The Art of Running Your Business by M.J. Rose
Writing is an art and publishing is a business. Authors need to be the best artists they can be. That’s never changed.
But in the last ten years what has changed is we have to be involved in more of business than we ever did before and figure out how to find a balance between both worlds.
Because more books are being published and less is being done to promote them. There is a flood of titles and less ways for readers to differentiate between them. There is less traditional media – reviews – articles – interviews – for authors. There are less psychical stores. There is less shelf space in the stores that exists – B&N for instance cut out thousands of mid list titles to make room for Nooks.
Right or wrong, publishers now depend on us to work on prompting our own books more than ever before. Recently one author told me her editor told her if she didn’t have at least 1000 fans at Facebook the sales force wouldn’t take her seriously.
That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news. Or at least a positive way of looking at the current marketplace.
1. Because of the internet – no book every dies or gets old. If a reader has never heard of it – it’s new to her.
2. No one can buy a book they never heard of but there are more ways than ever for enterprising authors to get people to hear about your book.
3. Even if your publisher only markets your book for just two or three weeks and then moves on, you don’t have to! That was a conceit created for the way superstores stocked titles and gave them placement. It doesn’t work anymore and you don’t have to follow it. You can (and need to) buzz your books, your name and your brand all the time.
Most of us – me included - wish we could just write and have publishers take care of the rest.
But the truth is, even the best of them, in most cases won’t. And if you dig a little you will find that 99% of all successful authors – even those who get giant marketing and pr efforts from their publishers - supplement that with efforts of their own.
Publishers simply don’t have the funds, time or staff to get our books out in the public’s eye and keep them there long enough. They have to move on to the next book and the next and the next all too fast.
And that’s where so many problems are created.
It takes 2 to 4 months for real word of mouth to get started. People need to hear about a book more than 3 times before it starts to sink in – that means read about it online in one place, then another, then notice it in the store or at an online store.
Then they need to buy it.
Then they need to read it. (And that doesn’t happen right away. How big is your TBR pile?) They may not get to your book for 3 or 4 or even 6 weeks after they have bought it.
Only after they read it – and of course love it – can they start talking about it.
So if we rely on the typical publishing pr and marketing schedule – by the time readers really start talking about our books – everything will have ended and there won’t be any support in the marketplace to reinforce the book.
So what do we need to do?
1.Keep posting and blogging and finding guest blog gigs and running contests and doing interesting things online all year long. I know – it sounds exhausting – but it doesn’t have to. One hour a week is all you need to devote. Or 20 minutes a day three days a week. Join Twitter and follow Neil Gaiman – he is an extreme case but I don’t imagine he spends more than 15 minutes a day but he’s out there and visible. That’s what we all need to do – be visible.
2. Figure out what you want to do and can do yourself and what you want to hire someone else to do. Most authors put a percentage of their advances towards marketing and pr – two areas that are hard to do it yourself very well. It’s no longer considered shameful to supplement what the publisher is doing. They will even welcome it. Also its key to remember that your expenditures are tax deductible and the career you help is your own. If your book sells more copies, your next advance will be bigger. If your book sells less well than your previous ones, your advance will be smaller.
3. Only hire people who have good reputations and have worked with authors you’ve heard of. If someone says they will guarantee sales be suspicious. No one can do that. Marketing and PR get attention and make people aware of your book. We send people to your website, your book’s page at an online store, or a physical store. But it’s the book that has to capture the reader and make the final sale. The cover, the blurbs, reviews, flap copy and the first few pages.
All the marketing and PR in the world can’t sell a bad book – it can only drive traffic to the bad book.
Where does AuthorBuzz.com fit in?
I created AuthorBuzz in 2005 because I saw a serious problem.
Authors were starting to understand they needed to supplement their publishers efforts but they were getting ripped off by people who were selling them smoke and mirrors; offers to send out 200,000 press releases for $2000 that it turned out no one read, joint ads in the New York Times for $10,000 that didn’t sell anything because the ads were impossible to read, video trailers for upwards of $10,000 that would attract Hollywood to buy screen rights but no one watched– things that weren’t going to help an author truly and really build a name and a brand and send real readers to find out more and consider buying the book.
AuthorBuzz.com is priced for authors at the lowest rates possible. We offer solid tried and true and well-tested marketing to readers, booksellers, librarians, and bookclubs via top Internet websites, blogs, social media sites and newsletters.
In most cases we are either the only way you can pay to get your book on these websites or newsletters or we are the lowest priced way to gain entry.
What are these places? Bookmovement.com – which has more than 30,000 registered bookclubs representing more than 300,000 bookclub members. DearReader.com which is read by more than 370,000 readers and 10,000 librarians every day. Shelf-Awareness.com which goes to 3000 booksellers and 5000 librarians and thousands of book bloggers every day. Goodreads and Facebook where we can target a book to a specific reader – by title. Hundreds of blogs – like Perez Hilton and DailyKos – blogs were books get noticed and clicked on.
Bookclubbing which gets your title and reading group guide and a contest in the bi-monthly newsletter as well as on the home page of the site for one month.
Then there’s Book of the Month – that includes a dedicated mailing and a month of substantial advertising on the site geared to get the book the most attention possible.
We also offer the Live Chat of the Month – great for authors who want to interact with readers. We choose several clubs to get the book in advance and then they come and chat live with the author on the site. Along with anyone else who wants to join in. The chats are then archived and advertised for a full year on the site.
In addition any author can up load a Reading Group Guide on the site – Bookmovement.com – and pay via pay pal. That’s just $100.
What makes AuthorBuzz different?
As an author and an advertising expert I have a unique perspective. I’ve had 11 novels published and for 15 years and as the creative director of one of NYC’s most prestigious ad agencies did ads for McDonald’s, Maidenform Bras, Sharp Electronics, Opium Perfume, Bain de Soleil suntan lotion, Schmidt’s Beer and two different publishing imprints.
I know how to create marketing that gets attention and I understand why marketing is key to having a successful brand. It goes back to number 2. No one can buy a book they never heard of.
We also use state of the art designers to create the ads and buzz notes.
Our roster of clients is proof we’re doing something right. From fiction to non fiction, from debut authors to bestsellers like Linda Fairstein, Audrey Niffenegger, John Lescroart, Debbie Macomber… from publishers like Random House, Simon and Schuster to houses like SoHo Press and HCI – we can help get the word out and the buzz building. We hear back that we help titles get enough velocity to list, or that our longer campaigns help books sell out their print runs go back to press, or that we just helped get much needed attention. And more than 70% of our clients are repeat users.
What AuthorBuzz isn’t – we’re not a PR firm. We are a marketing company. Sometimes people ask me the difference. With us you are paying to have ads or buzz notes placed. You pay for it – it shows up. In most cases you are only paying us a agency commission – the money you are spending is for the space I buy for you. No different than how Chanel or Armani have ad agencies put ads in Vogue – you’re paying for ads or advertorials in places where the people who buy and sell your books are looking.
With PR you are paying to have an expert try to get you interviews, articles, and reviews. It’s great when the effort clicks and the NYT reviews you. But there are no guarantees in PR.
I do love PR – so I suggest that if you are going to hire a PR firm you also hire a marketing firm – because as hard as a publicist tries – they may not secure anything major for you and if you balance PR and marketing at least the marketing is a guaranteed.
We do work with everyone on an individual basis. Our prices start at around $1250 and our average campaign these days is from $1850 - $3500. You can reach us at AuthorBuzzCo@gmail.com and some of our programs are sold out up to two months in advance. We have full menus and examples at AuthorBuzz.com.
Filed as: The Writing Life