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CathleenT
01-18-2017, 01:40 AM
Okay, I've got a question. What's the deal with press releases? I've read Old Hack saying we need a three-month window for them, but what are they for? Like it or not, newspapers seem to be dying. I get having a three-month window to contact book bloggers for reviews. What other sorts of things should I be looking at? I've heard that there's little point in going for radio interviews--podcasts are better, which is a problem for me since I have limited internet capacity. (I'm rural, and the only available internet is satellite. It's like an obscure rural living tax. Sure, you might live in your own forest, but screaming fast internet is as mythical as Pegasus.)

Any advice on what I should be doing to get ready to publish would be greatly appreciated. In case this info is relevant, I've had a blog for the past year and a half, nearly five thousand Twitter followers, and a Facebook page that's really just a placeholder to keep anyone else from taking my name and using it there. All my blog posts automatically post there, and my Facebook page automatically tweets as well. No real Facebook following.

Thanks in advance to anyone who feels kind enough to chime in. :)

Old Hack
01-18-2017, 02:01 PM
Okay, I've got a question. What's the deal with press releases? I've read Old Hack saying we need a three-month window for them, but what are they for?

Press releases are for letting anyone who might be in a position to help sell your book know that it is (or will be) available, what it's about, and why they might be interested in it.

So they can be sent to newspapers and magazines; professional organisations; clubs and committees; conferences; bloggers; anyone, in fact, who has some sort of connection to your work.


Like it or not, newspapers seem to be dying. I get having a three-month window to contact book bloggers for reviews. What other sorts of things should I be looking at?

It's true there are far fewer review-slots available in the national press than was the case ten years ago. But there are now many, many more slots available online, and all those book bloggers are waiting to hear from you.

There are other places you should approach too.

Your local press: there's a reasonable call for human interest stories along the line of "local author makes good", or, "soldier writes romance novel", or "our town's favourite primary school teacher is having a novel published!"

You should consider which publications your target market might read, and to do that you'll have to work out who that target market is.

You should also consider people who work in book selling: those who buy books for independent bookshops, chain book shops, even large supermarket chains; and those who buy books for libraries, school libraries, etc. (there are specialist periodicals aimed at librarians which review a LOT of books, and which are very influential).

You could send press releases and review copies, along with an offer to give a talk or workshop, to the schools and universities you attended to; to past employers, if they have enough employees to make it worth your while attending.


I've heard that there's little point in going for radio interviews--podcasts are better, which is a problem for me since I have limited internet capacity. (I'm rural, and the only available internet is satellite. It's like an obscure rural living tax. Sure, you might live in your own forest, but screaming fast internet is as mythical as Pegasus.)

I feel your pain. I too rely on a satellite internet connection. Which is why I'm in Starbucks at the moment, using their free wifi to download a set of huge files I need.


Any advice on what I should be doing to get ready to publish would be greatly appreciated. In case this info is relevant, I've had a blog for the past year and a half, nearly five thousand Twitter followers, and a Facebook page that's really just a placeholder to keep anyone else from taking my name and using it there. All my blog posts automatically post there, and my Facebook page automatically tweets as well. No real Facebook following.

Thanks in advance to anyone who feels kind enough to chime in. :)

First, read the "SEO Dweeb" thread in this room, and do all you can which is advised in that thread.

Second, think laterally when it comes to promotion, and don't just focus on promoting your own work. Liz Fenwick is a great example of this. She writes romances set in Cornwall: rather than just use her twitter account to promote her own books she goes out of her way to discuss all things Cornish. She links to other great books set in the county; she tweets pictures of beautiful beaches and houses in Cornwall; she promotes Cornwall, and books, and in so doing has acquired a really loyal list of friends who subsequently promote her books for her each time a new one is published.

When your book is published (are you self publishing? Or is your book with a decent trade publisher which will do a lot of promotion for you?) you want to have everything in place so that there's a burst of attention for that book when it first hits the shelves. Reviews, interviews, profiles, all are useful: and they're more useful if they're all condensed into a smallish time-frame. Because when you're selling books you tend to get better results if your potential readers see several different things about the one book in a week or two: that's the "buzz" that people advise you to build (which is why there are lots of giveaways and prizes offered on Twitter and FB with the requirement that all entrants must follow, retweet, share).

