Tireless, Creative Promotion
It happens almost every time I travel. I fall behind on processing the steady steam of magazines which come to my home. I read a wide variety of publications and look for story ideas and information about publishing. While reading through the January 30th issue of Forbes, I found a fascinating article called Promote It Yourself (thankfully also online so follow the link). The subtitle which caught my attention read, “With book sales flat, authors find creative ways to pitch their offerings.”
Forbes illustrated this article with a familiar face (at least to me) of J. A. (Joe) Konrath surrounded with United Postal Service buckets of mail. Konrath’s story and his solution is captured on his website as an encouragement to writers. While the entire Forbes article isn’t about Joe it highlights the tireless and creative promotional efforts—and in particular his effort to reach 7,000 librarians to purchase his books. Here’s a key quote from Kerry A. Dolan’s article, “Konrath says he spends 90% of his time and about $40,000, nearly half his annual income, hawking his books. So far it's working. The first two have sold 70,000 copies, prompting Hyperion to give him another six-figure advance for three more. "I needed to take control of my own business," he says.”
By the way, for Joe Konrath to get into Forbes is a pretty amazing feat. Why? Because this magazine has a world-wide readership of five million. Who knows if it will boost his book sales but it certainly can’t hurt.
The thought of tireless promotion for your book may wear you out. From my view, you don’t have to promote constantly—just consistently and regularly. It can simply never stray far from your mind or attention. Why? Because as the author, you have the greatest passion for your own work. Certainly the publisher cares and has invested in getting your book into the market. As I’ve mentioned in the past, publishers will push on your book for a few months. If it catches, then possibly it will get some additional attention. If not, then the publisher presses on to other titles. The author needs to understand there is a constant flow of new books within the publishing house. Yet some backlist titles are slow to catch on but become strong backlist sellers for the publisher. If your book is lagging in attention, follow some of the tips Lissa Warren gives in this article. The point is to be trying something on a regular basis. While your book may fade from the focused attention of your publisher, it should never fade far from your attention.
Often you have to be thinking ahead about promotion opportunities. Magazines typically work six to eight months in advance. Here’s a little personal story to illustrate. Last year, I wrote Running On Ice for Vonetta Flowers in a very fast-paced project. The pace and deadlines came from the publisher so they were out of my control. They determined to release the book in February 2005 or timed for African American month. When I stepped into the writing project, the book was already scheduled for release and being sold into the bookstores. The book came out on schedule yet didn’t meet the publisher’s expectations. Now this publisher has a new marketing director who is actively working to tell people about this book. Why? The news peg for this book is current. Several weeks ago it was announced Vonetta will be a part of the United States women’s bobsled Olympic team. It gives her a chance to repeat her Gold Medal win from the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake.
Many months ago, I sent Running On Ice to a personal contact at Guideposts, which is one of the top 20 circulation magazines in the United States with a paid circulation of 2.6 million. When I pitched the story idea to the editor, I hoped to write the story (I didn’t). The February issue of Guideposts includes a story by Vonetta Flowers on page 48 called Winter Dreams. The great news is on page 102 which also includes the Running On Ice cover and includes these lines, “She talks about her faith and unlikely bobsled career in the book Running On Ice, available in stores and from her website, vonettaflowers.com.” While the publisher was excited about this opportunity, as the author, I was the person who sent the book and followed up on the idea. It doesn’t happen all of the time but in this case, it did and hopefully results in lots of good things for this book.
You can see what I mean about tireless and creative promotion. Some times your work pays off.