Author Inara Scott sold her novel, Delcroix Academy: The Candidates, in October 2007. The book wasn’t released until August 2010. “This, you might think, would be ample time to plan my promotion activities,” she says. “In fact, I still missed the boat on a couple of things. But I also did a few things right. So to all of you who had recently sold your novels (congratulations!) and to all of you pre-published folks planning in advance (very smart of you!) here are some pre-release day tips:”
1. Do the Website. Like, Now.
Okay, you know you need a website. But release day is 18 months away. Do you really need one now? Short answer: yes.
Websites take a surprisingly long time to build, especially if you’re working from scratch with a designer. You can throw a holding place up on blogspot in a day, but if you want a quality, built-to-fit site with bells and whistles, START EARLY. Many designers have waiting lists or are backed up for months. Even once you get on their calendar, it can take months from first design meeting to launch. Make sure the site will be live several months before release day. You want to build internet buzz BEFORE your book is released, and that means a great website done well in advance.
2. Contact Bloggers, Get Them ARCs, Plan Your Blog Tour
Here’s the pre-release buzz thing again—you need to get on the radar of all those book bloggers before release day. You don’t know any book bloggers? Well, it’s time for some Internet research. I write for young adults, and I discovered there’s an actual directory of book blogs. About six months before my release, I went through and checked out, oh probably 100 of them, and if I liked the tone and structure of the blog, and if it had a significant number of followers, I contacted the blog administrator. I offered to send ARCs. They wrote back, many asking me for interviews. Plan a blog tour and make it interesting; don’t just recycle the same interview over and over again.
If you want an idea of how to promote via the Internet, check out this website. These guys are amazing. Fabulous promotion, unique blogs, and lots of ‘em.
3. Twitter, Facebook, Blog—Make Friends
Yes, the world of Social Media is crowded, and yes, you may spend a lot of your time talking to yourself. That’s okay. Do it anyway.
Once you’re there, do not spend all your time telling people to buy your book. You are there to MAKE FRIENDS. Friends don’t push their books. Friends don’t bombard their friends with sales pitches. Friends DO share their excitement over things like great reviews, new covers, and release days. They do this because they are friends, not because they are trying to get someone to buy their books.
4. Ask for Blurbs
You know those cover quotes you see on books? The “breathtaking” “spell-binding” “fast-paced” blurbs? Guess what—in most cases, the author probably asked for those blurbs himself.
It helps, of course, if you’ve got friends who are authors (see #3, above). But don’t despair if you’re friendless. Cold call (er, e-mail). Send out letters to authors you love. Make it personal—they should be able to tell that you’ve read their books and have an specific reason why they would be a good person to blurb your book. Be professional and polite. And do all this months before you need the blurb. People are busy and need time to read. Find out what your deadlines are and be generous with your lead-times. What’s the worst they can say—”no”?
5. Yes, You Need Bookmarks
Everyone hands them out, and many end up in the trash. That’s okay, make them anyway. In the months/weeks before your release day you’ll be attending conferences, meeting people in bars, and chatting with friends and neighbors. They will all ask you about your book. You will tell them the title and release day and they will promptly forget everything you’ve said.
Help them remember. Give them a tangible piece of paper with your cover, website address, and release day. Sure, many will end up in a landfill (or hopefully recycling bin), but some will go on bulletin boards, desks, and fridges. You will have done both your memory-challenged friends—and yourself—a service.
Inara Scott is the author of Delcroix Academy: The Candidates (Aug 2010) and the forthcoming Delcroix Academy: The Watchers. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook (Inara Scott) or via her website. (Note from Rebecca: Please check outInara’s bio page. It is a wonderful example of how an author can reveal herself to her audience without the trappings of showcasing an impressive compendium of writing courses, degrees or literary honorariums. Maybe Inara has all these commendations and therefore doesn’t need to brag. Or maybe she doesn’t. But I like what she says about herself so I don’t care either way. Your thoughts?)