Kristin Nelson had a great post in her blog about keeping the publisher’s publicist – or in the case of a smaller trade house, their editor – informed as to what all authors are doing with respect to promoting their books. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.
She’s right, of course. From my perspective, I adore agents and authors who let me know what’s going on because it shows me that they are proactive and eager to enhance their writing careers. The info they send to me goes directly to my distributor where they, in turn, continue to push the book to genre buyers.
It’s exactly what Kristin said, being the squeaky wheel without the squeak. If I know an author is actively out there doing events, even six months later or even several years later, I’ll support them in whatever fashion I can. As Kristin says, it’s never to late, even when it comes to reviving a book.
A case in point is Sean McKee, author of the fabulous book Defeated. His book came out in 2004 to some very nice fanfare. But like most books, they fade into the background after a year or so. But Sean decided to revive his book and saw a perfect opportunity to do this by attending the SF and Star Trek conventions. What better way to hit up your readership? I’ve lost track of the reprints since he started doing this a couple years ago.
Sure, it’s cool to see your book still out there. But doing this also has the added benefit of keeping you in front of the marketplace’s eye. This means that when you get your second book finished (she said to snorts of derision from those who read her first book and don’t believe she’ll ever finish #2), people will happily buy it.
Trust me, you aren’t being a PITA (pain in the arse) or even remotely annoying by letting us know your latest plans. Publicity is key in this crazy business, and the first thing an editor or company publicist will ask is, “how can I help?” If one of my authors is resurrecting their promotion, the first thing I do is alert my distributor so they can alert the genre buyers.
Everything you’re doing out there supports what I’m doing in the background, which normally takes the fashion of bribing genre buyers with a free week with an unreliable secretary who neither files nor answers the phone. Oddly enough, it always works. The beagle gets quite insulted when I offer her services without being consulted, but she’s a lot smaller than I am, and I take great delight in bossing her around. She takes great delight in ignoring me. I think genre buyers would appreciate that, don’t you? But I digress…
“I think I’ve saturated my market, now what?”
Sure, you’ve probably saturated your local area. How many author events can you do in your hometown before people start tossing rotten vegetables in your general direction? Promotion is a multi-layered enterprise.
It’s like the first time I had my first snowball fight. I gathered up my ammo in a nice little pile and when my brother came out of the cabin, I launched a salvo that would have stopped a fully army of brothers. My was ammo gone, and I had nothing left in reserves. So when he recovered from my barrage, he blasted me with his own little pile of ice bullets. Should we have another snowball fight in the future, I’ll have a bigger stockpile and not use them all at once. Oh, who am I kidding? I’d bring an Uzi and be done with it.
My point is that you always have to have a Plan B, Plan C, and so on.
Plan A: Publicity upon book release – the first three months
This could encompass any number of elements because it depends on your book. But this is your big ta-da moment, where you make the biggest splash because the book is brand new. This means that you hit ’em with your pretty face. This is where bookstore/library events, interviews and TV appearances happen. A lot.
You should start planning your events about three months before your book is released. You may be ready at a moment’s notice, but bookstores and libraries aren’t. They are booked up for months, depending on how many events they do.
Plan on doing something nearly every weekend. This reminds me of Nicola Morgan. When Deathwatch came out, she and her designer shoes hit the pavement for what seemed like a 24/7 publicity tour for her book. I’m willing to bet she went through at least five pairs of six-inch heels and three pairs of saucy boots. But the thing is, Nicola was out there pushing publicity for her new book – which is wonderful, btw.
Oh yes, this can absolutely happen, and that’s why authors need to keep to a strict schedule. No one can maintain an every-weekend schedule indefinitely. Three months is average. I will say that while doing events is physically challenging, it’s also a thrill like none other to have a reader tell you how much they loved your book event talk while filling their arms with copies of your book to give as gifts. This is the lovely afterglow of your hard efforts, so enjoy the process.
Plan B: Four – six months after release
This begins the slowdown period. The whirlwind events are pretty much over, the book has been in the bookstores, sales may be slowing down. Or in our perfect world, taken off and is in demand by every man, woman, and child – and the odd beagle.
This is where most authors stop. After all, it can’t go on forever, can it? Well, certainly not at the former pace. But sure, publicity can still go on – and it should. It’s just at a lot slower. This is where you may look to writing more magazine articles, scheduling a few events outside your immediate area, or sprucing up the website/blog.
I look at the number of successful authors who have very active blogs. They take on certain issues and gain an online presence. Or their local area events were so successful that it makes for a successful event in another city or state.
Plan B is the time that you need to concern yourself with staying relevant. This isn’t your only book, remember? If you haven’t sold your second book (she said with a coff coff), then you need to think about that book’s viability. I enjoy seeing a manuscript where the author keeps her hand in the publicity machine with her first book because she’s creating a nice transition into the next book – the one sitting in my hands. It tells me she understands the business of writing and the need to stay in front of the public eye.
Plan C: To infinity and beyond
This is the Buzz Lightyear moment where most authors have run out of gas. Those who are going to buy the book have already done so. You may have a large platform, but if it’s that big, your readers have the book.
At this stage, authors have (hopefully) sold their next book and are gearing up for the next round of editing, or they are one-book authors whose careers have flatlined. Which are you?
It’s an important question because one of the first things people ask is, “So what’s in the pipeline?” If your answer consists of clipping your toenails and eating macaroni and cheese, then your Plan C isn’t well thought out. It’s a lot like the little girl who played Cindy Brady on the Brady Bunch. Whatever happened to her? Was the Brady Bunch her only hurrah? Did she ever outgrow that annoying lisp?
I’ll just say that from my perspective I worry when I get a manuscript from an author who had big selling books back in the late 90s. I wonder what they’ve been doing all this time. I’m concerned they have lost their relevancy. Sadly, this is a “so what have you done for me lately?” society, and if you’re out of the public eye for too long, you’re forgotten, yesterday’s news.
Again, that’s why I love Sean McKee. His book is now reaching a captive audience that missed it the first time around. It’s enjoying a resurrection and keeping him relevant. And I find that quite lovely.
The important thing is this: Let your editor know what you’re doing. I promise, she’ll jump on her desk and belt out a rousing rendition of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” while tossing paper clips at her secretary.
Or is that just me?