So you’ve signed that first (or tenth) book contract and you don’t know what to do to promote your book? The first thing I encourage authors and illustrators to do is to sit down with three questions:
1) Who am I?
2) What is my book?
3) Who is my publisher?
I’ll tackle what I mean by these questions in separate blog posts, beginning today with #1: Who are you?
- What is your day job?
It’s amazing how often authors and illustrators don’t know how their day jobs can help them in promoting their books. Sure, if you’re a teacher or librarian, you might be nervous about overpromoting yourself at work (balance is key), but it’s a pretty clear link. But what if you’re a lawyer, or a nurse, or a stay-at-home Mom? Everybody you meet in your professional life is part of your network. They could be purchasers themselves or recommend your book to their friends. They might also be friends or relatives of newspaper reporters or bookstore owners. So, no matter where you work, let people know you have a book coming out. You’ll be amazed at some of the connections you might make. I suggest making a list, including emails and USPS addresses. A good mailing list for event postcards or eNewsletters is always useful.
- Are you active in your community?
If you are active in the community, be it at church or the PTA or other charity work, this increases the scope of your network. As for above, any or all of the people you work with in these groups could be a potential PR help. (I should also point out that being active in your community, also keeps you busy during that horrible time between when you finished the book and the reviews start arriving.) Add these people to your mailing list as well.
- Are you shy or a social butterfly?
If you are on the shy end of the spectrum, I highly recommend practicing for social situations now. Of course, if you are on the extreme end, you may not be able to attend cocktail parties or other events for your book. However, this will limit dramatically, the things your publisher can do for you. You are the best spokesperson for your book. No publicist or editor can even know more than you do about…well, you.
- Are you comfortable speaking in public?
Your publisher will be counting on you to say “yes” to any interviews, school visits, panel discussions, etc. that come along. So, if the thought of standing in front of a large audience (or even a small one) scares you to death…get out there an practice. Join Toastmasters. Work with your SCBWI group on practice speeches. Really, just get to work. There are very few “get over it” items for me as a marketer. This is one of them — or at least, give it your best shot.
- Are you a fan of your own genre?
As I discussed awhile back, if you do not read your competition, marketing will be virtually impossible. So, go, now, get thee to a bookstore or library.
The answers to these questions will inform your PR plans and help you in your conversations with the marketing and publicity people at your publisher.
Some things your publisher will want to know (but would prefer were NOT the case, so try to change it):
You don’t drive.
You won’t drive more than an hour from your home.
You won’t fly.
You won’t speak in public.
You won’t speak to adults.
You won’t speak to kids.
You don’t have a computer.
You don’t have a website.
You won’t try Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc.
You’re not working on another book.
I urge you to find ways of turning all of these things into CAN and WILL. It makes all of our lives better.