).
Standard information about the author, history, organization, etc.
End the press release with “-30-” or “###” to indicate no more pages follow. If another page does follow (but probably shouldn’t; the release should be short), start the page with “(Add1)” and end it with “-30-” or “###”.
Press releases should be customized for each release.
We wrote practice press releases for (fictional) events. I now want a book signing/reading at a brewery, with a special on blue beer. I bet some of the local breweries would at least consider it, especially if it was during a First Friday, which is a local arts/culture walk downtown, in Old Colorado City, and Manitou Springs.
The internet has a plethora of marketing possibilities. Here are some:
- Youtube. Book trailers, vlogs, interviews (remember to get rights to post any TV interviews you do).
- Podcasts and web radio.
- Newspaper A&E editors with blogs.
- Blogs. Use free software from Blogger, WordPress, Flickr, OpenSource, SourceForge, Joomla!, Drupal, b2Evolution, TypePad, etc.
Make sure you’re not giving away your first rights to your writing projects for free – unless you’re doing it on purpose. Posting something on the internet can count as “first rights,” so don’t post anything you plan to publish elsewhere.
That being said, if you’re going to have a website, you’re going to need content. While you can publish very small portions of your work (personally, I go by the guidelines for fair use), most of your content should be material relates to but isn’t the work itself.
Deb Courtney noted that once you post something on the internet, you cannot simply “take it down.” Any number of websites record every page on the internet…regularly (for example, see the Wayback Machine).
Several people asked how to drive traffic to their websites. The answer was there’s no easy answer; you have to 1) network and 2) hustle. Ron Heimbecher noted he was using a group of websites to act as “rabbit holes” for his current project.
Marketing for Pitchers
At this point, we split into two groups, “marketing for pitchers” and “marketing for those with published books.”
Sue Mitchell recommended pitchers put together what she calls a “Pitch One Sheet,” a one-page sheet with all the information you need during a pitch session.
- Log line (a one-line summary of the book).
- A one-paragraph explanation of what the book’s about.
- Your ideas about market (customer, audience, genre, what authors/books this is like, etc.).
- Bio, including why you’re the best person to write the book, writing credits, professional associations, and what else you’re working on.
The rest of the session turned into a Q&A about pitching, which was disappointing – I’d just gone to the April Write Brain on Tuesday (about pitching). I wish I’d joined the other group, but I kept hoping we’d get back on track, and I was too embarrassed (I mean, no published book to market) to get up and switch. However, Ron Heimbecher was talking to the other group, and I’m confident that I can contact him with any questions I have.
Other interesting points covered:
- If you’re asked about the ending, just tell it – don’t tell the editor or agent to buy the book!
- The type of marketing help you can get from your publishers is sometimes determined by the size of the press. Large presses have more resources – which they use on big-name authors. Small presses have fewer resources – but more attention to give. Just make sure your press can register an ISBN for you (thus allowing you to distribute the book in other places than the press’s website).
- Talk to your agent about your marketing plan to help set your timelines.
- Review copies often must be sent 90 days or more ahead of the desired date in order for reviewers to meet their publication deadlines. If you’re not sure how to submit a review copy, send a query first.
- If you have an agent, talk to them about short stories you intend to submit – they may know of markets and editors who are looking for what you’re writing.
I will try to post links to the interviews, which went really well – informative, confident, calm under fire (at times), and sometimes even funny.
More conference tomorrow…