Category Archives: book publicity

Fear of exposure

I can’t count the times I’ve seen some great writing online but haven’t been able to reach the author, because the person’s email address wasn’t listed anywhere. A writer who wants to turn professional needs to provide some very straightforward biographical and contact information on his or her primary website. The writer’s most effective business card is the site used as a hub for the person’s online identity and writing-related activities.

For the sake of being taken seriously, a writer’s professional email address should use the writer’s professional name or business name. It’s possible to set up multiple email addresses for different purposes and direct all the email for those addresses to a single email inbox. Instructions for accomplishing this will vary depending on the email application being used.

It’s silly for a new author to make it difficult for a book reviewer, reporter, or event organizer to get in touch, yet many writers seem purposefully aloof online. They haven’t make the transition into the public sphere, where their potential readers might be found. Ridiculously, some of them are the same writers who, cloaked with anonymity, blame everyone but themselves for their failures at getting published, soliciting reviews, selling their books, and generating income. (Of course, being publicly obnoxious will have the same self-defeating results. Have they already realized something about themselves that’s better left hidden?)

Concerns about privacy are no small thing, but the ability of an author to attract publicity has a direct affect on the discoverability and sales of the author’s book. A book publisher can’t compensate for an author’s inability to connect to readers, or for the author’s inaccessibility to reporters, book critics, bloggers, librarians, producers, and event organizers who would help make those connections. Privacy has always been a tradeoff for fame.

peeking

(Photo courtesy of Ned Horton, Horton Web Design, Nashville, TN)

Writers who take the initiative gain an advantage

It’s difficult for new writers to comprehend that having a literary agent doesn’t mean the end of all rejections. When I’m able to persuade an acquiring editor to read a manuscript, the writer continues to face considerable competition. At the major U.S. publishing houses, each acquiring editor opts to read perhaps fifty or more manuscripts per year and selects from them maybe five or fewer that are published.

Lately, when manuscripts of equal quality are being evaluated, one factor that tends to tip the scales in favor of an acquisition is the author’s ability to help promote the title before and after it’s published. Publishers aren’t impressed with earnest promises; before investing, they look at what an author already has done to become familiar and interesting to readers.

Six years ago, when I started my agency, consideration of an author’s platform wasn’t as prevalent among publishers, but aspiring authors were learning how to use social media to their advantage. Now that a good percentage of creative writers are entrepreneurial, many editors view the absence of a platform (or the lack of an established readership, or name recognition, or whatever you choose to call it) as an additional reason to disqualify a manuscript and move on to those that have more potential to be profitable.

Some writers simply aren’t good at self-promotion, and it’s not something anyone can do for them. On the other hand, when a publicist at a publishing house and an author are able to collaborate easily—when they’re on the same page, so to speak, and the publicist doesn’t need to do much explaining—a successful book marketing campaign is far more likely.

Some writers excel at self-promotion, but their manuscripts aren’t superlative. What then? Is it easier and more cost-effective to fix an imperfect manuscript or to teach a writer how to make connections with readers? The jury’s still out on that question. I suspect that by the time I’m reading a query from an aspiring author, the individual already has reached his or her peak performance in both arenas and won’t be able to show much improvement. In other words, earnest promises don’t impress me. Evidence of self-initiative does.

Walt Whitman

(Detail of the entrance to the Detroit Public Library)

Still can’t stop talking about it: Get Known Before the Book Deal

Day 19: I sincerely wish I could stop talking about it. I wish writers who send me queries had read Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal and implemented the strategies she outlines in the book. I wish I didn’t need to tell so many prospective clients to back up and learn exactly what publishers and readers expect of them in 2014. I wish I were a fairy godmother with the power to transmit knowledge, skills, and business sense with the flick of a glitter-spangled wand. I’m weary of repeating myself. I’m whining today.

GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina KatzHowever, there is good news! There’s an upside of my frustration, which I assure you is shared by at least a few other agents, as well as book editors and publishers, not to mention successful authors who frequently are asked how they got so lucky. The bright side is that the unbelievably small percentage of writers who apply—that is, put into practice rather than just reading—Christina Katz’s advice can achieve an enormous advantage over the larger number of writers who don’t.

Think about that. Did you just feel the power shifting?

Christina doesn’t promise instant results, and she doesn’t say it’s easy when it’s not. No one ever truly masters self-promotion in a turbulent market, and the mere attempt takes a lot of time. More hard work is exactly what average writers or wannabes will not confront. They believe they should be finished with the work part when they put the last words on the last pages of their manuscripts. They’re ready for the cake, punch, and applause precisely when the going really gets tough. C’mon. Take advantage of their mistakes.

Writers need to exploit every possible asset in order to stand out among thousands of contenders and to get their books noticed among the incredible quantity of titles now frictionlessly available to readers. Those readers easily can choose similar content in other media, often at less expense. Writers who are aware of their competition, respect readers, perfect their manuscripts, consider their art a career, and demonstrate their ability to engage their intended audience, well…

We know who they are.