Bear in mind that none of this is going to be particularly useful if your book is difficult to get hold of, or if it's published badly (poor jacket design, poor editing, lacklustre sales blurbs, etc). You MUST get the book right, above all else; it must be published well, at a good price, and be easy to get hold of.

Helix
01-18-2017, 02:22 PM
Second, think laterally when it comes to promotion, and don't just focus on promoting your own work. Liz Fenwick is a great example of this. She writes romances set in Cornwall: rather than just use her twitter account to promote her own books she goes out of her way to discuss all things Cornish. She links to other great books set in the county; she tweets pictures of beautiful beaches and houses in Cornwall; she promotes Cornwall, and books, and in so doing has acquired a really loyal list of friends who subsequently promote her books for her each time a new one is published.

^This

I have no expertise in this sort of promotion, but I am an enthusiastic book buyer and a keen Twitterer. I have bought books (quite a lot of them!) after reading their authors' blogs and tweets. In every case, the author has posted on subjects related to their books, demonstrating both their knowledge and their writing skill. This stuff gets a big tick from me. Relentless BUY MY BOOKS! and LOOK AT ME! tweets ensure that I never purchase those books. The same goes for authors who refer to their readers as their 'fans'.

CathleenT
01-19-2017, 06:19 AM
Interesting feedback. Thanks so much.

I don't know if I'm self or trade publishing my novels yet. I struck out on querying Hans and Greta, and at the end of the month it'll be my three-month window passed so I can query Bellerophon. I believe in the books, but the balance of probability is that I'll go self-pubbed.

I also have two finished collections which will definitely be self-published, and those are the two I'll likely publish this year. I figured I'd save my novels for one last PitchWars, etc. Twitter blast this year.

I haven't done any of the overt Buy My Book stuff, but the slow networking thing is, well, slow. I'm trying to get better at it, but it's not an area of strength for me.

One of the problems I have is that it's tough for me to use lots of the basic marketing phrases so many toss around. Sure, I admire Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, and Suzanne Collins. They've been a huge influence on my writing. But I stick at saying I write like them, or that my book is a cross between theirs and some other famous fantasy book. There could be a huge difference between being influenced by someone and blithely claiming that readers who enjoy their work will also like mine. How do I know?

I've been doing author interviews and book reviews on my blog for the past year-and-a-half, many of them for AW authors, so I do work at the lateral promotion thing. BTW, if anyone reading this would like to do an interview and is a published author, feel free to PM me. Happy to oblige. :)

The secondary promotion stuff has me stumped. I write fantasy, mostly fairy tale-type stuff. History of folklore is dry material for blog posts. Mine are mostly on writing process and mechanics, interviews and reviews as mentioned before, a few personal reflections, and the only thing that seems relevant to writing fairy tales--more fairy tales, only short ones. About two-thirds of the short stories I write (and I write them consistently, over two dozen last year) end up on my blog.

I'm totally open to other ideas. I have recipes that my characters used in my books, photos of the real settings (I write low fantasy, set in this world), flora and fauna notes, some historical stuff--but it all relates to my novels, which aren't out yet. No point in blogging that stuff until they are.

I'll be publishing on Amazon, although I haven't decided if I'll use the select program or not. I didn't last time for Dragon Hoard, but that one was free, so it's off in its own separate case. I didn't expect to make money from it. My paperback is on Createspace, and that seemed to work okay.

Anyway, I need to do this stuff for my collections, although I don't expect much in terms of sales--I've heard they underperform compared to novels. And even if my novels go trade, I want to promote them as if they were SP-ed. Which currently is a few blog posts and tweets.

Thanks for the press release info. I'll have a look a local papers, and I've started a list of book bloggers. :)

ETA:

I've been considering working up a series of memes for Twitter. Fantasy images (mine or licensed for reuse) paired with sayings and a book link. For instance, a pic of my book cover dragon (no title or author's name) with Faerie isn't always safe, and a link. I was going to try for the Coca-Cola Polar Bear approach--images that are inherently pleasing, in the hopes that they'd be shared just for that. (Hey, I bought plenty of Coca-Cola Bears as Christmas ornaments.)

Does anyone think this is a good/bad idea? I'd love input on this.

RightHoJeeves
01-19-2017, 06:29 AM
I think press releases are useful as documents, because they basically serve as a short piece of copy that highlights the relevant things people need to know about whatever it is you're trying to promote.

