Recently, I did something I had never done before. I engaged the services of a publicist to help with the launch of my new novel, The Scent of Rain.
I have been writing books for over two decades, and, like many authors today, have had to shift quickly and often with the changing tide of publishing. Where once publishing houses shelled out expenses for travel and lodging, and food and books, supporting authors on the interview and signing rounds, today, all but a few big-name authors are required to do publicity themselves and to cover the expenses involved.
Authors are also obligated to have a broad on-line footprint, and, I know from personal experience, that involvement in social media, possessing a website, and blogging regularly are requirements spelled out in our contracts.
As a former reporter, I have researched what motivates readers to buy books, what to include in a perfect query letter, how to hook a reviewer, and myriad other topics “guaranteed” to sell books. And yet, in all honesty, I have given away more books than I have ever sold.
Until now. And the only thing that has changed is the fact that I hired a publicist. Why didn’t I do it earlier? I suppose the cost. But, as in many budding businesses, one needs to spend money to make money. And what I learned is that, overall, the fee was not that exorbitant. Many companies allow authors to choose from a menu of options, priced accordingly that run over various lengths of time. I picked the three-week option: two weeks prior to my book’s launch and one week after. The cost: $1,800.
For that swipe of my American Express card, I received, more than anything else, a course in how to promote myself and my book.
First, I was interviewed at length by my publicist, Sarah, who wanted to find out all about me, my book, and why I wrote the story. She then created a press release – which we worked on together – and which identified the various angles media people might take in approaching a story about my book. Remember, publicity is not only about a review. Your topic was important enough to make you spend a chunk of your life writing about it, so you must convince media people that it’s vital your story is told.
Next, Sarah placed The Scent of Rain on NetGalley: According to the company definition, NetGalley “is a service to promote and publicize forthcoming titles to readers of influence. If you are a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or in the media, you can use NetGalley for FREE to request and read titles before they are published.”
Over three weeks, almost sixty NetGalley reviewers, librarians, and booksellers requested my novel. One month after that, my publisher ordered a second run of The Scent of Rain. So, clearly, people were buying my book.
Sarah and I spoke at the end of each week, talking about who had responded to our queries and why. She would also send me a detailed list of all contacts, and then we would plan for the following week, where we’d try a different angle. By the end of our three-week period, the list had grown exponentially. (Right now, it’s about 15 pages long.) And even when our time was technically up, Sarah stayed with me. In fact, whenever I need some help, I just e-mail her and she gets right back to me with suggestions.
The best thing of all is that Sarah didn’t just give me the proverbial fish, she taught me how to fish. For example, I used to contact bloggers, reviewers, book clubs, and media people just once. Sarah gently explained that you should make contact every three to four weeks. Rework that query. Try a different angle. Share some reviews that have come in. Touch base. Just because you had a “no response” – which is what happens most of the time in this business – doesn’t mean they might not be interested the second or third time around. And, you know, she was right.
It’s important to remember that there’s no hard beginning or end-time for promotions. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So, I check that long list of contacts most everyday, reviewing the last time I touched base, re-reading the most recent e-mail, figuring the best way to try again.
I have my publicist to thank for my newfound promotional skills and the fact that I’m selling books. And if you think the financial cost for hiring a publicist is too high, consider what you’d pay for a college course in marketing. Because that’s what I feel I got in this deal. Here’s hoping Sarah would give me an A.
Anne Montgomery’s new novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other? The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.including.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.