Let’s imagine that you’ve spent years writing and editing your story. Then an agent offered representation and secured a publisher for your book. Or maybe you decided to self-publish straight to e-book.
Either way, you’ve worked hard to make your story the best it could be and courageously sent into the world. Would you then simply cross your fingers that it becomes the next Eat, Pray, Love? Yet so many authors do and it’s the rare title that couldn’t benefit from smart publicity and marketing. There are too many books out there (in the U.S. alone more than 325,000 were published in 2010, electronic and paper) to think that people are going to learn about yours through osmosis.
I’ve found there are two kinds of authors when it comes to publicity. The first employs what I call The Cheesecake Factory Approach. Ever been to The Cheesecake Factory? They offer more than 200 items spanning over 22 menu pages. The customer is overwhelmed by so many choices all she wants to do is close her menu in defeat and eat a PB&J instead, falling back on reliable familiarity. And that’s just lunch! We authors are asking for a bigger commitment from readers. We want them to spend hours of time with our book so we need to make it stand out from the pages and pages of menu items – like chocolate cheesecake next to mashed potatoes.
Unfortunately the author using The Cheesecake Factory Approach tends to lurk among the 24 different salad offerings, timidly peeking out from behind the grilled radicchio. She feels it’s insincere to ask people to spend money on her book or write a review, or she finds it awkward, even a bit traumatic, to read in front of an audience. (If this sounds like you, you might find C. Hope Clark’s book, The Shy Writer, beneficial.)
The other kind of author takes the El Bulli Approach. El Bulli was arguably the best restaurant in the world, and its head chef, Ferran Adrià, the best chef. With three Michelin stars, El Bulli could charge $300 for a meal and only open its doors for six months each year. The author using this approach believes her work is as exclusive as El Bulli. She thinks the publisher should handle all aspects of promotion. Why should she monitor a FB page or do Q&A with a book blogger? Tweeting is not how she wants to use her time. After all, that’s why she decided to go the traditional route to publication, rather than self-publish.
By going with a traditional publisher or an indie press, you are signing a contract, i.e. you become partners. (Remember: publishing is a business.) Why not do everything in your power to get your book into as many hands as possible? There is no substitution for a genuine connection between author and reader, and there is no better advocate for your book than you.
No matter which route we take to publication – traditional, indie, self – we need to take the Whole Foods Approach. You may need to step out of your comfort zone a bit to achieve a more balanced effort between the writing and business sides of being an author. In fact, why not think of yourself as an authopreneur? Your book will thank you for it.
What is your experience with book marketing and publicity?
Jacquelin Cangro’s first book, The Subway Chronicles: Scenes from Life in New York (Penguin/Plume), is a collection of essays about the New York City subway system. Her follow-up The Subway Chronicles: More Scenes from Life in New York is now available on Kindle. This fall she will be teaching online classes in creative writing and novel pitches at The Loft Literary Center.