But the normal function of a press release is to announce a 'news event', and the release of most books is not a news event. Instead of blanket sending the press release out (or paying heaps of money to distribute through a news wire service), I'd approach individual journalists who might be a good fit, whether they're local newspapers, online, radio (or the book sellers Old Hack mentioned). Book releases won't have the grab of a news event, so don't send it to the New York Times news room expecting to be picked up. I think that's probably quite obvious, but a lot of people may pay to be distributed on news wires, and unless you've got something big, it's nothing more than a good way to lose cash. Be targeted though, and you'll probably get some bites.

Marissa D
01-19-2017, 07:24 AM
Cathleen, re your Twitter memes--there's a weekly Twitter event called Book Quote Wednesday (hashtag #bookqw). Author Mindy Klasky sets a weekly keyword and authors post quotes from their books that use that word or a form of it, usually in meme form. Today's #bookqw word was "surprise"--it's a fun thing to participate in.

Old Hack
01-19-2017, 11:33 AM
Interesting feedback. Thanks so much.

I don't know if I'm self or trade publishing my novels yet. I struck out on querying Hans and Greta, and at the end of the month it'll be my three-month window passed so I can query Bellerophon. I believe in the books, but the balance of probability is that I'll go self-pubbed.

Before you abandon the idea of trade publishing, work out why you didn't find rep. Was your query strong enough? Did you send it out to the right people, and in the right way? did you send it out enough? And if so, might the novels still need a bit of work?


I also have two finished collections which will definitely be self-published, and those are the two I'll likely publish this year. I figured I'd save my novels for one last PitchWars, etc. Twitter blast this year.

I haven't done any of the overt Buy My Book stuff, but the slow networking thing is, well, slow. I'm trying to get better at it, but it's not an area of strength for me.

Until you have a book for people to buy, you're right not to do any direct "buy my book" stuff.

Don't worry about having to be a sales person here. Just think about connecting with people. Making friends. Being interested.


One of the problems I have is that it's tough for me to use lots of the basic marketing phrases so many toss around. Sure, I admire Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, and Suzanne Collins. They've been a huge influence on my writing. But I stick at saying I write like them, or that my book is a cross between theirs and some other famous fantasy book. There could be a huge difference between being influenced by someone and blithely claiming that readers who enjoy their work will also like mine. How do I know?

Don't worry about this. It's not a big deal. And I find it off-putting when people make all those claims and sound all robust and certain and in-your-face.


I've been doing author interviews and book reviews on my blog for the past year-and-a-half, many of them for AW authors, so I do work at the lateral promotion thing. BTW, if anyone reading this would like to do an interview and is a published author, feel free to PM me. Happy to oblige. :)

That's great! Why not put that offer into your signature, somehow?


The secondary promotion stuff has me stumped. I write fantasy, mostly fairy tale-type stuff. History of folklore is dry material for blog posts. Mine are mostly on writing process and mechanics, interviews and reviews as mentioned before, a few personal reflections, and the only thing that seems relevant to writing fairy tales--more fairy tales, only short ones. About two-thirds of the short stories I write (and I write them consistently, over two dozen last year) end up on my blog.

You could increase your blog views by engaging with people who write similar blogs; by joining writers' forums and being generally nice (see, you're doing it already!), and so on. I'd have thought there'd be a big market for fairy tale stuff.


I'm totally open to other ideas. I have recipes that my characters used in my books, photos of the real settings (I write low fantasy, set in this world), flora and fauna notes, some historical stuff--but it all relates to my novels, which aren't out yet. No point in blogging that stuff until they are.


Could you turn any of this into short stories, which you could then try to sell to periodicals? Articles which you could offer around when you have that publication date?


I'll be publishing on Amazon, although I haven't decided if I'll use the select program or not. I didn't last time for Dragon Hoard, but that one was free, so it's off in its own separate case. I didn't expect to make money from it. My paperback is on Createspace, and that seemed to work okay.

Anyway, I need to do this stuff for my collections, although I don't expect much in terms of sales--I've heard they underperform compared to novels. And even if my novels go trade, I want to promote them as if they were SP-ed. Which currently is a few blog posts and tweets.

Short story collections don't usually sell many but if they're promoted properly they can do better.

If you get a trade deal your publisher should help with marketing and promotion, and that can make a huge difference to sales. There's a lot more you can do than blogs and tweets.


