When I signed my debut novel, The Angels’ Share, with Winter Goose, a small press, I knew that a healthy share of marketing and promotion would be my responsibility. Not a huge surprise—small houses don’t have a lot of resources to throw at literary fiction. But what was surprising was that when I spoke with others who’d signed with larger publishers, I kept hearing that unless their book was “Big” (and sometimes even if it was), the authors still had to do most of the nitty-gritty publicity themselves.
The first thing I learned about publicity is that no task is too small to start gaining traction in today’s overcrowded and underfinanced fiction marketplace. Act on the smallest inspiration (contact that high school English teacher who loved my stories!).
Here are 10 tips that are working for me. You might as well get started now.
1. Print up business cards for your novel. Do this as soon as you sign your contract. Use cover art if you can. If it doesn’t exist yet, use what you would pick as cover art.
2. Come up with a snappy two- or three-sentence pitch for the inevitable “What is your novel about?” question.
Here’s mine: “The Angels’ Share is the story of a young woman, a former meth addict, rebuilding her life while working at a fledgling Sonoma County winery. With elements of a mystery and a love story, the novel has an upbeat ending. It’s great for book clubs.”
3. Create as much of a digital presence as you can stand. The most important and bare minimum is a Web site. You can do it yourself if you have patience and some digital acumen. If you pay for design, insist that it doesn’t look like everyone else’s template. If you are prolific, add a blog. I have been a Facebook user for years and honestly enjoy using the medium. I signed up for Twitter at my publisher’s insistence. You can put up accounts as place holders, but if you do, don’t forget to check them.
4. Hire some professional publicity help. Ideally it would be for the five-month period before your release date and a few months after. Even if it is just a few hours on the phone, it’s a worthwhile investment. You will get many new ideas to follow up on.
5. Set yourself up as a Goodreads author, and once you have an ISBN from your publisher, create an Amazon Writers’ Central account. Look at how authors you admire populate their pages and emulate them.
6. Go to all of the writers’ conferences you can. The famous ones are great, but the smaller ones, especially if they are held at a university, can be great places to meet other writers who will become your trusted network. These contacts can help you by writing those evil yet necessary blurbs and may ask you to speak in their writing classes.
7. Work your nonwriter network to the hilt. Most everyone will be excited and want to help, even if people are busy and you may need to ask them more than once (but rarely more than three times).
8. Work on short pieces related to your novel topic. You can send them to bloggers, newspapers, and the like. I never advocate writing for free, but getting your name and a link to your book attached to a fine piece of writing on a trafficked Web site is worth it.
9. Have a friend review your reviews. Don’t read them yourself. This is not to say you shouldn’t be interested in feedback on your work. But maybe you don’t want much negative feedback. Or maybe you don’t want it at all.
10. Give yourself permission to not work on your next novel. Of course, if you are generating ideas and enjoying time writing something new, then go for it. However, if the burden of book promotion is all you have time for, don’t beat your inner writer up. You owe it to yourself and your novel to give it proper attention during the publication period. Resources are limited, but as you’ve shown by writing and selling a book, you are fierce. As Theodore Roosevelt said: do what you can with what you have where you are.
Rayme Waters’s The Angels’ Share (raymewaters.com) was published by Winter Goose in August.