Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Publicity & marketing: what would you like to know?

Most agents out there became an agent in one of two ways: A.) they started as an assistant to another agent or agency and learned the business from the ground up, or B.) they made the move to an agency after working for many years as an editor at a publishing house.

As some of you may know, I came into agenting via a less-traditional route: my background is in book publicity, marketing and sales. And if you think about it, agenting is just another kind of marketing. The end result is the same; get the book into the hands of people who will talk about it, buy it, and then talk about it some more.

Having a background in publicity and marketing can be an extremely effective tool when it comes to evaluating the commercial potential of a new project. (It also pretty much guarantees that I don't know how to use my indoor voice. Ever.) And it's becoming more and more common in agenting. My FinePrint colleague Janet Reid was one of the best book publicists in the business before she made the transition, and my friend Holly Bemiss over at the Susan Rabiner Agency made the leap to agent after working her way up to Associate Director of Publicity at Houghton-Mifflin several years ago.

I haven't talked much about book publicity or marketing on this blog but maybe I should.

So I'm opening this up to y'all: what would you like to know about book publicity, promotion and marketing? Leave your questions in the comments field. Ask me anything. I may not have the answer to your question but I'll try to answer as many as I can this week before I fall dead from exhaustion or am forced to go clean the litterbox yet again.


leesmiley said...

Great topic!

Looking forward, how important will an author blog be in the future of book marketing and what do you think are the keys to keeping a successful blog that will draw interest to an author's work?

KD said...

I'd like to know what would be expected of a new author determined to help all she can, and when she (me) would just be getting in the way. I know not to attempt to draw my own cover art, what else might be a faux pas?

(also, saw this and thought I'd point it out-- http://graphjam.com/2008/09/01/song-chart-memes-air-speed-velocity-of-various-objects-according-to-monty-python/ )

Greg van Eekhout said...

Hey, thanks for offering to tackle our questions!

My first book is coming out next summer. My publisher has two publicists on staff, both of whom are no doubt extremely busy with many books and authors. At what point should I contact them to discuss the marketing and publicity plan for my book? And what can I do to get them on-board and excited about promoting my book?

slf said...

Okay hopefully this is not too out there. I get a lot of inspiration from music and find myself compiling a playlist for each project. (They come in really handy when the muse takes a powder.) I've often wondered if it would be possible to incorporate something like this into marketing a book, or if it would just be a big hairy mess of copyright issues.

S. E. Ward said...

I can vouch for the indoor voice. ;) Fortunately, I never really learned to use mine, either.

How feasible is it to apply a skill or hobby (other than writing) to book marketing? Are things like limited edition prints or original drawings by an artist likely to help sell books? Yes, I'm thinking about knitting. And art, if it comes to it, but mostly knitting.

Also, any tips on litter box cleaning? I need to do it in the morning, and I'm waffling as much as I can.

beth said...

Question: If an author *wants* to be actively involved in the publicity of her own books, then what is the best way to approach that?

Example: I know that authors should not expect a book tour, but what if the author foots the bill herself? What other sorts of things would the publisher/publicity dept. appreciate if the author did (i.e. mail post cards, etc.)...basically, what can I do to supplement whatever pub is provided by the publisher?

Kelley said...

excellent. thanks for answering some of these.

my ques-once you land that publishing contract, do you think it's worthwhile to hire your own publicist?

Pierre said...

That is something I always wondered about, so I guess I'll ask a multi-general-faceted question, sort of:

First off, what sort of tactics do you have in promoting a book, marketing a book etc etc.? How do you approach editors and the like when it comes to trying to sell a manuscript?

clindsay said...

KD -

EXCELLENT QUESTION! And that's the one I'll start with. Look for a post about this topic later this evening.

Greg -

Also an excellent question. I'll try to answer yours tonight as well.

Pierre -

I'm not sure what you're asking. Do you want to know how an agent pitches a book to an editor? I can answer that at another time; it's a little off topic. Re marketing and publicity tactics, that's a rather vague question. If you can narrow it down some for me, that may help me answer your question later this week.

Everyone else -

Keep the questions coming!

numdlmom said...

How much impact do you think a website can have when you're trying to find an agent for your manuscript. If an author builds a website around the world described in the book with lots of expanded information, and perhaps a blog/commentary/opposing viewpoints posted by characters from the story, do you think this kind of pre-publishing marketing can be helpful?

If the website creates enough of a buzz around the "world" does that make agents/publishers take notice?

Melodye said...

Thanks for offering to field our questions!

My nonfiction (memoir) proposal includes several marketing & publicity ideas, most of which I'm willing to do on my own (with publisher permission, of course). I'm wondering...How much time and consideration does a publishing house devote to this section of a book proposal, before and/or after a contract is issued?

Margay said...

What are the best ways for an author to promote themselves?

K.C. Shaw said...

How effective do you think the typical author attempts at publicity are? I'm thinking specifically about localish booksignings, passing out bookmarks at cons, and things like that.

Thanks for taking our questions! I'm looking forward to reading the answers!

writtenwyrdd said...

I have a job (government) where I cannot just take time off to do publicity tours, interviews or what not. I also live in the back of beyond in Northern Maine, where it's 2 hours just to the nearest commercial airport.

How would that likely affect my ability (willingness has nothing to do with it) to participate in marketing and promotional events for my book?

Deaf Brown Trash Punk said...

I am hoping to self-publish my first book. How do I go about spreading word about my book to review critics and convince them to review my book? I can't find info about this anywhere on the internet.

Kelly Pollard said...

Teens can be hard to draw out sometimes. I've heard of great publicity done by YA authors...lots of times incorporating music (both live at readings and online playlists), myspace/facebook and blogs to reach the tech-savvy. When I publish my book, I'd be the author to obsess that no one will show up to a reading. So, how do you draw them to the library/bookstore? How much money is a reasonable amount to invest in publicity? (I had an idea of giving away customized guitar straps...so what if I can't sew yet, right? But the cost would be crazy set against what's earned by the books I'd sell at a particular reading.)

Okay, sorry about the rambling question(s). Too much caffeine, too early...


H. L. Dyer said...

If an author has several ideas for marketing their project, when is the appropriate time to present them?

For example, my MC cooks when stressed and I gave her lots to stress over. ;)

I have a friend with a popular cooking blog who has agreed to create recipes for the meals my protagonist prepares and cross-post/guest blog down the line.

I've assumed discussing marketing plans pre-offer-of-representation is beyond obnoxious... but is this something to discuss with an agent at signing? On book sale? Just before publication?

sbarret said...

how about a list of what sells books, and what's a waste of an author's time? There are a ton of ideas floating around- blogs, websites, free stories, give the ebook away and the print book will sell more, book signings, bookmarks, conventions, etc etc. But maybe a top five list of what actually helps sell books, and a bottom five list of 'you can do this if you like, but you'd sell more books standing on a street corner carrying a sign that sez "The End Of the World Is Coming!"

Heather said...

I second what sbarret said. I'd also like to learn more about what goes into creating covers & titles from the marketing department's perspective.

Thanks for the opportunity to learn more about the industry!

micheleleesbooklove said...

Is a bad review better than no review?

Alexandra Hepburn said...

Oh man, I'm so late on this, but I'm wondering how exactly one would go about breaking into a career in book publicity? I know there's not one direct route, but I'd love to hear your story since it's a career I'd really like to explore!