Following an exceptionally informative workshop with her last year, the wonderful Truda Thurai very kindly sent us a link to an excellent interview as a follow up. The equally wonderful Christina gathered a few pearls of wisdom from it to help self publishing authors along the way.
Since the dawn of the Internet, Kindle, and e-books, self-publishing has become easier than ever. There are of course many ups and downs with self-publishing. You get more control, more royalties, and you know exactly what is happening with your book. But you also have to take more responsibilities and risks, and do a lot more work yourself.
For emerging writers who are seeking self-publication, the journey to publication can feel like swimming in the middle of the ocean with no idea how to get to the shores. In this interview, Joel Friedlander from thebookdesigner.com talks to Dana Kaye about self-publishing and how authors can get more publicity for their books.
Joel is a book designer who runs a website on publishing and has been giving brilliant advice to authors on how to get their work published. Dana is writer and book critic with years of experience in the industry and recently published Your Book, Your Brand, a practical guide on building author brand in self-publishing.
I’ve finished my book – what do I do now?
Congratulations! You have finished your book and have decided to go for self-publishing. But how?
“I think that the first step is to have a content strategy to know what your message is going to be, what you’re going to say, and then making sure your online house is in order, that you have the correct social media platforms, that you have a website that is not just an author website, but one that jives with your brand.”
As Joel writes on his blog, publication is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. As well as having the finished manuscript, there’s printing (if you are planning on selling hard copies), book design, and most importantly, marketing. Doing research, reading publishing guides, and talking to other authors can be immensely helpful in getting “your house in order” for the journey to publication.
What’s the difference between publicity and PR?
One of the main points that Joel and Dana both agree on is that publicity is the least understood part of self-publishing and that authors often don’t realise the importance of marketing. Hiring a publicist can be expensive so some authors prefer to do it themselves, but often they are not sure how to get publicity or what it even is.
“Public relations is that overall umbrella; underneath that umbrella lies publicity, marketing, social media, in-person events, and things of that nature.”
Publicity is the media coverage the author and book actually receive while public relations is about the relationship between companies and businesses. Marketing is what you do to get the publicity. The kind of marketing that an author needs depends on the book and the target audience. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, the right kind of PR will make a huge difference to the number of people that are going to know about and eventually read the book.
Know Your Target Audience
In order to choose the right way to promote your work, Dana says, it’s important to know who you are aiming at. The crucial point is that the author chooses the right media for reaching the target audience and the one that reaches the most people.
“Just focus on the outlets that cater to your type of book and reach your target audience.”
Beyond the traditional media such as newspaper, magazine, television, radio, and book launches, social media has become a very important tool in marketing and authors should take advantage of platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr to reach out to as many potential readers as possible. Blogging and tweeting are also great ways of networking with other authors and publishers. If you are still new to social media, guides like WriteHacked and The Write Life have some excellent advice from agents and published authors.
“If a blogger is able to move more—a blogger reaches more readers than the New York Times, I’d much rather have that coverage. I’d much rather have that coverage than the New York Times review.”
You + Your book = Your Author Brand
When a writer decides to sell the book to reader, the author and the book become a brand. The author’s name, like ‘James Patterson’ or ‘Stephen King’, becomes part of a product. The brand name ca be very powerful since it is what the reader will recognise your work by. Anyone who picks up a Stephen King book knows that they are getting a thriller/horror novel. Although some authors are reluctant to put themselves and their work into neat boxes and labels, genre is important for marketing because it tells the reader what they will get from the book (as well as where the book will be placed in a bookstore or an online merchant website) and whether it will be worth their money.
“By creating a very distinct, easy to convey author brand, what you’re doing is you’re eliminating risk for the reader.”
And just like other branded products, visuals also play an important role. This includes not only the book cover (yes, readers DO judge books by their covers), but also website design (Is it user-friendly? Is it attractive and informative?), the avatar on social media and the header design. These of course also need to be appropriate for your target audience.
Blog Your Voice
Although less glamorous than being on television or the radio, blogging is actually a very effective media outlet for authors to promote themselves and give readers a sample of their ‘voice’. An author’s voice is the author’s persona which might be their actual voice, like Dana’s interview with Joel, an online blog, or a Twitter feed. By establishing an online presence, authors can make themselves known to people and connect with them. A blog also gives you a platform to interact with readers who might have questions or feedback. Dana mentions that in marketing people generally need to see something at least seven times before they decide to buy. It’s all about frequency and it is important to maintain the presence to keep people interested.
Joel suggests that the author’s voice needs to be congruent with the tone and style of the work. The word persona comes from the Greek word for mask. Your persona doesn’t have to reflect your personality or what you are like at home, it just has to reflect who you are as an author.
“If you’re on social media to market yourself as author, then you need to speak to your target audience. It’s not saying be inauthentic, but you should be the parts of yourself that fit in with that audience.”
Watch Your Budget
“If you want to use your budget wisely, think about what you need the most.”
Hiring a publicist can be costly, but for a first-time self-publisher, having someone who knows what they are doing can save a lot of time and stress. Aside from guide books like Dana’s, there are plenty of companies that offer a range of services for authors from marketing to social media and event booking. Depending on what you need as author, these companies can either create online content for you or provide training so that you can do it yourself. It all depends, Dana says, on what you can handle. There will things that you are able to do yourself and things that you will struggle with and for those you might decide that it is easier to find someone to help you.
For more tips on preparing for publication, Joel’s useful article on getting ready to publish is an excellent guide.