Two months have passed since the release of my new romance novel, Forgetting My Way Back to You. Those outside the publishing world think a book’s launch is the end of the author’s work. The writing’s done, copies are printed, and you’ve informed the media. Time to just wait for the royalty checks and the call from Good Morning America, right?
While I grit my teeth when people don’t understand why I’m still so busy, I can’t blame them. Before my first book came out, I, too, thought, writers write and publishers do the rest. Maybe that’s the case when you hit the ‘big time’ and can afford a publicist and marketing team, but until then, being an author encompasses so much more than signing autographs.
In truth, the term ‘marketing’ used to petrify me. Prior to working with a publisher, I listened to a webinar about self-publishing, and one of the major topics was marketing. An author who spoke during the program brought out that even big name companies do little of the promotional aspect. She implied the depictions of publishers who line up book tours and jet-set the country with his author were mere fantasies.
I wouldn’t hear that, so I came to reason that she just made those claims to endorse self-publishing. I closed out of the presentation, a little discouraged, but I continued with my plan to seek a traditional publisher. As I did so, however, I came across several who asked for a marketing plan. Still in denial, I exited every one of them, concluding they were inept.
Well, six months after the webinar, I signed my first book contract with a company who never mentioned a marketing plan. In fact, the contract stated that they were developing a marketing team, who’d place our books in stores and do a lot of the promoting for us. What a relief…until a few weeks later, when I was asked to be part of it.
That opportunity—though not proving to live up to its hype—taught me there was no getting around the dreaded ‘m’ word. Thus, I had to embrace it, which started with understanding it. To do that, I began to do research and found myself overwhelmed by all the internet had to offer. I figured out what topics about which I wanted to zero in, before I purchased a couple how-to books, much like I’d done to learn about getting published.
The one I consider most helpful is The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Its tagline reads, “How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher,” so it appealed to both the deal-hunter and the scaredy cat in me. As I’d hoped, it offered a plethora of options and strategies to spread the word about one’s book, enabling authors to choose which techniques work best for them. I consulted it numerous times during that first year and still pick it up often now.
The Frugal Book Promoter helped me to appreciate that an important part of marketing involves what authors do best: write. From media releases to newsletters to sell sheets and beyond, we can use our talent to promote ourselves and our books. No need to overthink that.
Once I accepted and dove into the marketing world, I realized I’d been marketing myself all along. Instead of publishers and agents being my audience, I had to appeal to press outlets, stores, libraries…and most importantly, readers. In fact, I just had to do minor tweaks on my original query letter to suit each purpose. In addition, my current publisher has guided me to new avenues, as well, like doing author interviews and expanding my social media efforts, which makes up my to-do list these days.
If you’re a new author who’s skittish of that ‘m’ word, don’t despair. With the right guidance, you can be your own press agent, publicist, web designer, and more—in short, an author-preneur.