Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I Wish I’d Called You Sooner: Don’t Wait to Get Advice on Marketing a Book

It’s inevitable – I hang up the phone after receiving a call from another prospective client, and the last words I hear before we sign off are: “I wish I’d spoken with you sooner.”

I hear this same lament over and over again, mainly because a good number of the authors who call (and oftentimes it’s their first call to any publicist) didn’t complete some of the crucial steps that must take place before they release their books.

In many cases, it’s too late for me to help them – the authors have already done one or more of the following:

• waited over a year before trying to get publicity for a book already released
• didn’t develop a social media platform
• didn’t have their covers professionally designed
• didn’t have their books professionally edited
• signed publishing contracts without reading them
• allowed publishers to only issue their books in hard cover
• released their books late in the year
• didn’t workshop their manuscripts before publishing
• wrote a book in a genre that is overcrowded or difficult to sell
• wrote a book that doesn’t have a newsworthy angle or point of view.

When I mention that these situations that might make it difficult for me to help market their books, I inevitably receive the following arguments:

• but I didn’t know that a book should be marketed within the first 6-8 months after release
• but I’m computer-phobic and don’t know how to use social media
• but I’m a good artist, and my friends and family like my book covers
• but I was an English major and don’t need an editor –or– my publisher is going to edit my book (even though the publisher is most likely not a professional editor)
• but the publisher told me that s/he would do ________ (so I didn’t read the contract)
• but the publisher said that s/he would issue the book in soft cover after I sold an (unknown) amount of hard covers
• but I didn’t know that releasing a book in late winter would make it difficult to promote because of the holidays and/or that most venues will be already booked for the year
• but my cancer survival/parental issues/adoption story or memoir doesn’t have to be unique – everyone I know likes it
• but the fact that I wrote the book makes it newsworthy.

In many of these cases, the authors don’t like what I have to say and try to convince me that somehow I’m wrong about these important steps. Some of them try to tell me that because a few reviewers liked the book, they feel they can somehow bypass the rules. And some of them don’t listen at all – instead, they call to tell me how important their books are and, thus, whatever I have to say doesn’t really matter to them.

In the end, every author has the right to do whatever s/he wants with his or her book. But if authors (especially new authors) want to be successful at selling their books, they have to be willing to educate themselves about the selling process. And they must realize that marketing is different from what they learned (or, in many cases, didn’t take the time to learn) about creating a successful book.

What I end up suggesting to those who call me with these issues is the following:

• educate yourself about the book industry: know the statistics and requirements for your genre and be realistic about where your book might stand if your genre is difficult to sell
• educate yourself about the promotion process: take classes, attend workshops, go to conferences, read books on marketing, and talk with other authors who have successfully published and sold their books
• don’t wait to hire a publicist: make contact (preferably by email) at least 4-6 months before the book is released
• don’t be afraid of social media – learn how to set up and manage at least one or two sites (I recommend Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads) and place your blog posts on all of them, including your website (get help from a social media consultant if you truly find this process too daunting)
• plan to promote your book during the first 6-8 months immediately after the book is released
• don’t ever release a book that hasn’t been edited by a paid professional
• don’t ever design your own book cover
• don’t sign a publishing contract without reading it word-for-word and, if anything is unclear, discussing it with a publishing attorney
• don’t let a publisher talk you into only releasing your book in hard cover – hard covers are too expensive for readers and booksellers won’t stock them. Insist on softcover and ebook versions, or pass on the opportunity
• don’t release a book at the end of the year (any time after October is too late); instead, plan to release in either January or February, so you have the entire spring and summer to schedule events, make appearances, and promote
• don’t assume because you received one or two positive reviews that selling the book will be easy
• don’t assume that because you have an interest in your content/story that others will feel the same way you do.

Finally, my ultimate advice to all authors is to write the best book you possibly can. For most, this means workshopping the manuscript with a writing group and taking the feedback that is given to heart. I see too many books that should never have been published, not only because they have been improperly produced, but because the writing level is not where it should be to compete in today’s crowded market. Educate yourself about the promotion process as early as possible, and make sure your book is truly ready to be released into the world.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

2018 Appearances for Paula Margulies and The Tao of Book Publicity

Looking forward to meeting you at one of the following conferences/events!

San Diego Writers and Editors Guild
Monday, January 27, 2018
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Health Services Complex
3851 Rosecrans Street
San Diego, CA 92110

Southern California Writers Conference
Friday, February 14, 2018
10:40 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
Crowne Plaza Hanalei, San Diego

Publishers & Writers of San Diego
Saturday, July 28, 2018
10:00 a.m - 12:00 p.m.
Carlsbad City Library
1775 Dove Lane
Carlsbad, CA 92011

34th Annual Central Coast Writers Conference
Friday, September 27, 2018 - Sunday, September 29, 2018
1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Friday: The Tao of Book Publicity: Promotion Strategies that Work
4:45 - 5:45 p.m. Friday: Marketing Stream and Opportunities (Panel)
9:00 - 11:00 a.m. Saturday: How to Create a Successful Virtual Book Tour
3:15 - 4:15 p.m. Saturday: New Marketing Tricks and New Avenues (Panel)
Cuesta College
San Luis Obispo, CA

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Uncommon Word: Surprising Our Readers with Extraordinary Language

In the library the other day, I came across a copy of Michael Wolff’s tell-all book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House and, even though I’m pressed for time to read lately, I decided to check it out. The book turns out to be a great dish on the chaotic and cringe-worthy first year of the current administration, but what surprised me most about it is was the language Wolff uses. Scattered across the pages are words I am embarrassed to admit I don’t know: words like samizdat, revanchism, myrmidons, quant, and hortatory.

To be truthful, I wasn’t expecting this level of vocabulary in what I thought would be a People type of read. To be clear, the book is quite good; it provides a fascinating first-hand look at the temperament of the current president and the political machinations of the people he chooses to work for him. But I have had to keep my phone handy while reading this book, just so I can look up some of the unfamiliar words I’m encountering as I go along.

This process of looking up new vocabulary words brings back some of the best memories of my childhood. I was one of those kids who loved to read and enjoyed diving into books above my recommended reading level. I delighted in learning new words, and discovered, as an interesting by-product, that doing so taught me to be a better writer, as well as a reader. But at some point in my life, I lost this drive to discover new vocabulary words. I replaced it with a desire to acquire more content in what I was reading. Now I’m wondering if it was a good idea to lose interest in growing my vocabulary.

While many of us enjoy discovering new words in the books we’re reading, most of us who write don’t have the same feeling about pushing the vocabulary envelope. It’s a tough job just to get the words on the page on some days and forcing ourselves to write with more complex language is sometimes not a priority. But I have to admit that when I read books that are written with an elevated vocabulary, I find that I’m more likely to remember them as the books I love the most.

My appreciation for heightened language is ironic considering that in the college business classes I teach, I urge students to write with short, simple words. Some of the rationale behind this pedagogy is that when writing for business, the primary goal is to be clear. But when it comes to writing fiction and nonfiction books, the goal is a little different. In those cases, we are telling stories. Our purpose, for the most part, is to inform and entertain. And I would argue that in those cases, the type of words we use matter more.

Finding just the right word to describe a character or situation might take the writer a little more time, but the end result can be captivating and memorable, and can make our stories soar. I know some will argue that forcing readers to stop and look up words might take them out of the stories we write. There is some truth to that. But reading Wolff’s work has reminded me that in addition to developing a good storyline and creating memorable characters,  I also need to up my game when it comes to the language I use in my writing. I believe I owe it to my characters, my stories, and most of all, to my readers, especially if I want them to remember my books as the ones they love the most.