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Author Promotions and what works

Got a question/comment about the business of writing or about the publishing industry? Here's your place to post it!
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cw gortner
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Post by cw gortner » Thu December 9th, 2010, 12:44 am

I personally don't do much of what is mentioned in the article except Twitter, and I don't 'tweet' all that well, evidently. But I do do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to promotion, both financially and time-wise. These days, unless a book was acquired for significant money, as in, over $500K, it's pretty much a requirement if the author expects to sell copies in any quantity and wants a career. I know of books that were bought for nearly a million that had very limited promotional budgets, to the author's dismay. Marketing budgets at publishing houses were never robust; these days, they're practically extinct.

A book marketing maven once told me that most houses spend less than $650 per title on marketing. That is a reality an author cannot afford to ignore.

Authors would be wise to set aside between 15 - 20% of their advance for promotion. Keep the day job, too, while we're at it. Remember, publicity is stuff we get for free, like reviews, feature articles, etc. (though 'free' is relative, as it's very time-consuming); marketing is stuff we pay for, like ads, book trailers, websites, etc.

I do both. I have marvelous publicists and marketing teams at both my publishers' but they're dealing with a massive influx of new titles every season. It's my job to augment their efforts and ensure my books have longeavity. Again, budgets are very tight and that coveted placement on the front table at Borders or Barnes & Noble is usually for 2 weeks max, if you're lucky enough to snag it. After that, the book gets returned or shelved. You have to be the one who keeps it front and center in the public's eyes - and you're competing against myriad other choices for their entertainment dollars.

The old days of suave parties, gilded author tours, instant New York Times reviews, and building authors' careers despite soft sales are over. Now we have blogs, twitter, Facebook, Bookscan numbers, and a whole lotta noise. Getting noticed in the mayhem can be quite a challenge. The trick is to do it without looking like the proverbial bull in the china shop, smashing your book's merits over unsuspecting readers' heads. That author Susan mentioned, who comments on every Goodreads addition? Bull.

It's not easy, and it's a rude awakening for many writers who first get published and begin to realize what lies ahead, after the champagne fades and the hangover sets in. But many of us have had to learn it. And some of us, like me, have even come to enjoy it.

I forgot to add, this is one of the reasons self publishing can be more appealing to certain writers. I've done both and can honestly say, while publishing the actual book on my own was tough, it was nothing compared to the promotional efforts required of me now. If I sold 2 or 10 or 200 of my self published title, it was my business. It wouldn't sink me. My book could live on in perpetuity. But with a major house, that is a death knell. I can't afford to be complacent, if I want to publish more books with the major house. Something to consider when deliberating what is the right choice for you.
Last edited by cw gortner on Thu December 9th, 2010, 1:01 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by Michy » Thu December 9th, 2010, 1:56 am

[quote=""boswellbaxter""] Gives me a "I'm watching you" feeling myself, enough to dissuade me from reading his books.[/quote] More like, "I'm stalking you." Ugh.

[quote=""Misfit""] Just who are those professional reviewers anyway?[/quote] Harriet, perhaps? :p (rolls on the floor convulsing with laughter)

This is a great thread, BTW. Very interesting and informative.

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Post by LoveHistory » Thu December 9th, 2010, 3:23 am

I think I'll stay with self-pub.

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Post by Ariadne » Thu December 9th, 2010, 3:34 am

[quote=""Misfit""]This might be the topic for a new thread, but I've always wondered how the libraries make decisions on which books to purchase. Nine out of ten purchase requests I make they do buy, but occasionally I've been turned down with the "not professionally reviewed" excuse. Just who are those professional reviewers anyway?[/quote]

They could mean it hasn't been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, or Kirkus, but it sounds like an excuse to me too, if they want to give some reason not to buy it. Review space is way down, so there will be many worthwhile books not covered by any of those four journals.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
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Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu December 9th, 2010, 3:39 am

Didn't Kirkus fold? Although I noticed something using their name where they review for pay.

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Post by Ariadne » Thu December 9th, 2010, 3:46 am

Things looked bad for Kirkus Reviews for a time, but the magazine was purchased (by the owner of the Indiana Pacers basketball team, an avid book lover!) and is back in business. They have a separate pay-for-review service called Kirkus Discoveries. I'm on the email list for the latter and often see historical fiction reviewed there, but I'm rather wary after being burned once.

