Francine Silverman, editor of Book Production Newsletter (http://www.sky-bolt.com/book/), talks with Patricia Fry, a freelance writer and author of 41 books, including 11 related to writing, publishing and book promotion. http://www.matilijpress.com/publishingblog.
Q: What should we do before even putting pen to paper?
A: I always recommend that hopeful authors study the publishing industry before getting involved in this highly competitive business. Most new authors consider publishing an extension of their writing – something they can ease into once the writing is done. But while writing is a craft, publishing is a serious, complex business. Before ever entering into it, an author needs to know something about his or her publishing options, the possible ramifications of the choices and the responsibility as a published author. Nearly 78% of all authors fail – that that is, they sell fewer than 100 books total. And the two main reasons are that they do not fully understand their publishing options and, either by choice or ignorance, do not put enough effort into promoting their books.
Q: You state in your book that “by getting your stories published, you are creating a following … by landing an article writing assignment in appropriate magazines and newsletters you will get attention from your target audience.” (You write for my newsletter – does it get you attention?)
A: You’re talking about building the authors’ platform. The key is to become known in your field or genre so that when your potential readers happen across your book, they will be more apt to purchase it. If they read your published articles and stories and enjoy them – if they consider you credible in your field or a good storyteller in a particular genre – they will be more interested in reading a book you wrote. You can create a following (build your platform) in a number of ways – go out and speak on your topic/genre, run workshops, create and maintain an active blog site, and (my favorite) submit articles or stories to the publications and websites read/visited by your potential audience. Do my articles published in The Book Promotion Newsletter get my audience’s attention? Most certainly. But writing for just one publication probably isn’t enough. You want your name to appear alongside good stories (for a novelist) and credible articles (for a nonfiction author) in numbers of magazines, websites, newsletters, e-newsletters, blogs and so forth. Successful book promotion is a full-time job.
Q: In your chapter about press releases you write that when seeing an article about you and one of your books, people often ask “How did the reporter find out about you?’ Your answer is “I contacted them and asked for an interview.” Can you give an example from your own experience how this worked?
A: Many authors assume that all they have to do is write the book and people will find it. Some also believe that if the book is good, reporters, interviewers, radio personalities, etc., will come to them. The reality is, however, that, unless you put yourself out there in front of your potential audience numbers of times and unless you start contacting journalists and interviewers, you probably won’t receive any such invitations for interviews, reviews, etc. At least in the beginning of your author’s journey you will need to make the contacts. YOU must spread the word about your book. YOU must approach conference organizers and ask for a speaking platform. YOU will have to contact reporters and blog hosts to request publicity. It is up to the author YOU to get publicity for your book.
Q: In the chapter heading, “Position Yourself as an Expert,” you write that because you’re the author of the most comprehensive local history book about your community you are known locally as an historian and are frequently asked to comment on an aspect of valley history. You have also been quoted numerous times about writing, publishing and book promotion, which have come about from your many published articles, active blog and your book. This sounds reasonable for non-fiction authors. But what if you’re a novelist who has written a love story? Does that make the author an expert on love? Or a murder mystery? Are you then an expert on murder?
A: Funny! I wouldn’t say that, but if your story is well-received by your particular audience, you are certainly gaining a name as a darn good writer in that genre. I’ve recently started writing fiction. I’m writing in the cozy mystery genre (or sub-genre). And my stories all involve cats. I know a lot about cats and have had a lot of experiences with them. But I’m not an expert on cats. However, I’m striving to become known within the realm of mysteries and cats. Along with the three Klepto Cat Mysteries I’ve published, I’ve written a book of cat stories and have a blog featuring cats and fiction-writing. http://www.matilijapress.com/catscapades. This is in addition to http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog. I’m also on Facebook with fun things about cats and mysteries— http://www.facebook.com/KleptoCatMysteries
Q: You have an “active blog” and talk about using your blog to promote your book, but how do you promote your blog? You encourage pings. What are they?
A: I’m coming up on my 2,000th post at my publishing blog. I usually post every day. And I promote my blog through my handouts, bookmarks, brochures, in my new enewsletter (Publishing/Marketing News and Views), in the promo tag at the bottom of my articles and at Twitter and Facebook. And I talk about it when I go out and speak. While it is important to promote your blog, it is also critical to offer viable content. It isn’t enough to have a blog. In order to attract the audience you want, you must provide the information or entertainment that will draw them and, as Fran indicates in this question, promote that blog so your readers know about it.