Coverage & Interviews:
- Fangoria, a magazine and site dedicated to news about horror and the strange, included GNOMES on a fright fiction roundup review.
- Book Nut—a site about, yes, you guessed it, book—reviewed GNOMES here.
- To see all coverage of my book, including coverage by Reader’s Digest, USA Today, AOL News and more, simply click on “My Writing Life” at the end of this post.
Almost six months ago, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack
was released into the wild. It has been an interesting, and sometimes
incredible, six months. It’s my intention to do a series of posts of
behind-the-scenes stuff relating to the book’s sale and release, in an
effort to illuminate what you can expect when it happens to you. This is Part 2. Today I want to talk about the book’s release and promotion.
How did my books get sent out to the media?
My publicist sent out review copies. (If the book is still being edited, the media will receive in-progress copies of the book called ARCs (advanced review copies) that are not 100% finished, but close enough so that the media member can still read & review it.)
I had a publicist in the summer of 2010 who made contact with me and said she would be in touch more as my release date of Sept. 7 approached. Very soon after that, the publicist was laid off. As an editor myself, I know we are insanely busy. The only people I know who are busier than us because of layoffs are publicists. They are a small, overworked bunch. My publicist at Ten Speed was laid off, but luckily I was given another.
How did I get the wonderful mention (“coverage”) in Reader’s Digest?
Some magazines have a “long lead time,” which means that if you want to get your book reviewed in them, they need to see the book 4-8 months before the coverage would come out. So before my first publicist was laid off, she sent out the book to long-lead-time media such as Vanity Fair and such. I received word around July 4 that, remarkably through the grace of God, Reader’s Digest, which is the No. 1 magazine in the country in terms of subscription, was going to feature the book in the October 2010 issue.
In other words, we sent the book to a lot of big places. I have no idea how many places said no. Perhaps 15, perhaps 100. But the biggest fish bit on the hook, and that was a major success.
How did I set up my book release party?
Ten Speed had no money for a party so it was in my hands. I called a large independent bookstore in Cincinnati (Joseph Beth Booksellers) and asked if I could have a party there. They were very hesitant at first because they knew nothing about me or the book. But when they learned about the book and how its first print run was at 35,000, they were happy to have me. We set a date in September and I put out notices through my WD channels and they did the same. I basically did a reading for friends and some fans of gnomes (maybe 50 people total), and showed my gratitude by paying for free food platters and drinks for everyone who showed up.
I had a second release party at a local tavern for friends and family only. This was more of just a celebration with those closest to me. I think the two-event process is the way to go. It was all on my own dime and the money made off book sales didn’t come close to food costs, but this was a time to celebrate.
Did I go on a book tour?
No. Very few people go on book tours anymore. I could have set one up myself but, once again, Ten Speed would provide no money so it’s all on my own dime. A tour did not seem financially worthwhile by any means. What I did do was fill my fall 2010 and spring 2011 with numerous trips to be on faculties at writers conferences. It seemed a good option in lieu of a tour. I travel to conferences to speak anyway. Now that I have another book to sell besides Guide to Literary Agents, it just makes it more worthwhile.
How did I get my book placed at the front counter of every Borders in America?
This was the biggest miracle of all time. See, whenever you see a book with special placement, such on the endcap of a book aisle, or on that table just inside bookstore that says “New Hot Fiction,” that space is purchased. Placement only comes from money. This is called a “co-opt.” I had no idea it would happen, but my publisher paid Borders to give it special placement for two weeks. Ten Speed knew the book was a gift book—an impulse buy that people would pick up as long as they could see it and flip through it. This co-opt was beyond measure. I did nothing special to get it; I was just the lucky one.
How did I promote my book?
My publicist said she would blanket the “big” media, like the NYT, the Huffington Post, etc., but that it was up to me to provide her with mailing addresses for our two secondary media reviewer markets: garden bloggers, and Cincinnati media. So I spent a few weeks e-mailing all the big garden bloggers in the country and getting their home addresses. I also got addresses for relevant Cincinnati reporters and writers. I provided a list of almost 100 addresses to my publicist. This list was gold; many garden bloggers ended up writing about the book, and we sold so many copies through their coverage.
Did I do book signings?
No. This is basically the same thing as a book tour. What I did do was sign my books whenever I came across them at a store.
Why is it important to sign books you see in stores?
Because autographed copies of books (that have a sticker on the front) cannot be returned to the publisher. Any normal copies of your book that do not sell can be returned for a full refund. Signed copies cannot be returned. So when I signed them, I was, in fact, making a sale. Whenever I visit a new city, I immediately hit all nearby bookstores and sign the stock.
Why did I get coverage for my book with some Cincinnati media outlets and not others?
First of all, no TV stations ever featured the book. The truth is books don’t translate well to TV. They’re not exciting visually. No local TV stations ever wrote back to me, and my publicist even told me that at one point the new Conan show contacted her to inquire about the book, but I’m guessing the two sides could never come to an agreement on what I would do in front of a camera to make it entertaining. (I mean, I could smash a gnome with a sledgehammer, but that’s a bit much…)
However, writers (including myself) can have much more success through print and radio coverage. I was interviewed on about 12 radio shows (three of them local) and various print outlets.
Concerning the Cincinnati media, we blanketed all outlets with news of the book. Three print outlets wrote back quickly for some coverage of the book. Do you know what all three had in common? I wrote for them all previously. The editors there knew me; that, I believe, is why I was featured where I was when I was.
Why did I mention a Huffington Post guest column in 2010 blog posts that never manifested anywhere?
The Huffington Post asked me to do a guest column (a slideshow with captions) about the book. I happily complied and was giddy about such a high-profile byline and publicity success. Weeks passed and the article never appeared online. Finally, my publicist contacted HuffPo. HuffPo explained that the staffer that commissioned my article no longer worked there, and no other staffer wanted to take the reins on my column. My slideshow was killed weeks before we investigated its death and no one at HuffPo had even told us let alone lost a wink of sleep about it. As you would expect, that news sucked.
What do I do right in terms of publicity and promotion?
The first thing I did right was put together that list of garden bloggers and Cincinnati media members I mentioned above. The second big thing I did right was simply make friends along my way as a writer. I’ve been writing with WD for more than five years before the book came out. In that time, I’ve attended 50 conferences, e-mailed thousands of writers, answered thousands of questions about writing and publishing from anyone w
ho asked me, and critiqued oodles of queries. I was just helping out anyone who asked, and without me even knowing it, I was making friends and networking.
When GNOMES came out, lots of writer friends I’d made over the years did blog posts about it or interviewed me online. They bought the book and told me. They included news of it in tweets and blog posts. There was just a great swell of buzz of the book that came out of years and talking with writers in person and online.
(More coming soon. If you have specific
questions about the publishing process, leave them in the comments
section and I may be able to answer them in a future installment.)
Media requests & interviews: If you would like a free review copy of Gnomes
for an interview or roundup or any kind of mention, please contact me
at literaryagent(at)fwmedia.com(dot)com and I will send your information
to my publicist. Thanks!
More Gnome news: To see all the news & reviews & coverage of my book, click on “My Writing Life” at the end of this post.