Lit Agent Laurie Abkemeier’s Advice on Connecting with Readers

The only thing better than buzz about your new book is PRE buzz resulting in pre-orders. I follow agent Laurie Abkemeier (Brian DeFiore & Co.) on Twitter, and found this blog post by Erin Reel at TheLitCoach.com featuring Abkemeier’s advice about connecting with your audience so that your book sales transcend the frontier of your family and friends.

This advice is especially germaine to me. The Ting Tings have a fabulous song, with lyrics that speak to my heart: “They call me quiet girl, but I’m a riot.” I’m not an attention hog by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love to laugh; I’m social enough and can be a little outrageous. Once, that is, I’ve come out of my shell. Connecting With Your Audience: A Blogshop with Lit Agent Laurie Abkemeier gives the required motivation to put away your shell and start building relationships with readers.

Excerpts from Reel’s article: How an author connects with their audience plays a major role in their book’s success and their overall success as an author. If you’ve been following any brand of publishing trade news you already know that the author with the biggest mouth enjoys better sales of their book (in this context, being loud about your book is a good thing). 

A large part of the effort that goes into to selling your book actually happens before your book launches – it’s called building pre-pub buzz. You want people talking about your book before it comes out. You want them anticipating it’s arrival. You want pre-orders! So how do you find your PR voice and connect with your audience before your book launch?

According to Literary Agent, Laurie Abkemeier: “During my years as an editor, and now as a literary agent, I’ve seen countless nonfiction books rise out of relative obscurity and become bestsellers. Some rode a trend, while others created their own categories, but in every case, the key ingredient to success was the author’s commitment to promoting the work. Too often, I see authors who are committed to writing the work, but when it comes time to promote, they lose steam or they have better things to do. They are too busy to contact bloggers or put together a mailing list of organizations. They don’t want to get on Twitter or Facebook or build a website or start a blog. They think that writing the book will be enough, and that people will, perhaps by telepathy, sense that the book is available. Or worse, they think that it’s the publisher’s sole job to get the word out to the largest possible audience. While expending time and energy can’t guarantee a successful publication, it is rare that an author can achieve success while also being a recluse. Even publishers know this. When editors get on the phone with authors, they often ask point-blank, “How are you going to sell this book?”

That’s why, when I work with an author to develop a proposal, a lot of work goes into the publicity and promotion sections. My authors detail their social media and online connections, their contacts at magazines and newspapers, and previous experience with radio and television. They list every friend who might endorse their work. They research the membership numbers of relevant organizations and associations. They build new websites, start a blog, and get on Twitter—long before the proposal goes out the door. Part of this is for the benefit of the editor reading the proposal; it’s important that the editor understands an author’s reach and ability to get the word out. But I also require my authors to go into this level of detail so that they can see what is expected of them, that their role in promotion is going to be critical, and that their responsibility to the publication goes far beyond the last word on the page.

1. Plan to earmark a certain percentage of your advance for promotion—whether it’s a new website, business cards, a freelance publicist, or ads in specialty publications.

2. Schedule a meeting with your agent, editor, publicist, and the marketing staff to discuss the publisher’s promotion plans. A good time for a meeting is six months before publication, when the publisher has a clear idea of what it will do, and it’s not too late for you to fill in the gaps.


3. Once your manuscript has been sent off to a copy editor, turn your former writing time into promotion time. Reach out to people about endorsing your work, keep lists of bloggers and their contact information, pitch original articles to long-lead magazines, continue to build your social media presence, and revamp your website to launch within four months of publication. (And it goes without saying, discuss your plans with your agent and editor.)

Writing a book is a big commitment, but the bigger challenge for most authors is to do the work to promote the book. Commit yourself to the long haul. Your book needs you more than anyone.”

Your action: Yet-to-be-published authors – get organized. Create a budget devoted to your pre-pub buzz efforts, NOW. You’ll be glad you did! Then, connect with your audience. Make friends. Collect emails and subscribers to your newsletter, blog posts. Gain followers to your social media accounts. Most of all, understand this takes a lot of time and focus.

Published authors: Get creative. Get together with other published authors in your area and create an event. Maybe the event has nothing to do about selling a book – maybe it’s a charitable effort, a major donation of your time for a good cause. Make sure you send out a press release…then consider holding a book signing/reading event to celebrate with your community. Have fun with it!

Originally from California, Laurie Abkemeier began her publishing career in 1992 as an editorial assistant in the Touchstone/Fireside division at Simon & Schuster. In 1994, she moved to Hyperion where she was responsible for five New York Times bestsellers and many other national bestsellers. Since 2003, Laurie has worked as a literary agent, exclusively representing nonfiction. Her talented roster of authors includes journalists, bloggers, poets, academics, and artists. You can find Laurie on Twitter (@LaurieAbkemeier) where she posts her AGENT OBVIOUS TIP OF THE DAY—the inspiration for her app, available as a free download for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch.

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Filed under Best Writer Tips, Fiction Novel Writing, Guest posts

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