After Porter Anderson’s session (see previous post), we had a lunch break. This time I met up with a group of mystery and thriller writers. We managed not to discuss gruesome ways to kill characters while eating. It was fun.
Then I went to a panel titled Take Your Book Publicity to the Next Level. The panelists were Susan Shapiro, Joseph Alexiou, Jill Bialosky, Ryan Harbage, Naomi Rosenblatt, Victoria Chow, and Renée Watson.
You can see I’m focusing on marketing and publicity for this conference. That’s where my goals lie. I have several books out now, am a hybrid author in the sense of having some self-published work and some books published by small presses, and I feel a little behind on the publicity end of things. I know I should have gotten started sooner or done more somehow, but it’s all about figuring out where to put one’s energies. I hoped this panel would help.
Mostly I took away this idea that I should somehow get my work or some essays published in the New York Times. Yeah, okay, that might be easy for these guys, but what about us “little people”?
Well, we were told it’s important that a writer know his or her audience and have ideas about how to reach and market to them. That makes sense.
The panel members reiterated the point that all our tweets and Facebook posts should not be “buy my book!” This seems pretty obvious to me, but considering how many tweets I see that are “buy my book!”, I guess this still needs to be said. Instead, we should find other content, or write related content, that we know our readers will be interested in. Link to an article or write essays and blog posts. We were told to build our platform—our public image—by having “clips” online that agents and publishers could find when they look us up.
Themed parties and events were suggested (for book launches).
We were encouraged to exploit group memberships: alumni associations, religious organizations, anywhere we can spread word. Renée Watson writes middle grade and YA, so she visits schools and reaches out to educators; she said when she books a visit, her publisher then looks around the same area and finds other outlets for her to visit so that she ends up doing a mini-tour.
Publishers big and small are looking for writers who can differentiate themselves and stand out, who they know will take on some of the marketing effort by building a readership. Authors should be touting what they can do for the agent or publisher, what they bring to the table (besides a great book). [At the same time, with so many publishing options available, authors should also be sure their publishers are bringing something to the table that earns their percentage.]
During Q&A, someone asked how much time they should be devoting to all this marketing and social media. The answer was to get writing done, and other important things, and maybe give an hour or so a day to social media work.
Again we were advised to get publicists (if we can afford them), but also reminded it’s a gamble—having a publicist is no guarantee of sales or profits, so you don’t know for sure you’ll get that money back.
A final question was, “What do you [publishers, agents] want out of publishing a book? Besides money?” The answers were: “Readers,” (which I feel is tangentially related to money), and something more amorphous . . . Not quite “good publicity” but perhaps “a good reflection on us and our brand.”
Do you, as a writer, feel you can give that to an agent or publisher? Do you already have a platform/readership you can bring them?