Nurturing Your Literary Offspring
Nurturing Your Literary Offspring
An Afterword Guest Column by Lucine Kasbarian,
former Director of Publicity at Red Wheel, Weiser and Conari Press,
former Publicity & Marketing Manager at Hearst Books
When my book, “Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People,” debuted, its imprint, Dillon Press, was being divested from Simon & Schuster. “Armenia” wouldn’t receive publicity treatment or sales representation. As a journalist with a publicity background, I promoted “Armenia” myself, selling 10,000 copies within the first year of release. The absence of marketing support stood in relief against the environment to which I’d originally been exposed. I’d started out as a Promotion Assistant with the Random House imprint, Alfred A. Knopf, where a book received generous treatment from Publicity, Promotion and Marketing departments.
As mergers and acquisitions reduce the number of companies and services in our midst, let’s highlight the conditions under which authors should be prepared to work – particularly when represented by independent publishers. Today, few authors are awarded a book launch party or a tour with a whistle stop in every city. Publishers of all persuasions agree that a books’ success hinges upon the author’s involvement – as much, if not more than the publisher’s efforts. Wearing my hat as Publicity Director for Red Wheel, Weiser and Conari Press, I’ve devised the following tips for maximizing your publicity experience with an independent publisher:
1. Set realistic goals.
How many titles on your book’s subject exist in the marketplace? How have they sold? What makes your book different from the competition? Does your publisher have a publicity department? If you’ll handle your own publicity, choose targets accordingly. For example, if you’ve written a parenting book, contact a lifestyle editor about using you as a quotable source. Don’t contact the book editor who only reviews fiction. If you want to get on Oprah, do you have a proposed topic you could discuss on air as an “authority?” Be sure to watch the program to see how you might fit into the format.
2. Ask your publishers about their publicity process.
They should be candid about how much attention they can devote to your book. Request a twenty-minute phone appointment with your publicist, or send queries via email. Will your publisher create a press release or flyer about your book? Will they mail publicity copies to media? To which outlets will your book be sent? Once you’ve aligned your expectations with what your publisher can fulfill, consider how much time and money you wish to invest to take on what your publisher cannot. Consider hiring a publicist to augment your efforts.
3.Offer key marketing tools.
Provide details to help position and sell your book. Do you offer seminars that tie into the subject of your book? Furnish a list of questions you’d like to be asked in an interview. Develop a list of local libraries, bookstores, newspapers and personal contacts who might be interested in you and the subject you’ve written about.
4. Help yourself get into bookstores.
If you have a grass roots community base, a following, family and/or friends who will support your bookstore events, et your publisher know who and where your people are. Today, bookstores are more selective about scheduling events. Have you properly selected your targets? Don’t approach a bookstore that only schedules events for literary fiction if you’ve written a self-help book. Booksellers are prepared to help raise your profile and generate foot traffic, but they look for support from authors. Can you guarantee a crowd? Provide a synopsis about your presentation, what your audiences will learn, and what information they will take with them. Attend other events to see which presentations work and which don’t, and be sure to practice your presentation. Does the content of your presentation spur book sales?
5. Be considerate of your publishing partners.
Publishing folk are notoriously overextended and cannot always provide the kind of individual attention each author and book deserves. Keep phone calls brief and to the point. Do not become disappointed if your publicist has only read three chapters of your book when your publisher produces 150 books a year. Do not become disappointed if your queries are not answered immediately. On a daily basis, publicists receive anywhere from 50-150 emails. Your courtesy and understanding of the constraints under which publishing professionals work will encourage your publishers to want to publish with you again.
6. Arm yourself with tips and contacts.
The Writer’s Mentor (Conari Press) – A handbook for conquering writer’s block to setting writing goals.
Publicize Your Book! (Perigee Books) – An insider’s guide for authors who want to pick up where their publicists left off.
The Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books) -- A director of magazines across the country who accept books for possible review.
Become your books’ biggest advocate. As the person who has given birth to your wonderful book, you are the only one who will nurture your literary offspring twenty-four hours a day. If you generate your own publicity, keep your publisher apprised. Doing so can help a bookseller or librarian decide to carry your book, or encourage your publisher to go back to press.