Five Ways to Embrace Marketing Your Book (Guest Post)

Today is guest post day! Client, author (LOSING THE LIGHT, Simon and Schuster/Atria Books 2016), and social media expert Andrea Dunlop is here to talk about how to embrace marketing your book. Don’t panic! She has all the answers. (And if you like what you read she is now taking on clients herself as a consultant.)

Having worked with authors for over a decade—first in publicity, now in social media—I know how reluctant many feel about marketing their own work. And as a newly-minted author myself, I can completely empathize. I often see authors with new books out—a time that should be exciting and celebratory—wracked with misery, guilt, and even outright panic. A little of this is expected, just as with any big life event (weddings, births, new jobs) it can be unsettling. But often the level of despair leaves authors unable to enjoy their momentous accomplishment. And it bums me out! In fact, it’s become part of my personal mission to change their (and perhaps your) perspective on what it means to launch a book.

I have some insight in to what’s beneath this misery. For one thing, it’s such hard work to get a book published. For most of us, it takes years and years of polishing work (only to throw it out to write something better), withstanding rejection after rejection, and struggling to hold onto our faith in ourselves. To be then told, after finally having a book published, that this is only the beginning is something like being told upon completing a marathon, that wow, that’s great, but actually the race you’re in is an ultra marathon, so you’ve actually got another forty miles to go. This is not what they trained for. Compounding this is the fact is that publishers—for a whole of host of reasons—are often not as clear as they might be about the whole marketing process.

But I promise you, marketing does not have to be miserable. Here’s how:

  1. Put Yourself in the Driver’s Seat: When it comes to marketing your book there is a lot you can do. Which is good because what you do is the only thing you have any control over. And trust me, it will feel better to have control over something once the book is out. So what does that entail? Organizing your contacts and sending books with handwritten notes to anyone influential, learning how to use social media tools and using them strategically, rallying your friends and family for support, paying in person visits to local booksellers to sign stock, connecting with fellow authors to cross-promote, visiting book clubs. The list is endless. And yes, I know that not all (or even any) of the things on that list might be within your comfort zone. Welcome to life in the 27th However, some of that discomfort can be mitigated by point two.
  2. Focus on What’s Fun: Yes, I know, you just want to write your books. I get it. But that’s not the race you’re in my friend. You already sailed past that mile marker. Here’s the thing, there are a million things you can do to promote your book in the modern landscape, and all of them can be effective if used consistently and well. The exercise metaphor is especially apt here. Maybe I already lost you on the long-distance running front (I’m with you there, respect to marathon runners but no thank you); but we all know exercise is one of the best things we can do for ourselves—and much like marketing, there are a million ways to do it. From yoga to tennis to boxing to dancing: any of it will get you fit, you find what you like to do and use that. Go in with an open mind: don’t assume you’ll hate Twitter if you’ve never used it for more than a day for instance, and don’t assume an idea won’t work because you haven’t seen it done before. Bestselling author E. Lynn Harris built up his original fan base by taking his book to Atlanta beauty salons. Genius! Get creative. Once you figure out something that works, double down.
  3. Have a Plan: One of the quickest routes to misery is trying to market by doing all the things, especially if you started off doing none of the things. This is why you need not only marketing tactics (social media tools, in person promotion, media placement) but a marketing strategy (which tools you’ll use, why and when and how much, who is your target audience) complete with a way to measure what is and is not working. What I often see is authors going about their own piece of the marketing efforts in a completely ad hoc and disorganized way and then quitting in frustration: this is why I often hear things like “Social media doesn’t work/ sell books”. This is like a person who wants to lose weight but refuses to do any meal planning or step on a scale saying “diets don’t work.”
  4. Understand the Roles: this is an area I see authors struggle with a lot. This is not by any fault of theirs. Those of us who’ve worked in publishing for a long time can forget how absolutely byzantine the industry is to outsiders. So authors go in blind: and this often results in not understanding who is taking care of exactly what. I wrote in depth about this here, but a key point is to remember that no one on your team actually works for you but with you. Your publicist, editors, agent, etc. are all working on other books simultaneously and are juggling those competing priorities. Guess who only has one book to worry about? You! Come in with a collaborative attitude (yes, even with your hired guns) and it will go better.
  5. Try to Detach: Your book is not your baby and most it’s most definitely not Sound harsh? It’s said with love, because I know it can feel like both of those things. But it isn’t. The agreement that you enter into the world when you publish a book is necessarily one of letting go. Once you have a book published, it is loose in the world to be judged on its own merits; it’s not yours to defend or protect any longer. The worst misery I’ve seen authors go through is when they take everything that happens to their book personally. They take the reviews personally, the marketing plan personally, and every little piece of criticism or indifference the world has to offer them becomes a critique on their very humanity. Miserable? You bet. And yet authors absolutely cling to this stance as though they somehow become lesser artists if they give up the attachment. But from my perspective it’s for naught: save that energy for the creative process, don’t waste it on the marketing process where it doesn’t belong. The book is already done. Do what you need to protect yourself and your sanity (you choose whether you read reviews or not) so that you can write the next book, and the next after that.

