For anyone who has written and sold their first novel, what comes next can often be a daunting task. How do you get the reading public to notice you and buy?
Logically, it sounds like this should be the publisher’s job. They’ve bought your book and made it one of their products. You’ve given over your rights to them. Wouldn’t it be in their best interests to market it so that they can make more money?
Apparently not, according to an article by Neely Tucker of the Washington Post, “On Web, a Most Novel Approach.” Publishers do actively push their titles, but increasingly it’s those at the top of the food chain that get fed, while new authors, those in print anyway, who must fend for themselves.
Authors are expected to behave like mini-entrepreneurs, says Kamy Wicoff, founder and CEO of She Writes, a Web site devoted to helping women writers promote their books. She started the site in June. More than 4,000 writers have joined.
“The landscape has altered so fundamentally and irrevocably that almost no one is immune from finding ways to participate in the promotion of their books,” Wicoff says. “Writers with small advances and limited resources are expected to treat their book as a new company, with marketing and promotion and PR.”
Tucker makes this sound like a new development, though it has actually been the case for many years now. The current economic recession and systemic financial difficulties in the publishing industry, however, have accentuated the disparity.
Never Underestimate the Value of a Book Trailer
As an example, the Post tells the story of first time nonfiction author Kelly Corrigan, who in 2008 published a memoir, The Middle Place, about cancer’s effect on the family. True, nonfiction about disease is a long way from romance fiction, but many of the same challenges face fiction and nonfiction authors alike.
When her book came out, Corrigan received no invites to book festivals, was not sent on tour, didn’t even get reviews. What she did in response, however, could serve as an excellent PR blueprint for all authors. She got busy.
She cobbled together a trailer for her book on her home computer, using iMovie software, downloading a free tune off the Web for background music, and stuck it on her Web site. Her agent helped get her on one network television morning show. About 20 friends hosted book parties, which she hit on a self-funded three-week blitz, selling books out of the trunk of her car. A guy shot video of her reading an essay at one of these parties, and she posted it on YouTube when the paperback came out.
A year later, the book has sold about 80,000 copies in hardcover and another 260,000 in paperback, according to Nielsen BookScan data. It sat on the New York Times bestseller list for 20 weeks, peaking at No. 2. That homemade trailer has been viewed more than 100,000 times. The video of her reading has drawn 4.5 million hits.
EBook authors may not find themselves selling copies of their books out of their trunks. Still, the ingenuity behind Corrigan’s story is admirable and inspiring. This is a meaty article, with a single bottom line lesson. If you want to get noticed, it’s your responsibility to do it for yourself.