Writer’s Digest 2016

I’m currently attending the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. It’s been a full day of meeting fellow authors and hearing inspiring speakers. I plan to transcribe notes from the sessions I’ve attended so that you, my readers and possibly authors yourselves, can get a taste of it all.

The morning started (too early for me, given that I’m now on the East Coast and used to West Coast time) with me getting up and dressed and going down to meet complete strangers for breakfast. We’re fortunate and grateful that Writer’s Digest had the foresight to create a Facebook group for attendees so we could “meet” prior to, well, meeting. So that we could get a jump on networking and bonding and, instead of being a bunch of awkward people walking around avoiding one another, we could be awkward in a collective. Yay?

Yes, yay. I breakfasted with other YA writers and we had a nice game of pass-the-business-cards. I’ve got so many people to add to my Twitter and Facebook now! And I’m hoping at least a few will stumble over here to this blog, too. If so, hi guys!

Then sessions began and it was time to get down to business. I started off with Emily Liebert‘s How to be Your Own Best Publicist.

  1. Start publicizing before your book is out. Lay the groundwork, build those networks. Already be participating in groups, blogs, whatever so that when your book does arrive, people know and are familiar with your name from having seen it other places.
  2. Even if your publisher gives you a publicist to work with, remember that the publisher’s publicist has other authors to promote. You’re going to need to do stuff above and beyond what the publicist does.
  3. Hire a publicist if you have the money. And of course vet them first. Interview them, make sure you’re a good match. Get referrals if you happen to know any other authors who have used publicity agencies.
  4. Even if you do hire a publicist, you’re going to need to do stuff. Stay on top of things. This isn’t about getting to be lazy while someone else does the legwork. This is a partnership.
  5. Make a list of everyone you know. Friends, family, the person who grooms your dog. Everyone. Then draft an email asking them to please spread the word about your book. Include pre-written Twitter and Facebook posts that they can cut and paste. Make it easy for them and they’re more likely to do it. Send the email on the day your book comes out.
  6. You have to amp your signal. It has to go beyond your circle of friends. And you can’t just be posting “buy my book” messages. If you do that, it becomes Internet white noise. Instead, post things that make you real to readers. Things they can identify with so they feel connected to you. Post about your family, Instagram your breakfast, whatever.
  7. Giveaways. Nuff said.
  8. Offer the first chapter of your book online.
  9. Post articles that relate or connect to your book in some way.
  10. About signings: The days of the grand book tours are over. Unless you’re already a celebrity or bestselling author, people don’t go. Instead throw book parties. Events with food and drink draw more people. And pick places you have a connection to, or that are somehow connected to your book: the town you grew up in, the town you live in now, the place your book is set. And if a bookstore invites you (wow!) be sure to ask them how they promote their events. Especially if you don’t have a connection to the place, you don’t want to be left sitting there with no one attending.
  11. Jump at every opportunity (book signings aside). You’re never “too good” for something. Offer to write blog posts, and be the smiling, accommodating author they want to come back to for more later. That’s how you get repeat opportunities.
  12. Form strategic partnerships. Liebert teamed up with a nail polish company when promoting one of her books. The mid-sized company created three polishes and named them after the three main characters in her book. It was good publicity for her and them. That’s key: making sure there’s something in it for them, too.

During the Q&A came the inevitable question of, “What if my book is already out? Is it too late?” Well, you can still ask friends to spread the word. And remember that new books are a chance to promote your backlist as well.

Liebert suggested hiring a publicist 5 months prior to your book release and expect to keep them 1-2 months after the book is out.

It’s food for thought. Not all of this may apply to, say, indie authors who don’t have the luxury of recruiting a publicist, or people published by smaller presses who don’t have a 5-month lead time. But I’m sure some of these can be adapted to shortened schedules. You can always ask friends to spread the word about your book, and you can always be writing guest posts and essays and articles. Always be sowing seeds is how I look at it.

What do you think? Do you have any other tips on publicizing your book?

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M

Writer/Screenwriter

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