If this were Sesame Street, today’s word would be publicity, brought to you by the letter P and the number 300,000,000, which represents the approximate population of the United States—a fraction of which you are trying to reach with your book.
But this is not Sesame Street. There are no puppets and I have a potty mouth not fit for after-school television. This is a place of learning, of trading information, and the biggest topic of conversation for authors other than “How do I get my book published?” seems to be “How do I get people to pay attention to the book I just published?”
And that, my friends, is where publicity comes in.
Publicity, as defined by Answers.com is:
1.) a.) Information that concerns a person, group, event, or product and that is disseminated through various media to attract public notice. b.) Public interest, notice, or notoriety achieved by the spreading of such information. c.) The act, process, or occupation of disseminating information to gain public interest.
2.) The condition of being public.
Nice and vague, no? The truth is publicity is hard to quantify and define, especially in the book business. What acts as the tipping point to make your book the topic of every bibliophile’s conversation is not what will work for the next author or even your next book. While some methods of reaching the bookselling and book buying public may be successful across the board it is rare that most don’t have to be tweaked in some way. Publicity for a history of the plague should not be approached the same way as publicity for a romance novel. Publicity for a romance novel should not be approached the same way as that for a science fiction novel. Different markets (no matter how many crossover readers they may have) have different requirements, different areas press releases can be sent to, and different overall hooks.
So let’s talk about what works for you as a reader and what doesn’t? Book trailers? Book marks? Websites?
How does that vary from what you do as an author? How do you get out there and promote yourself? What has your publishing company done for you? What have you had to do for yourself? Which seemed to affect your sales more?
And for the booksellers—current or former—out there, what worked for you? Were you a drone when it came to publicity, simply putting the co-opped books out where they were supposed to go without paying attention or did you read the flyers and letters that came through your store? What publicity hooks worked for you: bookmarks, letters, glossies or book articles? What didn’t? How did your own store approach its publicity and those of the authors it showcased?
Everyone is looking for the single answer, the perfect trick to get their book to be on everyone’s to buy list and the truth is that there is no holy, golden key to unlocking the publicity world. All we can do is learn from others’ successes and failures, and identify where the publisher’s publicity job ends and the author’s begins. Using the answers to the questions above I hope to look at where the publicity machine breaks down and how it can be fixed as well as what seems to get the word on through.
Horror stories and once in a lifetime stories accepted, feel free to post anonymously if you don’t want someone knowing why you think so-and-so screwed up big time with some book or another.