by Arielle Ecksut & David Henry Sterry, authors of “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully”
We’ve been to almost 50 states talking to thousands of authors—amateurs and professionals—and we’re still shocked that one particular fantasy still exists and persists: “My publisher is going to put together and implement a publicity and marketing plan that will rocket my book to the top of bestseller lists.”
Clearly, most authors who still harbor this fantasy are unfamiliar with publishing in the 21st century (or publishing at any time, for that matter). To paraphrase best-selling author and marketing guru Seth Godin, the writer who starts developing her community as her book is coming out and just hopes that her publisher will get her on Oprah is in for a rude awakening. You simply cannot sit around waiting for your publisher to hand you a publicity and marketing plan, because there’s a good chance this publicity and marketing plan may never arrive. Except in rare circumstances, the authors that make it big (or just make it), are the ones who are busy planning their own publicity and marketing long before their books are published.
The relationship between author and publisher is much like a marriage. It usually starts with a great honeymoon phase, often cools when the partners see each other’s warts, only works with lots of give-and-take, and both sides take it for granted after a while. That’s why it’s important to go into your relationship with a sort of publicity-and-marketing “dowry.” The more you’ve done to beef up this dowry, the better things will go for your book. Yes, this publicity and marketing plan is a work in progress that will be revised and refined up until and even beyond your book’s publication. But it sets the bar for action on both sides.
So what do put in your marketing and publicity plan? Here’s a quick primer:
1) Your pitch. You know how to pitch your book better than anyone else—or you should. Hopefully, you’ve been developing your pitch from the moment you told someone you had an idea for a book and they asked, “So, what’s your book about?”
2) A summary of your strategy and goals for publication. What are your expectations? Just be sure these are realistic, not “Get me on Fresh Air and the cover of The New York Times Book Review while I am wooed by Hollywood.”
3) What you’ve done already to prime the pump. Do you have a social media following of any kind? Have you made contacts at local or national media? Do you have endorsers ready to blurb? Do you have a workshop schedule already in place? Display your platform proudly.
4) Identify media (traditional and social) opportunities—big and small. You know your subject and your audience better than your publisher does. Most trade publishers are generalists, and while they know how to get your book into trade publications and mainstream media (whether actually do so is another question!), they probably won’t know about the niche media, bloggers, tweeters, etc that are speaking to your audience every day.
5) Identify cross-promotional opportunities with other authors on your publisher’s list. It always helps to be in the company of more-established authors. Seek out other people who are doing similar work, especially on your publisher’s list. See if your publisher can put you on a panel with like-minded authors, ask if you can guest blog on another author’s site — anything that will help raise your profile, and get the word out.
Many authors to whom we deliver this primer look at us with bunny-in-headlights eyes and protest, “I’m no marketing expert!”. That may be true right now, but if you want your book to be the success you hoped for, you’re going to have to learn the particulars about your audience, and how to find, woo, and wow them. The good news is that if you do, and if you put this information into your publisher’s hands, they may even agree to do a big chunk of this work for you. As in marriage, if you pick the right partner you can give birth to a happy, healthy, thriving book that will give both of you pleasure and coin for decades to come.
ARIELLE ECKSTUT, cofounder of LittleMissMatched, an iconic brand with stores in Disneyland and Grand Central Station, is a writer, entrepreneur, and agent-at-large for the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is the author of Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen
DAVID HENRY STERRY is the coeditor of Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys (front page review, The New York Times Book Review) and author of Master of Ceremonies, Chicken, Satchel Sez, and most recently, The Glorious World Cup. He is also an actor, media coach, book doctor, Huffington Post regular and activist. The authors are married and live in Montclair, New Jersey, with their daughter.