As authors, we eagerly seek the validation of publishers, sending out our polished manuscripts into a world stacked against them on the desperate hope that someone, anyone, will believe in our story as much as we do. A novel. A published novel. Rarely will you find someone writing one who doesn’t harbor the hope, secretly or openly, that his story will find an audience. Add into the equation that many writers are introverts and suddenly you have an interesting moment of truth when a publisher accepts a manuscript. An introvert with a published novel. That she needs to market. Yikes.
This is exactly where I now find myself. My young adult historical fiction novel, Leaving Kent State, was accepted this past November by Harvard Square Editions and will be forthcoming later this year. It’s a small press, so there is no massive marketing team waiting to lead me through the challenges of the debut author crucible. My publisher does have a plan in place to help me, but the more that I can do to promote the book myself, the more likely it will have a successful sales record. I’m still very early into this process, but here are five marketing tips that I’ve learned so far:
5. Check out websites for bloggers that discuss marketing. Selling a book is a lot like making a blog popular. These sites, such as The Nectar Collective, can give you a lot of great advice about SEO, using social media as a marketing tool for your book, or organizing your marketing strategy.
4. Search for book reviewers and start making connections with them before you need to actually contact them to request a review. This isn’t that difficult. Search on Instagram, Goodreads, Twitter, etc. Once you tap into reviewers, you will see quite a lot. Notice how often they post, what kinds of books they like, and whom their audience is. These things will help you narrow a list, because you will most likely have to send them two ARCs (advanced reader copies) of your novel, and you are most likely going to be footing the bill for these ARCs yourself (unless you’ve landed a six figure deal with a big publishing house, and then you aren’t reading this anyway….)
3. Ask authors who are further ahead in the journey how they launched their first book. Take them for lunch or coffee. Writers are among the most generous of professionals with their time and ideas, probably because our journey to make a living as a writer is so challenging. There are as many ideas out there for marketing a book as there are books. Brainstorming with other writers about how you can make your marketing plan for your particular novel stand out is an invaluable resource for the debut author.
2. Contact independent booksellers. Call them, walk into their stores, email them. Because my novel is centered around the shootings that happened at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4th, 1970, I spent an afternoon looking through the websites of every independent bookstore in Ohio. Some clearly aren’t going to be interested in my book (for example, one specializes in Jane Austen and regency literature only). Some of them were listed as specializing in young adult literature, so I called to ask whether my book would be something they would carry. One of the stores, despite it’s description as a bookseller of YA, in fact only deals with books through middle grade (age 13). But when I called another bookseller and explained the reason for my call, the woman gave me a ton of helpful advice, both about independent booksellers in general and about the Ohio market in particular. I learned more about marketing my book in that fifteen or twenty minute conversation than I have from hours of my own research.
1. Reach out to the people who have supported you and are further ahead in the journey. It took me a month, and encouragement from a friend (okay, actually two friends), for me to screw up my courage and ask for book blurbs from established writers I know. It was really hard for me to ask (I’m Italian). But everyone whom I asked was enthusiastically supportive of me. Which is awesome and generous and really, really helpful. But the point is, if I hadn’t asked, they wouldn’t have known that I wanted their help.
These are my top five marketing tips so far in my journey toward launch. What are yours?