I’ve been so busy running around the country I've hardly realized it's been five months have elapsed since Crown published my book, Radio Shangri-La. Here’s a bit of what this first-time author has learned.
Guest column by Lisa Napoli, author of the memoir,
Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the
Happiest Kingdom on Earth (Feb. 2011, Crown).
Publishers Weekly said of the book: "Napoli's
adventures ... will delight readers." Lisa is a
journalist who has worked in all media. She began her
career at CNN in the early 80s. A native of Brooklyn,
she now lives in Los Angeles.
First of all, let me say that I sent myself on the road. Most publishers these days are more likely to invest in what mine did, a “web tour,” where a third party is hired by and myriad blogs are approached with advance copies in exchange for the promise of a review. That was great; those free book giveaways that happened just as the book hit, to generate buzz.
But as a veteran journalist, I knew I couldn’t rely on a Web tour and Facebook alone. There are a lot of great books out there. I needed to sell, sell, sell. And that meant visiting bookstores, and libraries, and clubs.
Anywhere I went, I plotted: which media are logical to hit up for an interview? In my old haunt of North Carolina, for instance, an appearance on Frank Stasio’s show on WUNC turned out over 70 people to Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. The bookseller was astonished.
Store mailing lists are powerful tools. By visiting, you get mentioned in them--and I've experienced that the power of that alone can yield a packed house.
Not every stop has been jammed. Even when only a few people show up, you get an amazing opportunity to speak long and intently to interested, interesting people who will forever be ambassadors for you and your book. And by meeting the bookseller and making a good impression, you're giving them another reason to recommend your book (ie. that signed copy you signed makes a great present.)
THE POWER OF LIBRARIES AND BOOK CLUBS
Then, there are the libraries. Conventional wisdom is that people who go to library events may not buy books. But they are passionate readers--who talk up your book to their friends.
And the book clubs and ladies lunches! One random chat with someone in a cafe led to an appearance at a bookstore I didn’t even know about and their enthusiasm led a local book club to choose Radio Shangri-La and invite me as their guest. Then there are the Skype interviews I’ve started to do with book clubs as a result of the aforementioned Web tour and giveaway. In each stop, you are meeting fellow humans who join your book promotion army.
WHAT DO YOU GET FOR ALL THAT SWEAT EQUITY?
So: Is my book a major bestseller? Maybe next year in paperback…..but here’s why I already consider it a success: Every day, I get incredible mail from people around the world, an author’s dream come true. Every day, people sign up for my Twitter feed or blog, which means they’re visiting my website. Not to mention all the places I’ve seen, many in my own state.
And if there’s any one takeaway here for authors , it’s that writing a book isn’t just about writing a book. It’s about selling your book–and there’s no one magic bullet, and no one like you to do it. (Although that army you're enlisting will be with you every step of the way.) I’ve loved every single crazy often exhausting minute of the last five months, the people I’ve met, the old friends and colleagues who’ve showed up along the way, visiting bookstores and libraries and luncheons in beautiful communities filled with people who love books, love reading, love learning.
Which is the thrill of writing, isn't it? That someone wants to hear what you have to say.
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