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Post by Margaret » Thu December 9th, 2010, 7:33 am

Interesting. And exhausting. Here I am slaving away to craft a story that will hold a reader in the face of all the other temptations and competition for her time, and now I have to become expert at all this too?

Yes. You. Do.
But not yet. I still think the most important thing of all, by far, is to write a really good book. I guess if you're a celebrity, your dog can write a book, get it heavily promoted, and sell millions of copies. But for the most part, the books that become bestsellers sell because readers feel moved, stirred and excited by them, recommend them to their friends, who recommend them to their friends, and so on and so on. You do need to do enough PR to get the first batch of readers to read it. But once the really good book is written, then you can start becoming an expert in marketing.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Post by wendy » Thu December 9th, 2010, 1:02 pm

[quote]"First, it is run on flash. Flash, as you may have read, cannot be viewed on any iThing. So that is like 80 million devices that can’t view whatever it is the author spent so much money to have on her site. Plus, it takes time to load and people with slower internet connections are likely clicking away. Further, many people visit during work hours and can’t even see or enjoy the fancy shmancy thing."[quote]

Using flash doesn't seem to have damaged the careers of Stephen King, Dan Brown, Patricia Cornwell, JK Rowling . . . and I'm guessing that anyone who owns "any iTHing" likely has a regular computer too.

Shouldn't a web site strive for individuality? I want mine to reflect the uniqueness of my work and capture the general themes I write about.

What's important to you?

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Post by Misfit » Thu December 9th, 2010, 4:14 pm

What's important to you?
I don't have any I thing, and only work on PC's but I loathe flash and my coworkers feel the same way when we're having to click our way past it.

Another thing to take into consideration is that not everyone on home PC's has the fastest PC and connection. My old dinosaur finally died and got replaced and things are much quicker even with the same connection (which I'd upgraded with the old PC and things still went very slow). If a page takes too long to load I am just not going to go there. There are a couple of blogs that never ever make it outside of Google reader just because there's so many widgets, gidgets and pics on them the load time is frustrating.

The comments on the DA thread should be helpful to any author - there are readers there telling what they do and don't want to see.

I also think blogging is great for authors - that is when they talk about more than their books. I like to know what they are researching, odd bits of history, etc. An author who has a blog merely to make announcements about the availability of his/her book and providing me with links to Amazon to purchase said books will go on permanent ignore.

For me the best thing and what you see here at HFO and Goodreads is author's participating in reader discussions as readers. One time over at Goodreads Sharon and EC were helping out on a discussion and in comes a group member just impressed as all get-out at that and said she'd be putting them on her to-read list lickety split. I'm more inclined to try out a new author if I see they have similar reading tastes to mine.
Last edited by Misfit on Thu December 9th, 2010, 4:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Libby » Thu December 9th, 2010, 9:49 pm

An interesting thread and article. I agree that to be successful as an author you need to help yourself, but no-one wants to keep reading about your book so it has to be a balancing act.

I have a Facebook friend who is an author and most of her posts seem to be links to blog reviews of her book. They get annoying after a while.

I don't deny that a fair bit of what I do on the internet is designed to draw attention to my books, but I do enjoy chatting about other stuff as well - because I'm at home most of the time it's my main social outlet.

I have a website which is just basic information about myself. It's very cheap so it isn't anything spectacular. I have a blog, but I don't talk about my books. It's about historical snippets really. I enjoy writing them. I think people enjoy reading them and if gets me some publicity then that's a bonus - though most of the blog searches that bring visitors to the site are 'Robin Hood's grave'.

As for my personal experience of being published, I think I've been quite lucky. Although there was no marketing budget (and damn near no advance) Waterstone's book shop is supportive of small independent publishers and mine was picked up for their 3 for 2 offer in July. The publisher (bless him) made the payment they demanded and so the book was on those tables near the door for a few weeks.

Apologies for the blatant promo in my signature - but an author has to do what an author has to do! ;)
By Loyalty Bound - the story of the mistress of Richard III.


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