Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Another huge thanks to Terry Whalin for yesterday’s post. BGs, I didn’t notice until the evening that the comments link wasn’t working most of the day. Many of you may have tried to thank Terry or ask a follow-up question—and couldn’t. I’ve alerted him to check today’s post for comments that may pertain to yesterday, so please try again today.
Other questions from last Friday’s post about marketing were pretty general. What goes on in the publishing house to market a book? And what can you do to help?
All novels aren’t marketed the same—that’s the sad fact. All too often a house will acquire a new author and pretty much stick the book on the shelves. Oh, the book’s appeared in the house’s catalog and been pitched by the salespeople to book buyers, so stores know about it. But how do the customers who buy the books from shelves know about it? They usually don’t. They’re left to somehow run across it while browsing. And given that it’s a new book by an unknown author, it’s likely that it will be shown only spine-out, rather than face-out.
What’s an author to do?
Here’s where the books such as those Terry mentioned come in. I’m not going to recite the things these books talk about, such as how to hook the media to interview you, and on and on. Instead, I’ll focus today on reaching people already within your sphere of influence. Here are some easy things to do:
1. Join e-mail loops such as American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and others centered around writing and reading. These loops put you in touch with a lot of people you couldn’t otherwise contact. It’s great to be able to tell such loops about your book and talk up any contests or free drawings you’re holding to promote the book. When my first novel was published in 2001, ACFW was a whole lot smaller than it was now. But being on that loop definitely gained me readers. One very important note—you’re not on these loops only to receive. A published author can do much to help others—and you should.
2. Put up a Web site, even if it’s basic. Get permission from your publisher to run the first chapter of your book. This can help get people hooked on the story. On my site, every book includes the prologue or opening chapter. Put this Web site address on everything you can. For example, if you order labels with your return address on them to use in paying bills, you can make that fourth line your Web site address.
3. Start a newsletter. But be sure to send only to folks who sign up for it. They have to choose to opt in after receiving an invitational e-mail. (This is where my assistant comes in, as I don’t know the technicalities of how these software programs work.) You might try to find something unique to include in your newsletter that will bring you more readers. That is, something that is outside your own news. For example, in my newsletter, Sneak Pique, I answer reader questions about other Christian novelists, and I run blurbs on the latest releases in all genres of Christian fiction. So even those not necessarily interested in my books may sign up for my newsletter as a way to keep up on the market. I’m doing other authors a service, and at the same time, gaining readers for my newsletter. Maybe some day those otherwise uninterested readers will try one of my books out—and naturally see how positively brilliant it is.
4. Ask your publisher for overruns on the cover flats. Don’t let a publishing house fool ya—these things don’t cost much at all once they’re up and running on the press. You can use the entire flat as a huge postcard, complete with excerpt of a scene and other info on the back. These oversized pieces of mail cost 49 cents to send, so don’t mail them to the world. But do send them to friends and family and your Christmas card list. I also send them to my growing database of church bookstores/libraries. I ask my publisher for 500 flats on every first printing. Later, if I need more, I can get them when the book goes back to print. You do have to request this early, however. You can also cut the flats up if you want and send only the front cover as a postcard, with info on the back.
Of course, this all depends on your budget. I also spent money to print bookmarks, my full stationery package, and business cards. Not to mention having an artist design my logo to go on all these things (and my Web site).
These things are quite basic. They won’t net you millions of readers at once, but they’ll help start your reader base. Truth is, usually in writing, building that base simply takes time. Each book should be expanding your readership to some degree. But you really have to help do this. It’s not all up to the house. They can reach people you can’t reach—and you can reach people they don’t know about. You have to work together on a team.
More tomorrow--the house's side.
Read Part 8