Monday, May 18, 2009

Guest Blogger: Jessica Handler

Hi, this is Jessica Handler guest-blogging for Cliff. (Thanks, Cliff!). Since my book, Invisible Sisters: A Memoir has been out just over a month, Cliff’s asked me to lend some insight and tips about promoting a book in those first weeks.

I made a list (I like lists.)

1. Congratulate yourself! You’re a new author, and all that hard work you’ve done has really become a book. Hooray!

2. If your publisher has assigned a publicist to work with you, make his or her job easier by approaching your book’s publicity as teamwork. (And know that a good publicist is worth their weight in gold!)

3. If you’re on your own, these tips still apply.

4. When publicity for the book begins, the publicist may ask for your ideas about newspapers, magazines, tv, radio and Web opportunities, or to take a look at his/her media list and add ideas. You may want to suggest bookstores you patronize, too. Go through all your contacts and figure out who you know. Now is not the time to be shy. People want to help get the word out. They’re excited for you (and you’ll do the same for them, right?)

5. Your ARCs – advance readers’ copies – will be sent several months in advance of release to “long-lead” press –(magazines, etc. that go into production months before their newsstand date.) The ARCs may also go to reviewers, including readers’ sites like LibraryThing or Goodreads. Build an author profile on these sites so people can contact you.

6. Blog regularly. Build an events calendar into your blog. Let readers know you’ll visit their book clubs. Can’t travel far? How about conference calls? Don’t have a blog? Get one for free. Use social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, too.

7. Ah, travel (see #6, above.) Your publisher might foot the bill for some of it. (See #1, “hooray.”) You’re probably on your own for all or most of this one, though. Start a) couch surfing b) investing in new tires and a check-up for your car c) using airline miles, if you have them d) spending a little cash e) couch surfing some more.

7a) Think regional. Take a look at the “Bookstores” feature on Publisher’s Marketplace and map out what bookstores are close to places you’ll be. Going to your cousin’s wedding in Houston? Call bookstores in the area several weeks before you go. Tell them you’ll be in town. Let your book’s publicist know (see #2)- maybe they can set up a reading there.

7b) Let the publicist know about book festivals near you that he or she may not be familiar with. If you’re submitting applications on your own, make sure you know the deadlines – they can be six months or more ahead of the festival date.

8. Sign stock! Carry a nice pen or two with you all the time (and carry a copy of your book, too.) Drop into bookstores and introduce yourself to the manager. Let them know you’re an author, and ask if they carry your book. (You can find out in advance by calling or checking their website.) Offer to sign stock. This means your book will get that “signed by author” sticker, and will probably get moved from the shelf to a featured spot like the front table or by the register.

8a) You’ve just spent quality time with booksellers, and they’re the folks who hand-sell your book and talk it up. Thank them! Go to the bookstore’s café and buy yourself some sustenance. Or buy a book.

9) Got readings? Practice! Select material that will appeal to your particular audience (funny? Sad? Local? Topical?) Read your choices aloud to yourself, your spouse, and your dog. Break that “no writing in books rule” and mark your reading copy up! I underline words I want to emphasize, and indicate full stops. Make eye contact with your audience. Select about 20 minutes worth of material, and change it up from time to time. You’ll get bored if you read the same stuff. Paper clips or tape flags are good page markers.

10) People love to ask questions, but nobody wants to go first. Bring a friend and make them ask that first question. Or select a kind stranger for that job. Or tag the bookstore owner.

11) Got interviews? Know the salient points in your book. If there are facts, have one or two at hand. Get comfy with anecdotes. Use the show’s online archive feature or the recent issues of a publication to familiarize yourself with their format.

Give yourself some down time, and enjoy it! Take time off from checking your Amazon rankings or Google Alerts.

For more tips, check out the very creative, or a good guide like “Publicize Your Book” by Jacqueline Deval.


Dorothy Hassan said...

Thanks, Jessica, that is helpful. And thanks, Cliff, for bringing Jessica to a blog near me.

Tom said...

Great posting, Jessica. Thanks, Cliff, for bringing this important information to my attention as I plan to continue to promote my own book "After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events."

Clifford Garstang said...

Tom, Do you mean the book that readers could learn more about here: After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events?

Jim said...

Good stuff!

As an independent publisher, I'm already doing some of these things, but I learned a few "new tricks."

I have filed this list under "marketing," and plan to use incorporate some of these new techniques for future releases.

Thanks for sharing.

Jessie Carty said...

Great stuff! I wonder if I should go back and add my Goodreads and Library Thing accounts. Hmmmm

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