Need help with your social media? Email me. Follow me on Twitter.

Advertisements

4 Publishing Industry “Rules” You Can Break (and 6 You MUST follow!)

In publishing rules are just guidelines. We give you these guidelines to help you (believe it or not). We’re not trying to make your life harder; we are trying to show you how to succeed. These guidelines are what you should generally follow, but there are times you can break the rules.

A great skill for a writer to have is to know which you can bend and adapt, and which needs must be met. Read on…

4 RULES YOU CAN BREAK

  • Anything that is contradicted by multiple people at top levels – Have your go-to sources (Writer’s Digest, ME!, KidLit411, Debutante Ball, Writers in the Storm, Pub Crawl Blog, Query Shark, Jane Friedman, Girl Friday Productions, Susan Spann etc) and trust those who have years of industry experience at the top levels–we all agree on the important things. However, there will be things we don’t agree on. Therefore, trust your own gut sometimes or go with 1 trusted source (aka if you are querying a certain agent go with their guidelines, not some XYZ site that’s right 60% of the time). The most important thing is that you’re clear and concise–so if you bend the rules make sure you’re making yourself more clear, not adding complications.
  • “One Size Fits All” social media advice – If anyone is telling you there is one single way to build an author platform or brand they’re wrong. Recognizing and growing your brand will always be authentic to you. Just be yourself online, and be consistent about it. Emulate the frequency or interaction of others that you admire online, but develop your own voice. (More on platform/branding below.)
  • MFAs are the only route to getting published – You don’t need one. If you have one that’s great! But no one needs one to get published. Some people like the structure and built-in critique system. But you can recreate that outside of a school program by reading a lot and with writing groups and critique partners.
  • Marketing and publicity that began in the ice age of publishing – We are working in a very different world. The good thing about where we are right now is that writers can take chances on things! Cover reveals, price point drops, merchandise that is unique to your book. Be agile! Be forward thinking! You have full permission to question all marketing and publicity advice–but, here’s the kicker, you have to try everything and you have to throw yourself into it. You don’t get to complain that publishing is a different world and do nothing. You get to say “hey, things are different and discoverability has changed–so what am I doing as a writer to find my readership?” Finding your audience is up to YOU, not your publisher but they will help. Relying on what a publisher has done in the past shouldn’t be good enough for you, you can’t assume anything. You need a fresh plan for your book and a team that understands what your unique goals are. Everyone wants to sell books, your team will be on board for that, but it’s the ways we’re doing it that have changed.

If you understand why the rules are there, sometimes it’s okay to bend them to make a point. But you must know why the rule is there in the first place. It’s like satire. If you’re going to satirize something you have to know 1) what it is you’re playing with 2) what satire is.

