April 28, 2015
Our insider tips series are step-by-step instruction manuals to help you successfully navigate the complex processes of book publishing. The advice is based on personal experience and what I believe to be common practices or points of view inside traditional publishing. I trust that you will modify according to your own needs and sensibilities. Every book and every author are naturally different.
Upon receipt of your first printed copies of your book, your first call should be to your local bookstore. This local bookstore is going to form the linchpin of your local publicity campaign. Make an in-person visit to the store and explain to whomever you encounter on staff there that you are a local author who has just published a book, you would like to give a reading and a talk at their store, and you would also like to offer them stock of your book on consignment.* Once you are with the person who makes decisions on such matters, you are going to hand them a copy of your book, and deliver two to three preplanned, even well-rehearsed, sentences about your book*, and then about yourself, with a special focus on your local roots and connections. Naturally it helps tremendously if they know you are a customer of the store. As for the book, first you say the general category of the book it is, e.g. it’s a novel, a children’s book or nonfiction, and then you describe the main thrust of the book. That’s it, just the facts, ma’am. If you are showing a children’s book or an art/photography book, let your book do the talking. Naturally, don’t talk while they are reading or examining your book. And try to remember this: booksellers and media professionals in general dislike hype, so resist the temptation of hyperbole (read: bragging) when talking about your book to anyone in the book trade. That would include booksellers, sales reps, book reviewers, writers or editors, or radio or television show hosts. Be humble to a point. Know your core ‘value proposition’ as an artist but don’t feel compelled to explain it unless your hearer is receptive.
You want to ask your bookseller for an event about two and half to three months out. This will give you ample time to properly promote. Some bookstores ask for fees to host events for self-published authors. If the fee includes front of store display for your book and your event, we (as publishers) would consider that money well spent in terms of its publicity value since that bookstore event forms the cornerstone to the marketing and publicity efforts that follow. If all goes well in this visit you are going to secure a date for your event and a consignment agreement in hand for the stock you have left behind. You have now laid the groundwork for an impactful launch.
*Consignment means you are going to leave stock with the bookseller to display on their shelves. The bookseller will pay you as books actually sell. Most booksellers will have a consignment agreement on hand that they would prefer to use. Expect to be paid about thirty days after the bookseller has collected money.
*Preplanned sentences about your book are referred to as ‘elevator pitches’ in media parlance. If you as an author do not feel confident in ‘selling’ your book (to random others, e.g. at a party), put some sentences down on paper in an effort to capture what’s right for your book. Try to capture your book’s essence first in one sentence, then in no more than three. Fiddle with the words, and share them with significant others over a period of time until you do feel confident in easily communicating what your book is about to interested others. You will be glad you did this.