Seems the literary world is a-bustin’ at the seams with talk of promotion – how to do it, what’s effective, and when to start. I know what you’re saying; “Whazzat, Pricey? Don’t you start promoting after you have the book launch?”
Sure you do, but as one who specializes in nonfiction, I look to see what kind of footprint the author has already laid down regarding her subject matter and whether she’s reached out to her potential readers.
Nonfiction authors generally should do many of the things their marketing plan proposes (and many things it doesn’t) BEFORE seeking publication. Books are not beginnings, though they may be new beginnings; they generally come after your material, point of view, or platform is somehow tested in the marketplace.
I interpret this to mean that the book is the natural extension of something the author has already done promotion-wise. The author sees the reaction to their experiences, and the book about those experiences is the new beginning.
For an example of this, I look to Kim Petersen, brilliant author of the upcoming Charting the Unknown. When she submitted her book proposal to me, I noticed that she’d published several articles in the hoo ha boating magazines. Obviously there is something quite compelling about her story that attracted the magazines.
It’s a nice boon for me on a marketing front because she knows the editors and has a relationship with the magazine. So when Charting comes out, guess who we’re gonna approach for an expanded article and interview? Kim didn’t write those articles to promote her book because she didn’t have one at the time.
But, as Kate points out, Kim gave a dry run to her platform, her point of view, and her material before the book was born because the subject matter – chucking it all to live on a boat with one husband and two teen-aged kids and crossing 4,000 miles of open water, all while fighting Fear – happened to be a huge part of her life.
On the other hand…
On Writer Beware, there’s an interesting guest post by Alyx Dellamonica that I think is very worthwhile. She said:
…my editor told me flat-out that building buzz too early might be as bad as not building it at all.
Even though Alyx is talking about fiction, she illustrates this fine balance that needs to be struck regarding promotion.
for example, I have an author who had a giant opportunity to appear at a very huge event and wanted to have an early print run available for the attendees. We were happy to comply, but I was concerned about the fact that the actual book release wasn’t for another five months.
This means that the book is only available at that event, and interested buyers would have to wait. It’s near impossible to keep the promo train running for that long because you have no product. So those who may not want to wait in line will say, “Nevermind, I’ll just buy it at the store.” When the book does come out, will they remember?
Had this event been closer to release date, the book would have gone to the moon. As it is, the book is so fabulous and the author is so engaging that the book is flying to the moon anyway. But it could have easily turned out to be a misfire.
So when is the opportune time?
This is a tough question to answer because it depends on your promo plan. My belief is that it’s never too soon to begin working on it. The more you’ve planned out your promo strategy, and the earlier, the easier it is for me to back that up and support and coordinate what we’re doing in the background. There’s nothing worse than feeling rushed.
If you’re working with a good book publicist, they will recommend how far in advance to begin scheduling events and interviews, as each type of media runs on its own schedule. There’s a lot of advance work that needs to be done in order to time events with your release date.
The Snowball Effect
The cool thing about promotion is the snowball effect it tends to have. It’s like the time Mary Beth Conroy came to school wearing Earth Shoes [holy solar panels, check out the price!]. OMG! I had to have a pair – as sodding ugly as they were. It’s because Mary Beth was cool. It took about a week before all us mortals swooped down on the mall and were sporting Earth Shoes as well.
The idea is that someone – or something, like a book – is so cool that the media catches wind of it and wants an interview, too. Hello, Julie Genovese, whose amazing Nothing Short of Joy has exploded because her story reminds us all that life, and all the manure that comes with it, is surmountable – that we can change our perception and find true joy. In these tough times, it’s a damned important message. And the media is catching on to that idea, and they realize Julie is the perfect spokeswoman for that message.
So what is your snowball, and when do you think is your right time to pick up a thimble of snow and begin rolling it downhill to create a nice promo package for yourself?