6 RULES YOU MUST FOLLOW

  • Spelling and grammar – This should be easy enough in the manuscript, but sometimes writers like to get cute with puns in titles. (Please avoid! Puns in titles makes everyone question themselves and sales/booksellers think there is a typo.)
  • General length guidelines – Your adult manuscript should be between 70-90k words; if you can’t follow these rules then there’s something wrong with the structure of your book. Reasons it might be longer than 90: SF/F. However, even debut SF/F should try to be 90k because it gets really expensive to print (therefore the cost of the book goes up) and translate long works (you won’t get foreign rights deals) which makes it an uphill battle for debut authors starting a career.
  • Yes, you must get on social media – There are no excuses for a contemporary writer not to be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Tumblr. Join the conversation! Learn more about the industry and your market. Unsure about social media? Read my post about building an online community and this one about recognizing your brand.
  • Communicate with your team – Rebelling against the establishment isn’t going to get your book published well. A great book might get published, but an author that’s willing to go above and beyond to promote themselves and work with their team will be a shining star. Rebelling against what your agent, editor or publicist needs from you will stop them from wanting to help you. Be a willing partner. Tell us what you’re up to and let’s work as a team.
  • If you’re writing non-fiction platform is a MUST MUST MUST – There is absolutely no way to get non-fiction published in a big way without a platform. Agents don’t look at non fiction unless it comes with a sizeable audience and a demonstrable expert. (Hint: Here’s what we want in a platform. And here are my important platform secrets that you should know from reading my blog.) Fiction authors: platform isn’t a requirement, but understanding that you’ll need to grow one eventually is helpful at early stages.
  • Submission guidelines – there is no way you’re going to get an agent’s attention by ignoring or modifying their guidelines to suit you better or try to stand out. The ones that stand out are the ones that follow the guidelines and do it well!

Yes, these rules are there for a reason…to help you get published!

Q: What other “rules” are you still confused about?

Things I Wish I Knew: Q&A with Author Andrea Dunlop

http://books.simonandschuster.com/Losing-the-Light/Andrea-Dunlop/9781501109423

http://books.simonandschuster.com/Losing-the-Light/Andrea-Dunlop/9781501109423Hi, all. I’m starting a new series on the blog called “Things I Wish I Knew.” I’ll be featuring some of my clients talking about their book deals, their writing careers and their platforms. I’ll also be talking to some industry professionals too. “Things I Wish I Knew” is going to be about everything from things people actually wish they knew when they began their career (as a writer or publishing professional) or a way to reflect back on how far they’ve come. Let me know what you think of the new series in the comments.

Now to our first feature: my client Andrea Dunlop. Her first novel LOSING THE LIGHT is in stores tomorrow! Buy it here.

Debut author Andrea Dunlop has a background in publicity and marketing in the publishing industry. She’s currently the Executive Director of Social Media and Marketing for Girl Friday Productions in Seattle. Helpful when you become a debut author, right?! Not only does she know what the industry expects from writers, she has also assisted other debuts launch their own books. However, knowing the industry side of things is a Catch-22 when you’re an author.

One of my favorite parts of this interview is Andrea talking about publisher’s internal and external responsibilities: “I think it helps to understand that no one at the publisher actually works for you. They have responsibilities to you, sure, but they don’t ultimately answer to you. They work for the publisher, who has many other priorities and concerns that have nothing to do with your book.”

Read on…

What do you wish you knew about expectations during the publishing process?

I was pretty well-prepared in terms of expectations from all the years I’ve worked in publishing. I definitely knew enough to keep them in check, namely. From the time you and I sold the book (about a year and a half ago), I’ve really tried to come from a place of making plans, rather than having expectations. Mostly because the former is more active, more about what I could do than what was going to happen to me (or not). To be frank, whatever expectations I allowed myself to have about what getting published would mean for me, after a decade of working in the industry, were pretty minimal. On the one hand, simply getting published fulfills a lifelong dream, on the other I know enough to understand that it’s neither a panacea for all of my other problems, nor is it a guarantee of future success. That said, my experience thus far with you, with Atria, with Booksparks, and with all the other fellow authors and friends who make up my support system for this book has been wonderful. I know exactly how rare it is for things to go as well as they have with my book: working with my editor Sarah was a blast and went smoothly, the first cover I saw, I loved and everyone in-house—the social media, marketing, and publicity folks, the sales team, the publisher—has been a dream to work with. I never imagined that the book would go into a second printing before going on-sale. I won’t lie and tell you I don’t have any nerves or fears about the book coming out, but really I’m mostly excited and grateful to everyone who’s worked so hard on the book thus far.

You came from the publishing side to the author side, how did that help your understanding of how to be a good collaborator? 

