Recently we visited beautiful Amelia Island, Fla., to host a publicity workshop at its big annual Book Festival.
Preparing for this event got me thinking about how much both book publishing and publicity have changed since 1990, when I began representing authors. With the rise of the Internet, new rules developed and strategies evolved – I’ll share three of the new “do’s” with you today.
But first, a little background.
Some of the changes arose because publishing became so easy. Today, there are authors of every stripe, from those in time-honored fiction and non-fiction categories to business people and professionals who’ve learned that writing a book is essential to building their brand.
In 2012, Americans self-published more than 391,000 books, according to market research giant Bowker. That’s a 400 percent increase since 2007.
Also in 2012, traditional publishers released nearly 302,000 titles for a whopping total of nearly 700,000 new books. In one year! With the glut of new books being released each year, promoting just one can feel like a mission impossible.
But just as publishing has democratized, so has getting publicity. Yes, we still have gatekeepers – editors, producers, etc. – guarding access to traditional mass media, and yes, it’s still important to get their attention. But now we have social media to help us do that. With hard work, the right message and some marketing savvy, anyone can potentially build a following large enough for those gatekeepers and their audiences to take notice.
Looking for media attention for your book? Here are three new do’s:
- Do establish an online presence and following – ideally long before you’ve written your book. In the old days, authors criss-crossed the country, their car trunks weighed down with books. They arranged book signings at shops and events in an exhausting effort to get in front of as many potential readers as possible. While some authors still do this, it’s a big investment that doesn’t offer much in return unless you have a recognizable name. Establishing an online presence with a high-quality website and regular postings on social media is a much more efficient and effective way of connecting with potential readers/buyers.
- Do build a platform that will create a built-in audience for your book. Whether you’re a business leader with a book or a fiction author, it’s essential that you regularly provide fresh, engaging content to an audience. This is how you build a platform which, as the name suggests, puts you on a stage so others – including the mass media – can see you. Many writers do this by penning a blog on their website. Some writers host an Internet radio show; professionals using their book as a marketing tool may pay a radio station for a weekly time slot. If you live in a community with public access television, you can even host your own TV show.
- Do form strategic alliances with other authors. Don’t think of all of those other authors as the competition; rather, look at them as potential allies. Find authors who appeal to much the same audience as you and who have large followings, and join forces. Just as social media users help one another gain visibility by “liking” posts or “retweeting” tweets, you and your fellow authors can increase exposure for one another. Promote each other on social networks; guest-post on one another’s blogs, or participate on their radio and TV shows.
On the one hand, it’s wonderful that anyone with a message to share in the form of a book can now do so. Gone are the days of pinning all your dreams on some faceless editor in a New York high-rise.
But as with anything, greater accessibility leads to bigger crowds. If you want to stand out, you’ll have to plan a sustained marketing campaign. If your book is a tool to build your business brand, don’t worry so much about sales; it will pay for itself in establishing you as an authoritative expert in your industry.
If you hope to establish yourself as a fiction or non-fiction author, plan for long-term marketing even as you get to work on your next book.