TO RECAP: At the final day of a wonderful, lively Southern California Writers Conference steeped with equal parts of “polish your work to the finest shine” and “learn everything you can about promoting yourself and your books,” I had the distinct pleasure of sitting on the “e-NDEPENDENCE” panel with “Wine Lovers Mysteries” series author Michele Scott, BackMyBook.com co-founder GK Parish-Philip, author Gayle Carline (Freezer Burn), e-publishing expert Linton Robinson and memoirist Hyla Molander, who has helped popularize Scribd.com with her personal success (33,000 reads) using it as a promotional tool for her forthcoming memoir, Drop Dead Life: A Pregnant Widow’s Heartfelt and Often Comic Journey about Death, Birth and Rebirth. Internet strategist Jeremy Lee James of AuthorsEdge.com and WriteClickHosting.com was our moderator.)
During the e-NDEPENDENCE panel, we took turns discussing the subjects of the day in the publishing world — and what should be subjects of every day for authors in 2011. We also fielded very good questions from the audience. A few more subjects that were discussed — all of them important for writers and readers alike:
PROMOTE YOURSELF WITH RECKLESS ABANDON: Get used to it, readers and media — you’re going to hear a lot more from authors directly. Some may have publicists, and others not, but the name of the game today is PLATFORM: creating an angle, showing your face, gaining exposure, tying your book’s themes and subject matter into relevant current events, and promoting tirelessly.
Some panelists suggested hiring publicists to help with this, and I agree, with one condition: that you, the writer, learn how to do this yourself so that you can promote every day. That’s what it takes. Learn how to write captivating blogs, press releases, converse with bookstores, libraries, museums and art galleries (GREAT places for readings), and generate article writing campaigns (subject of a future blog). Take a class in public speaking or find a coach. Know all the online media sources inside and out pertaining to your subject. Push yourself forward as the expert and voice of your subject, or the live narrator of your novel or memoir … because, you are. And do something to promote your book for a minimum of 1 to 2 hours every day.
WHEN A PUBLICIST CAN HELP: This was a lively topic on the panel — and it went both ways. Some authors spend thousands on publicists, only to receive little more than press releases and empty promises. Others spend nothing, and wish they had. Still others hire publicists as consultants, fill in their plan with specific strategies and contacts provided by the publicist, consider it the best $1,000 to $2,000 they ever spent. Even on our panel, one panelist, author Michelle Scott, had a negative experience with a publicist — so she learned to do it herself, and very well. Another, Hyla Molander, will recommend her publicist-friend to anyone who asks. Her work was that good.
Let’s solve this dilemma. Assuming my former place as a public relations agency owner for a second, here are the three critical considerations (besides money) for getting a publicist involved — and I suggest face-to-face interview or, at the very least, Skype:
1) Does the publicist know how to publicize books and authors? The PR world is full of great event and corporate publicists who don’t know the first thing about book promotion — nor do they have the right media list to get you there. This alone is a a dealmaker or deal-breaker.
2) Is the publicist passionate about your work — and putting you in print and in front of cameras? She or he must love your book, your story and how the two mesh. And share the love with reviewers and interviewers. Simple as that.
3) Are you one of many — or the main feature? Make sure your publicist considers you and your work vitally important, enough to make you a prime client.
For this final reason, I suggest starting with a consulting relationship. You’ll know whether or not you need to go further. Take notes, listen, participate in your own publicity campaigns, and learn how to act on your plan. This skill is not an option any longer if you want to make it as an author in the 21st century. It’s a survival skill.
4) SELLING BOOK RIGHTS FOR PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED MATERIALS. More and more, publishers and editors read blog material, or postings on magazine websites, Scribd.com or other open forums, and see the potential for books. Or, they read serialized chapters posted by authors and want to buy the full product. How to deal with this? My experience is that, if a publisher wants something badly enough, they’ll buy the rights — even if it’s previously published. When they buy the rights, you may have to take down whatever you posted, unless you can convince the publisher that keeping it up helps promote the book. If you’re selling the work — say, a serialized e-book chapter by downloadable chapter — then you’ll almost certainly be asked to take the material off the market. I know several people who went from being bloggers to authors in the past two years alone by pre-posting material, or originally writing on the subject on assignment for online magazines, websites or blogs.
This is a wide open frontier, and as I tell everyone in every workshop I teach, you never know who’s reading. If you get an online assignment or invitation to post on someone’s blog, offer one-time rights only. That keeps all your options intact in case a publisher comes knocking — or in case you choose to publish a book on your own.
Oops … I just checked the word count. Looks like we’re going to have a Part 3 to this series.
(NEXT: I will discuss how to negotiate e-rights, making social media ROCK for you, and the world of the 21st century writer-entrepreneur.)
If you’d like more specific information or assistance with promotional planning to help with your book or project, BOB YEHLING can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.