I think it helps to understand that no one at the publisher actually works for you. They have responsibilities to you, sure, but they don’t ultimately answer to you. They work for the publisher, who has many other priorities and concerns that have nothing to do with your book.

This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised (well you wouldn’t be surprised, but other folks might) how many authors seem to be confused on this matter. You can expect support, you can expect good communication, and to be treated with respect by your team—but ultimately, it’s your book. You need to show up for it. And by that I do not mean that you need to micromanage your book: let the pros do what they’re good at and figure out where you can be most helpful. I’m in a great spot with my background, because I knew what to ask for and what to just plan to take on myself or use my advance to pay someone else to do. I went into it thinking “Here’s what I’m going to do, anything my publisher does is gravy.” And they’ve done a lot! So, it’s been great.


What is the best part about being a debut?

Connecting with other authors. I’ve been on one side of the fence for all my life: as a reader, then in my day job as a publicist, now social media and marketing director. I’ve known lots of authors, obviously, but getting to be one is just its own singular joy. Getting support, getting blurbs from people whose work I so admire—Laurie Frankel, Katie Crouch, Courtney Maum, Miranda Beverly Whittemore, Taylor Jenkins Reid—I mean, what could be cooler than that? So many people have reached out and have been so genuine and supportive. It took me a long time to get here, it feels good to have arrived at last, especially since the natives are so welcoming.

What advice would you give to other debut authors beginning the journey?

Anyone who works with authors knows that the lead-up to a book’s publication—particularly a debut—can be joyful or miserable, sometimes both in the same day. You don’t have control over a lot of things: what happens at the publisher, whether your publicist is going through your divorce or your editor moves to another house six months before pub. But there is a great deal, in this day and age however, that you do have control over. Learn about social media, learn about the industry, invest in your own career by hiring whatever help you need. I recognize that not everyone has a decade of experience going into their debut the way I do. But there are so many good resources out there which authors can learn from—including this very blog: Jane Friedman’s is another essential, there are a dozen more I could name. Do what you can, enjoy the moment, and live to fight another day. Being an author is a lifelong occupation. This is not an industry for the faint of heart, so decide you’re not going to be that.

What are you reading right now?

My TBR pile is an ever expanding monster that I co-exist with happily. Right now, I’m reading Flood Girls by Richard Fifield, another February debutante. It’s about a woman who returns to her tiny, completely bonkers Montana hometown to try to make amends for a couple of years of damaging shenanigans. It’s super funny and weird, I’m loving it.

4 Things You Don’t Know About Traditional Publishing Until You’re In It

To all you aspiring authors out there doing research about what’s in your future: this post is for you.

It’s hard to know what your traditional publishing path is going to look like until you’re in it. Lucky for you, three of my wonderful authors (with books coming out this summer) share their wisdom about what the publishing process has been like for them. Read on for the specifics about patience, publicity and more…

faking perfect mechanicalFrom Rebecca Phillips, author of forthcoming FAKING PERFECT (Kensington Teen 2015)

I didn’t anticipate the incredible amount of time and detail involved in traditional publishing. You have all these different people working with you to make your book the best it can be. It takes a long time, and you need a lot of patience, but it’s an amazing experience overall.

SecretsLakeRoad_cover_hi resFrom Karen Katchur, author of forthcoming THE SECRETS OF LAKE ROAD (St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne Books 2015)

The biggest thing I learned was that copy edits can really mess with your voice. They need to be reviewed carefully and can be almost as hard as content edits. Even the simplest change in verb tense can change the reader’s experience and it may not be for the better. But, (and this is a very big but!), if you’re going to break the grammar rules, you better know why you’re breaking them and your reasons for breaking them better be good.

Maybe In Another Life_FinalFrom Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of forthcoming MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE (Atria 2015)FOREVER, INTERRUPTED and AFTER I DO

The biggest thing that surprised me is how much work goes into publicizing your own book. Writing the novel is only half of your job — making sure people hear about it is the other half.

The other thing I didn’t realize is just how many wonderful friends I’d make. I always thought of being an author as a sort of solitary job but I’ve met some of the most interesting and sincere people through my work. Whether it’s getting to know other authors, meeting interesting agents and editors, or hearing from readers, being an active part of the book community is definitely one of the best perks of the job.