Stefanie Hartman In The Press

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On Publication Day, Feel Big, Start Small

Posted on 20 Sep 2011 | Author Stefanie | Comments No comments | Tags

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Here is the fifth great installment I found on book tours, from a company that is closing their doors soon, so I thought I would pass it on to you guys! I like the title Kevin used for this blog post he wrote – ‘Feel Big and Start Small’  He is right creating a book is a huge accomplishment.  This article Kevin wrote is about starting locally and he gears these articles to a published hardcover or paperback book, but don’t forget that in this day and age your publishing day can actually be for a physical book or it may be an eBook.

I’m all for a physical published book, but I also know that sometimes you may want to start smaller and begin with an eBook format, it’s a great way to show a prospective publisher how well your book is doing.  But either way you go the most important aspect is the campaign you create behind the book.  There is an exercise at the bottom for you.   Enjoy.

All the best,
Stefanie
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Book Promotion: On Publication Day, Feel Big, Start Small.

So far in our series, we’ve discussed everything you want in your knapsack before beginning the adventure of promoting your new book. You have the tools now–how to summarize your book in a sentence, how to start building groups of allies and supporters. Your vision is optimized as that of a thoughtful, grateful, organized author, available and ready for the challenge.

The challenge is here. It’s the day your book is published. Perhaps it’s now on the shelves at the nearest bookstore or library. Perhaps you’ve self-published and a few boxes of your masterpiece are waiting in your den, ready for the world to meet them. Either way, the theoretical part of our trip is over. Now it’s time to put feet to pavement and go.

Feel Big, Start Small.

Get happy and feel big about it. Publishing a book is a huge task and you did it. Celebrate. Take pictures of yourself with your book and email those photos to everyone. Take the day off and eat a lot of chocolate. Dance in wide circles. You’re an author now. Embrace it. For about 48 hours.

Now let’s get to work.

Your first inclination on Pub Day may be. “Here is my book and the world needs to know about it now! Where’s Oprah’s number?” You’re proud, you feel unstoppable. You want your book to soar, even though its just peeked its head out of the egg.

A natural instinct but an incorrect one. Writers fortunate enough to have a publicist working on their behalf can count on that publicist to submit their book to the largest and sexiest media outlets. No matter what the odds, it’s their job to aim that high.

It is not yours. As an author working on your own behalf, mailing review copies to those places and hoping for a miracle is as long a shot as it sounds. It’s the equivalent of taking a $500 savings bond and reinvesting in lottery tickets. And lottery tickets are a demoralizing pipe dream you can ill-afford.

But but but Oprah? Jon Stewart? The New York Times?

Let me tell you something about all of those places.

  • The overwhelming majority of books covered on major national media come from major national publishers. Unfair but true. There are lots of reasons for this (pre-established relationships, geographic proximity) and exactly none of them are going away. So think long and hard: Is it a good use of your time to make 15 phone calls to Charlie Rose’s producer when Charlie Rose doesn’t pay attention to your kind of book anyway?
    Major national media outlets are usually the culmination not the beginning of a sustained promotional effort.
  • The New York Times does not typically “discover” new books. Rather they test the winds, see what smaller media (like local radio, blogs, regional newspapers) are already discussing and from that determine which books have momentum that merits greater coverage. Often they pick up on books already creating their own attention. So aiming that big at first is like trying to do the long jump from a dead stop. You need to generate your own momentum first.
  • The number of major media outlets that actually make a difference when it comes to book sales are shrinking. By the day. So it’s not only a longshot. It’s a longshot whose bullseye is getting smaller.

You are one person with one person’s time and energy. No promotional effort is perfect (there will be, as with anything, wasted time), but you want yours to be as efficient as possible. So just as you begin a meal by what’s in the pantry instead of flying the salad in from Shanghai…

When beginning book promotion, think small and local first.

