Promoting nonfiction – when to start?

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.

Lit agent Kate Epstein has a great interview over on Galleycat, and I urge everyone to put down their margarita and go read it. This sentence, in particular, popped out at me:

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.

Snowball Effect

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?

9 Responses to Promoting nonfiction – when to start?

  1. kim says:

    Great question. But, I’m in a different situation, Lynn. I do get a lot of requests for interviews, because of my topic. Sadly, a topic which took decades to come to surface and is not going to resolve itself in our lifetime.

    As I finished up a national interview this week, I thought hard about granting the interview, but in the end, I’m glad I did. It turned into two more down-the-road natl. opportunities. I also realized it’s just as important to build and establish good relationships with all media, after a reporter said: count me in for your future bull horn.

    I’ve found media will keep you moving and share you with others, give out additional contacts if you gain their respect and are a reliable source on a topic. They will definitely come back to you again and again. Same goes with the librarians, educators and others.

    So, I’d have to say, I’ve batterized my snowball to keep it building, rolling, rolling, rolling … like the energizer bunny. = )

  2. Well hell, Kim this is hardly fair since I just read your manuscript and want it very much! But in reality, your case is quite unique because your snowball has no melting point – especially with the Vatican thing going on.

    If you turn the interviews down, they may disappear on you altogether, so I think you’re wise to continue on. When you do get that new publishing deal *coff* you’ll simply keep on doing what you’re doing.

    By the way I just have to say that you rock. You really, really rock, and I dip my bloody red editing pen in your honor.

  3. kim says:

    :blushes furiously: :then goes to quickly look up “coff”:

  4. *coff* – meaning I want to beat out the competitors.

  5. kim says:

    :faints: *thanks Lynn for sparing her all the “coff” sites* You have no idea how many. ::YeeHAWWWs and rattles Lynh’s computer::

  6. Lauren says:

    Those shoes were ugly then, and they are no less ugly now.

  7. kat magendie says:

    I hope sweet Kim does find that perfect publisher – keeping my fingers crossed and my toes and everything else that can be crossed, and some that can’t. It’s a tough business – hard to say what’s “Good” and what’s “Not Good;” sometimes only in hindsight can one see that. If you are passionate about something, as Kim is, then you want to talk about it, no matter the risks.

  8. BubbleCow says:

    My view is that a writer should be looking to build an online voice waaaaay before they have a book. They should be adding value and building trust. Then as they write, get a deal etc. they can share the process. They can get their readers involved in the excitement of the cover design and the horror of the edits. Then, when the book arrives, they sell like a banshee.

  9. Bubble, when you say way before it really is waaaay before, as it takes a long, long time to build an internet footprint because it’s so vast. Very hard to rise to the top among so much information.

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