Full disclosure

Christina Katz is my friend, but I recommend her book because the advice in it is so good. Chuck Sambuchino wrote a similar manual called Create Your Writer Platform, but then I must admit that Chuck’s a friend, too. There’s also Amanda Luedeke’s ebook, The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform. I’ve met Amanda. I like and respect her. She’s a dynamo. Several other books cover this very topic, and some of these resources are likely to be available at the nearest library. By the way, my old neighbor Bob Robertson-Boyd developed the WorldCat interface that shows the closest library where a copy of a particular book can be borrowed.

Musical accompaniment

Believe it or not, I do have a heart. It gets crumpled a lot, to the tune of “The Laugh of Recognition.” Over the Rhine are some of my favorite musicians.

BookADay-The Borough Press

Dusting off the popular list of book reviewers

The month of March was a slog, weather-wise, which motivated me to take care of boring chores like fixing the broken links on my list of Book reviewers on the Web. It and a few other posts on this old blog get lots of page views. I imagine readers nagging me to update it periodically.

Book reviewers on the webOne visitor mentioned that my book reviewers list was confusing or disorganized, so to improve navigation I’ve added a table of contents linking directly to each section, or type, of reviewers. If you use the Book reviewers on the Web list often, please let me know how I might make it more user-friendly.

As penance for channeling so many pitches to the reviewers on my list, let me urge anyone who’s planning to ask for a book to be reviewed to study each review outlet’s guidelines before submitting. Ignorance is no excuse for spam.

For anyone who’s never written a pitch to a media outlet, Rick Frishman gives excellent, clear directions in Advanced Review Copies of A Book Being Published at the book marketing blog Beneath the Cover.

Lastly, for those who aren’t do-it-yourselfers, I offer a long and random list of publicists who can be hired to do the work.

Penny Sansevieri: “Why having a platform may be the only way to sell books”

Penny Sansevieri
Yesterday, I linked you to a blogpost written by a publisher who explained what he’d learned about selling the books he’s been publishing for 35 years.

Today, with book authors in mind, I’d like to recommend a Huffington Post article written by publicist Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, who says that “in order to gain any kind of attention for your book, you’re going to have to have a platform.” I agree. Take a look at Sansevieri’s description of the basic components of an author platform and trust her when she says, “Without it, yours may be the best book that no one has ever read.”

Christina KatzMy friend Christina Katz, author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, has been a trailblazer on the topic of author platforms. I’m glad I met her before I started my agency, so I could learn what to expect of my clients and how to prepare them for their books’ publication.

A few months after I established my business, a young editor at HarperCollins told me he would not look at the work of a writer who hadn’t already established an online presence. In the years since, other acquiring editors have followed suit. They’ve found the author platform requirement a quick and dirty, not to mention objective and reasonable, means of eliminating quite a few manuscripts from consideration.

These days, I can’t consider taking on a new client who hasn’t demonstrated a capability for self-promotion, online and IRL. I still use the terms online and IRL for clarity, but I no longer perceive a distinction. To me, they’re one and the same.

I once thought I’d be able to teach every new client the platform development techniques I’ve learned from Christina Katz, Penny Sansevieri, and other book marketing experts. Instead, I found that it’s impractical to try to instill the motivation to make time, the competitive drive, the emotional stamina, and the willingness to learn, all of which are required of a writer who needs to build a readership. When I’m considering whether to work with a writer, I need proof of those characteristics.

Martin Shepard: “Selling books depends on reaching potential readers”

Over at The Cockeyed Pessimist, Martin Shepard, co-publisher with his wife, Judith, at The Permanent Press, has summarized what they’ve “learned over the past 35 years when it comes to promoting and selling books.” Read his post to pick up on some best practices.

The archives of The Cockeyed Pessimist’s blog contain some fascinating and fervent accounts of the publisher’s frustration with big media. Good insights for anyone in the book business.

Book publicity and marketing know-how, courtesy of Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum-MediaConnect.com

Brian Feinblum
Chief Marketing Officer, Media Connect

I invite you to enjoy these recent book marketing blog posts that may be of use to you:

25 Ways for Authors to Break Through & Establish a Legacy

Can You Market & Promote Books Like TV’s Dexter?

Evolving as a Book Marketer & Publicist

Winning the Battle Over Internet Book Piracy

26 Ways to Save Barnes & Noble

Do You Market Your Books Doggy Style?

Does Your Book Blog Do These 16 Things?

Writers, Read This: You Are Marketers

Why Authors—and Publicists & Publishers—Need A Therapist

If you need assistance in promoting your book, please keep Media Connect in mind. Brian Feinblum invites you to consult MediaConnect.com and a Publishers Weekly article about his firm. He can be contacted at Brian.Feinblum@finnpartners.com or 212-583-2718, and you can find more of his advice for book authors @ThePRExpert and his BookMarketingBuzzBlog.

Reprinted with permission