Remember your list of allies from Part II? Get that out now. You should have already been touch with these folks and asked them how they can help, either by buying a book, recommending it or asking you to speak to their church group, guest post on their blog etc. If you’ve already done this, now is the time to send out a reminder. Be succinct, excited and appreciative. These are people that love you and wish to help your book out. If they don’t know how, give them small, specific instructions. “Can I speak to your book club” not “can you help me?”

If they are unwilling and jerky about it, find new friends.

Think of this initial batch of opportunities as building blocks. Had a great event at your kids school? Ask whomever invited you for the name of another school across town who’d want to the same. Friends read your book and love it? Ask her to buy another and give it as a gift. Don’t worry about rejection. You have a book to promote. Worry about not sounding grateful for the opportunity to do again what everybody loved the first time.

Opportunity multiplies itself and word gets around. Do a few great events, interviews. Knock their socks off at a book club or in blog posts and people will want more. A solid hour of quality entertainment is one of our time-starved, information soaked societies’ most precious commodities.

If you’re initial list isn’t bearing fruit, it’s time to expand out a little.

Local.

A region of any size has a local literary community, usually centered around book stores, colleges and universities, the “Readings” section of the arts calendar of the local newspaper, and writing groups. How involved are you in yours? When your town has a book festival who is invited to present? When you Google “Authors from MyTown” what names come up?

You’re an author now. You can be one of those names. If you are not already participating in your community now is the time to start.

  • Beginning attending at least a few readings a month. When you start to see the same faces, introduce yourself and say “I’ve seen you around here a bunch. Are you a regular? What other readings do you go to?” As long as you are polite, ask good questions and listen more than talk, no one will run the other way.
  • Volunteer at the local reading series/literary festival. These things are chronically understaffed and need help. Might seem like a lousy use of your time right now (I have a book to promote you dolt!) but literary communities all need enthusiastic, committed friends. And when it comes to dolling out spots at readings or events, seeking contributors to an anthology or tipping off members of the media about important players in the community, that’s who they turn to first.
  • Attend meetings or join a local writers group. Remember, you’ve just published a book. You’re further along than most. You have wisdom to share.
  • Offer to write something for a local publication. The big daily newspaper probably won’t be interested but a local blog or literary magazine might and is in continual need of good writing. Do not pitch them a “I just wrote a book!” essay (which are a dime a dozen) but rather something related to your book. If you don’t know what, pick up their last three issues, see how local writers have contributed and craft a pitch accordingly.

It’s important to note here that, yes, you are promoting a book but no one will be receptive an author who begins every sentence with “as it says in my new book…” So while your community participation is not entirely altruistic, you are engaging in a fair swap of karma. You give to the community you would like to support you and your work.

The success of book promotion is largely a matter of momentum. One event/article/enthusiastic reader begets another. As human beings, we are predisposed to share things that make us happy. We’ll be talking about how to turn curious readers into happy ones in a future segment but for now remember this…

You will be discouraged, and you will have to keep going anyway.

Your emails will go unreturned. A school that liked your event won’t recommend you to another school. You’ll impress some readers and not others. There’s nothing to be done about this except keep going. It just is. If you don’t consider your books potential larger than a few rejections, who will?

We may first hear of books via giant national megaphones but they often make their bones at a very small, very local level. The local ambassadors of literary culture are pre-disposed to pay attention to books from their local community. That’s yours.  Do you know them do they know you? Are your friends on your books side and is your book making you new friends? Even at your most excited, most-world conquering “I’m-an-author-hear-me-roar,” begin your promotional efforts with what you can do.

Begin with where you are.

Exercise: What is your small, local plan for your book? Write up a quick list of 3-5 small, local things you can do and share it here in the comments section.

BookTour.com  launched a ten-part series on Book Promotion called “Everything you Wanted to Know about Book Promotion but were Afraid to Ask” written by CEO Kevin Smokler. Kevin has been advising authors and publishers on marketing and promotion for nearly a decade and has written and lectured on the topic throughout North America.

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