I’ve been thinking about the challenges of getting people to read and more importantly buy your book when it finally gets published. It has been getting more and more obvious to me that it’s never too soon to develop an audience, not to mention build that network of contacts, before your book comes out.
Let’s explore that thought for a moment, shall we?
I’ve been told about the challenges of having a book accepted by a publisher. There’s the contract negotiation, the back and forth editing, promotion, etc. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes (so I’m told… no experience with that aspect yet) before the book ever hits the shelves. And when it hits the shelves, then what?
Those people in the know all say that you, as the author, must take the initiative to promote and sell the book. But wait a minute! I’m not a marketing person (actually I AM a marketing person, but I’m speaking hypothetically) nor am I a sales person. Why in Hell am I supposed to do that? Isn’t the publisher going to earn their 93% by doing that for me?
In a word, no. The publisher’s 93% largely goes towards actually printing and distributing your book. Most publishers simply don’t have the budget to do all the promotion (again, I’m going on the word of others for this).
So that means it’s up to me; a pretty scary thought. But wait! I’m going to be VERY busy doing all the editing to get the book ready. I’ve got a full-time job and a family… I can’t afford the time to go out and make contacts and build a following.
If you’re saying that after you’ve already got the publisher, you may be right. There’s no arguing that it will take time and energy to do the marketing.
However, if your book is still in the pre-publisher stages, maybe it’s not so bad. You still have some time to invest in self-promotion.
Take my strategy, for example. I’m a contributor to StartingWriteNow (didn’t see that one coming, did you?), so I’m at least getting my voice (and name) known out there. I’m getting out and meeting other authors so I can learn from them. I’m attending workshops (and conferences later this year). Oh yeah, and I’m talking about my writing to anyone who will listen. All those efforts are being made so when I finally do get that publisher I can either get on the phone or send out some emails letting people know about the coming book.
But that’s only half the battle.
I’ve still got to start meeting with bookstore managers, learning who the local media are and getting exposure on some of the various writing sites. I’ve also got to join a couple of writing organizations and actively participate in them so I get known. Those things will definitely help too.
I’ve also been introduced to a few social networking groups a la Facebook and Twitter, not to mention Second Life. I should consider spending some time contributing there as well.
Notice I said should. I haven’t done all that… at least not yet, but I will be. There’s simply so much out there that I don’t want to take a shotgun approach. I want to look and see where the most value is. I can definitely contribute EVERYWHERE but I should focus on those areas that bring the best returns.
Now, you may be saying that a lot of the things I’ve talked about are places that other authors frequent. If you are, you would be right. But keep something in mind, writers are readers too (just ask Sean). Another author is as much a potential sale as anyone else, maybe even more because you know they enjoy the written word. Make sure you don’t exclude them.
Ultimately, think about who might love books. Journalists, librarians, other writers, bookstore employees… the list can be as long as you make it. Make contacts with them all. Remember, anyone who deals with books all the time is often considered to be an expert by those who don’t. Get bookstore employees on your side (for example) and guess whose books they recommend whenever a customer asks what book would be good to buy.
Just think about it. And then get out there and start making those connections. The more you make now, the easier it will be later.