Needless to say, this is an LTER book, from September's batch (I'm actually backed up on several LTER books, so you'll be seeing a lot of them in here as I get caught up). Given that I used to run my own publishing company, it was no surprise that I ended up getting Midge Raymond's Everyday Book Marketing: Promotion ideas to fit your regularly scheduled life, but it does make one wonder how the Almighty Algorithm knew that, given that I really don't have that many “books about publishing” in my collection.
Of course, having been a publisher (and responsible for all of our “book marketing”), I came to this with a bit of a different context than many would. In the introductory material Raymond notes that she wrote this book specifically for the individual writer, one who has a book or two out, not the “aspiring” writer so much, and certainly not for the publishers out there (although much of the material here would be quite helpful for the small press looking to boost its authors' sales). The focus in on writers who have “other lives”, jobs and families, and the responsibilities that come with those … and tries to guide them on the path of becoming “marketing experts” in the hours they can dedicate to promoting their books.
Everyday Book Marketing in in two parts, roughly half-and-half, with the first being a “this is what you should be doing” instructional piece, and the second being interviews with 18 ladies involved in the book business, both authors and publishing/promotion folks. I did find it interesting that there wasn't a guy in there … unless the publishing business has changed greatly since I was involved (it's been about a decade at this point), that's probably an intentional thing making me think that this book is meant for women writers specifically … although I may just being petty in that observation.
In the first half of the book, the material is presented in a fairly straight-forward time line, broke into three sections, “Think Outside The Book”, which encourages the author to consider her project in terms of the publishing details, the nature of the audience, how best to reach those readers, what resources you will need to promote the book, and what activities will work best with one's individual strengths and time available. The “meat” of the book comes in the next section, “First Things First: Book Marketing Basics”, which is largely a step-by-step list of things to do prior to publication:
- Align your publishing method with your goals.
- Take an author photo.
- Create an author bio.
- Create a website.
- Create visuals and giveaways.
- Start a blog.
- Develop a mailing list.
- Set up Google Alerts.
- Join and be active on social networks.
- Set up a book tour.
- A virtual book tour.
- Book clubs.
- Consider a book trailer.
Several of these topics are further divided into elements of the main piece – such as book tours and social media – but they all get pretty “granular” with, for instance, a list of pages to create on a web site, and sources for post cards, stickers, and buttons in “visuals and giveaways”. The third section of the first half is “Book Launch and Beyond”, which goes through activating things that were set up in previous sections, getting the press kit out, setting up an Amazon author page, going out on the book tour, and keeping things going from there.
The second half of the book features a dozen authors, a publicist, a photographer, a book blogger, and three “events” gals from various contexts. These vary in usefulness (I had a sense that a few were just in here because they were friends of Raymond's), but there was one really remarkable bit by author Kim Wright, responding to a question about the biggest challenge she'd encountered in marketing her books:
That certainly is key advice for anybody in the publishing universe! Frankly, the whole of Everyday Book Marketing would be a useful lesson for anybody going into “the book biz”, as there are so many hints to avoid pitfalls and take advantage of unsuspected opportunities (like making yourself available to area organizations related to the subject of your book), all through it – both in the “instructions” and in the “interviews” halves. This just came out a couple of months back, so is likely to be available out in the more comprehensive surviving brick-and-mortar book vendors, and it can be found at a bit of a discount via the on-line big boys. While I had some issues with this, I found the material reasonably solid and actionable, so would not hesitate to recommend it to an author looking to get involved with active book promotion. I know that there are things in here that I wish I could have gotten my authors to do on a regular basis back when I had my press, and there are things (like virtual tours) which are new since those days which would have certainly helped.The single biggest challenge facing all writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction, whether they're conventionally published or self-published, is precisely the same: finding a readership.
It used to be that the question facing writers was “Can I get published?” People were obsessed with finding an agent, then praying that the agent could sell the book. It was a narrow gate. Not a lot of people got through it, but those who did could expect that once they were on the other side they could get significant help from their editors, agents, and publishers.
Now that's no longer the question. With the advent of self-publishing and the fact that most readers are shopping online for books and the whole e-book explosion … it's a different world. I always say the good news is that anybody can get published. And the bad news is that anybody can get published. Because there are so many books in the marketplace – more than six times as many now published per year as there were two years ago. And there certainly aren't six times as many readers.
So the question is not “Can I get published?” but “Once I get published, what do I need to do to help my book succeed?” The challenge is standing out in an oversaturated market, and I think that's a matter of knowing who your target readers are, where and how they shop for books, and tailoring your strategies to make it easy for them to discover your books.