After serving as the editor of Guide to Literary Agents for years, I figured I knew everything about the publication process. But when I released a humor book late last year (How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack), I quickly found that while I was well versed in what happens before a book is published, I had a lot to learn about what happens after a release. Here are five facts about how the world works when it comes to publicity.
1. Coverage is insanely hit-and-miss. After my publicist sent out review copies of my book and it got mentions in Reader’s Digest and AOL News, I thought it would be a shoo-in for local coverage when it was my turn to start trying to get some press. Not so. The fact is: You never know who will be interested in your book, so your only option is to blast numerous outlets, big and small, local and not.
2. Your connections matter. Eventually, after contacting a dozen or so local outlets, I finally did get some coverage. How? I still knew some editors at a few publications I used to write for, and they were happy to share my good news. So work your connections. If you don’t have media pals, put out a call to your friends and family, and ask for introductions.
3. Radio interviews are easier to secure than TV appearances. The simple truth is that books are not visually exciting and do not translate well to the medium of TV talk shows. So far, more than a dozen radio stations have interviewed me, but I’ve yet to appear on television.
4. Bookstores cannot return signed stock. In the bookselling business, stores can ship back all unsold titles to their respective publishing houses for a refund. This means you get no money from those books. But autographed copies with a sticker on the front cannot be returned. So every time you stop by a large chain bookstore, be sure to offer to sign your books.
5. Readings are hit-and-miss, too. It’s not uncommon to have 75 people show up for one reading, then three at the next. I’ve found that instructional sessions work better than readings. If you offer people something—such as 15 minutes of instruction on your topic, or the craft of writing—they get something other than a sales pitch out of the exchange, and are more likely to attend.
Having a publicity plan in place for your book will help you sell it to a publisher. Consider:
Author 101: Bestselling Book Publicity
Also check out these items from the Writer’s Digest’s collection:
Writer’s Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Beginnings, Middles & Ends
Writer’s Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Scene & Structure
Writer’s Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Conflict, Action & Suspense
Writer’s Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Description
Writer’s Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Characters & Viewpoint
Writer’s Digest No More Rejections
Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner
Writer’s Digest How to Land a Literary Agent (On-Demand Webinar)
Writer’s Digest Magazine One-Year Subscription
Writer’s Digest 10 Years of Writer’s Digest on CD: 2000-2009