Oh, publicity. If you get five authors in a room and ask their thoughts on publicity you’ll get six opinions. At least. Everyone’s trying to find the magic formula that will turn their publicity efforts into guaranteed sales of books. The problem is, there’s simply no concrete way to tell if publicity works. At all. Rarely does a reader come up to an author and say, “Great glo-in-the-dark pen! It’s the reason I bought your book!” And yet most authors feel they need to do some kind of publicity for their books.
So here are my rules for publicity. It’s extremely personal, it reflects my own narrow experience, and it may not be of any help to you at all. Take it with a grain—or pound—of salt.
Rule 1: Sell Your Book to a Good Publisher
Not only do you usually get a better advance and sales distribution from a major publisher, you also get in-house publicists. They’ll be doing a whole lot of behind the scenes stuff that you’ll never see and won’t properly appreciate until much, much later. Some examples:
- Ads in Romantic Times Book Reviews Magazine. Most major NY houses do this even for newbie authors.
- Sending out advance reading copies of your book to reviewers. Lots of reviewers.
- Angling for article and interview opportunities for the author.
Rule 2: Get a Professional Website
This means a professional website designer. Really. The type of readers who will be visiting your website will also be visiting other author websites. You don’t want to look bad in comparison.
You could stop right here with your publicity efforts and I’m not sure it would make a speck of difference in your book sales. But most authors are much more paranoid than that, including me. Which brings me to . . .
Rule 3: It’s About the Book, Dummy
Whatever you do, whatever fun, strange, expensive, or it’s-so-cheap-you’d-be-a-fool-to-miss-it publicity ideas come your way, remember this: the book is the product. Everything you do, think: will this get someone to read my book? If you’re going to spend money on give-aways, why not give away your book? That’s what you’re selling, right? Not T-shirts, not mugs, not even glo-in-the-dark pens. You’re selling your writing.
Recently I was reading the comment trail on a popular blog that had asked for publicity ideas (*cough* Smart Bitches, Trashy Books *cough*). Somebody wrote in saying they’d got the niftiest reading light from an author. The commenter loved it! She still used it! She just couldn’t remember the author’s name . . .
Rule 4: Do What You Like to Do
A writer’s job is stressful enough. If you don’t like doing a certain kind of publicity, then don’t. If you don’t like public speaking, then for God’s sake, don’t give workshops. It’s just not worth it. The inverse of this is, of course, do what you like to do. If you love signings even if you only sell one book, then you go, girl! Forget the people who say signings aren’t worth it. To you they are. Personally, I have a thing about sending letters. I have a form on my website so readers can order bookmarks for free. Every time my critique partner sees it, she thinks I’m insane. Answering that much mail would just be another stress for her. For me, though, it’s kind of relaxing and I enjoy it. Do what you like to do.
Rule 5: Spend Your Money Up Front
Now, I don’t mean break the bank or go into debt, but think about it. When is your publicity money going to be worth the most? Answer: when nobody knows you. Which, unfortunately, is at the beginning when you have the smallest advance of your career (we hope, anyway!) Suck it up and if you can afford it, spend now. Writing is a business and all small business owners turn their profits back into their business for the first couple of years. Invest in yourself.
Note: Elizabeth will be bopping in to comment when available, so if you have a pressing EH question, please ask it!
Note II: Elizabeth's fabulous new book is out Tuesday! For those of you living under a rock, The Serpent Prince is the third eagerly awaited book in her Prince series. Order it now! (Then come back and leave a comment.)
Note III: Maven Lacey's reviews of The Raven Prince and The Leopard Prince can be found on Romantic Inks.com. Sadly, she has not yet read The Serpent Prince, but her fingers and toes are crossed in the hopes it will materialize soon...