How I do Book Marketing: Part I

Remember the good old days when your agent did everything for you? She edited your manuscript, presented manuscripts and proposals to acquisition editors over lunch, and negotiated multi-book contracts with humongous advances. She wrote into each contract a sizable marketing/publicity budget that publishers would provide, then scheduled a book tour, and coordinated news releases with the publisher’s publicity department.

I don’t remember an agent like that, either. Perhaps she or he existed in my dreams, but I considered myself lucky just to have an agent who answered her telephone and responded promptly to everything I sent her. She did negotiate multi-book contracts, but she was never able to arrange big publicity budgets or really huge advances. She suggested appearances, but I had to coordinate directly with the publisher to arrange bookstore signings and ensure copies of my titles were present when I did a signing. I still paid travel expenses out of my own pocket.

When my agent died and most of the editors I had personally worked with in the past also died or retired, I learned to do everything myself. Fortunately, I had years of experience on both sides of the editorial desk and I knew my way around the publishing industry. Unfortunately, the publishing industry changed rapidly and I found myself at a disadvantage because I was still trying to do things the old way.

Here’s what I did to play catch-up: I subscribed to Publisher’s Weekly and Publisher’s Marketplace. I attended conventions that had pitch sessions and pitched editors directly. I made friends on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. I went to bookstores and Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com and Kobo and observed what was being published and how it was marketed.

And I wrote my heart out.

I discovered what mattered most was the number of titles I currently had in print, not the publisher of those titles. I had been published by Pocket Books, Kensington, and St. Martin’s Press in the past, but that no longer seemed important. What seemed important was genre and author name recognition. I was horrified to discover that no one in the horror, sf, or fantasy fields remembered my name. And only a handful of people in the mystery and thriller fields knew I was still alive.

I am in the process of re-establishing myself as a brand name writer of horror, dark fantasy, and suspense fiction. It is a long and time-consuming process. I do a little each day to make myself memorable.

More on book marketing in future blogs. Now I return you to our regular programming.

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2 thoughts on “How I do Book Marketing: Part I

  1. Let me ask you this: do you think a well known publisher can do more for a career? I’m not talking about the Big 5. Part of me never wants to leave my publisher (they’re wonderful to me); the other part wonders if a larger publisher could open doors that wouldn’t be available to a smaller press. Thoughts?

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  2. If you want to get your books into most bookstores, you need to go the traditional route. That means either one of the Big 5 or a smaller mainstream publisher that has distribution established. Bookstore and library sales are important to your career.

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