Monday, February 6, 2017

Hey! Over here!

How do you get yourself and your books noticed by the public? We hear that many publishers aren’t doing much PR anymore. How do you stand out from the crowd?

- from Susan

This is either the worst time to ask me this, or the best. I have a new book coming out in a few months from a major publisher, my shot at a wider degree of notice and success. All of which means I’m panicking. Am I doing the right things? Old, worn out strategies? Untried gambles? Offensively BSP (blatant self promotion)? Writing the book is easy by comparison. I alternately feel like I’m onto something and like a wretched failure.

I’ll share what I have heard, what I’ve seen and admired, what I think works when other people do it. But I can’t promise any of it is the magic key. I can tell you that a big publisher can do more for you than a small one, and for me the biggest single advantages are they have sales staffs and distributors, but until you’re a rock star, they don’t pay for tours and ads and the things we all dreamed about when we started.

I will say if anything on this list is something you would like to help me with, you are golden in my book. So, here goes:

1.     Write the very best book you can.
2.     Write a great, short teaser that may go on the book jacket, on your web site, in your PR.
3.     Get a few blurbs – real ones from gracious authors who actually have read your book – from authors whose readers might also like the kind of book you’ve written. (And then thank those generous souls for, in effect, sharing their own readers with you.)
4.     Encourage your publisher to send ARCs out to every reviewer – print and online – they and you can identify.
5.      Talk up your book while trying not to bore people to death.
6.     Set up a few or many bookstore readings right after the book goes on sale. Work very, very hard to bring in an audience. Bookstores notice this. Some publishers say book tours are over, but a few of the mystery writers I admire most do them and sell a whole lot of books. More importantly, they gain fans, which leads me to
7.     Be nice to everyone. Some authors I know have become so popular and so remembered for niceness that they get nominated for awards because people never forget them. (Some people say awards don’t do anything for sales, though, so go figure.)
8.     Accept every offer to do guest blogs (a “blog tour,” they call it) and even hint that you’d like to be invited to some of the most sparkling ones.
9.     Go to conventions, get onto panels at organizations’ meetings, be present and visible.
10.  Line up book club gigs if you can. These, by the way, can be some of the most delightful times you’ll have.
11.  Do giveaways and contests, and anything you can to drive web traffic to your site, Facebook, and Twitter feeds.
12.  Never give up.
13.  . Do not offer to go naked anywhere for any reason.

That’s only part of what I’ve learned and now I shall go into a frenzy of self-criticism for not having done at least five of these things today. Here’s one, however:

Love & Death in Burgundy comes out from St. Martin’s Minotaur May 2, and if you’d like me to be on a crime fiction panel somewhere, speak to a book club about the French connection, invite me to guest on your blog, serve baguettes and cheese at your party…


Paul D. Marks said...

Lots of really good points, Susan. Especially 12...and 13, though I'm not sure how often that one comes up ;)

Art Taylor said...

Like Paul, I found myself intrigued by #13. That one hasn't been suggested my way yet. Maybe I'm just not in the right author circles? Or maybe I am, and other people aren't. I need to think this one through. (Seriously: Great list.)

Unknown said...

Solid list - the rest of us with posts coming up can take the week off I think!
Re panic & self-criticism, I know how you feel. And I guess you just have to do your best without beating yourself up if you're not a PR machine!

Kristopher said...

This list pretty much covers it!

Danny Gardner said...

Follow-up question: If you've already blown #13, are #1-12 still valid. I'll take my answer off the air, thanks.

catriona said...

Great list! I love that you've got No.1 at No.1.

Aimee Hix said...

I'll have to cancel my nude reading/signing. It's a relief actually since my book comes out in the winter. :)

Jim Ziskin said...

Great advice, Susan! And congratulations on the forthcoming book. I would add one bit of advice to authors: when posting photographs of events and such, try to use a good picture. In focus. Blurry and dark just aren't compelling.

Leslie Karst said...

I sometimes allow myself to get overly stressed (that originally came off my fingers as "dressed"--so I guess no need to worry about #13) over all this, and so I read through this list with a bit of trepidation. But I'm relieved to see I've got most of them at least partially covered (go ahead, make another joke about having #13 covered). Thanks, Susan!

Susan C Shea said...

I will leave it to my esteemed Minds to clarify what really works during the week, but I will point out that my list demonstrates having the word "naked" in your copy is a great way to get attention!

Danny Gardner said...

Well stated, Susan. Lovely post today. :)