Thanks for the press release info. I'll have a look a local papers, and I've started a list of book bloggers. :)

ETA:

I've been considering working up a series of memes for Twitter. Fantasy images (mine or licensed for reuse) paired with sayings and a book link. For instance, a pic of my book cover dragon (no title or author's name) with Faerie isn't always safe, and a link. I was going to try for the Coca-Cola Polar Bear approach--images that are inherently pleasing, in the hopes that they'd be shared just for that. (Hey, I bought plenty of Coca-Cola Bears as Christmas ornaments.)

Does anyone think this is a good/bad idea? I'd love input on this.

That might well work once your books are out. It's worth a try!

CathleenT
01-19-2017, 07:12 PM
Thanks so much--great advice all around.

I'm not getting more than form rejections for H&G, so it's difficult to say why I'm rejected. That whole series has a theme of an abuse survivor struggling for her own healthy mental growth, so maybe it's not commercially appealing enough? Also, the word count (120k) is high enough that for many agents, it'll be an auto pass. I have higher hopes for Bellerophon, which only has 70k.

But H&G was ready, and a beta was still working on Bellerophon last fall. So I queried H&G first. Kind of like practice, which is how I'm approaching promoting my collections.

I don't expect those to do well. But I've written the stories anyway (I need to write, and revising novels takes an incredible amount of time and focus--too much to tackle another novel simultaneously).

I'm sure there's something I could do to improve my novels, but I'm out of knowledge base for what that might be--and some serious beta talent has contributed to these things as well. It's one reason I'd like to land an agent and decent-sized publisher. It seems reasonable that I could grow as a writer from that experience.

So I haven't given up on trade. It's just a mental thing to protect myself from disappointment--Okay, if my novels don't go trade, I was planning on self-pubbing my collections anyway. It'll be just more of the same.

And at least I do have a lot of novels and collections built up. Six novels basically ready, one collection published, and two more in final edits. Two more novels drafted with considerable flaws that will require more than tweaks to finish. (I have to force myself to amp conflict, which requires re-writing.) So if I do go SP, I'll have enough material to do it with.

I suppose I'll get to those memes. I can always practice on Dragon Hoard. And I'll check out that hashtag, Marissa. :)

ETA: I've considered writing short stories, prequels that fit in my novels' world. But that's more of a SP marketing move (free short up front), and I've prioritized editing as my paramount writing activity for now. The prequel shorts might not even be needed if my books sell to publishers, or they might not be needed for all of them.

I've got to get my novels published (or in process), though. They've become an albatross around my neck, interfering with my ability to write more. I think they're worthwhile, but of course I want to think that. I'm too close to the things to be objective about how good they are.

veinglory
01-19-2017, 07:18 PM
You might be surprised at the reach even a small local newspaper has. A one paragraph story about me once got into my hometown paper and a deluge of people called my Mom to congratulate her. It made me think that a 'local talent' story about an author might have more reach than I had previously expected.

People still read things: papers, magazines, websites, specialist newsletters. Many of these either monitor press releases or are used to being sent information in that "ready to go" format. The trick is showing why their readership would care about the whatever-it-is.

Toothpaste
01-19-2017, 08:20 PM
If you are only getting form rejections on H&G that means that there's something up with your query letter, not necessarily the novel itself (the length is a bit long true, but the subject matter is not taboo at all, and there is definitely a market for such stories). Have you had the query looked at by anyone?

Old Hack
01-19-2017, 08:57 PM
I'm with Toothpaste.

If all you've had is form rejections and you can't see how to improve your query, you need to seek some outside advice. Get yourself to our Query Letter Hell. And while you're at it, post a segment of your work in the appropriate SYW room and see what happens.

CathleenT
01-19-2017, 09:04 PM
The query went through 250 posts in SYW. I still had to clean some filters and such from the final result, but the consensus was that it was pretty good. Also, everyone warned me that 120k was long for a YA voice, which I get. Even the housekeeping graf went through QLH. Maybe a tale about an abuse survivor reset as a fairy tale isn't hot now? Maybe agents already have some on their books to sell? Abused children aren't an uncommon motif in fairy tales. Or maybe there are too many retellings already for agents to sell. Or maybe the book's not good enough, unattractive as that possibility is.

It's one reason why I'm okay about waiting through this year before I publish my novels. What kind of writer will I be if I finish another two-dozen shorts, and maybe write another novel? I thought six novels were as good as I could get them a year ago, and then I did another pass last fall and cut another 5k from H&G. Maybe I just need to be a better writer, which is both good news and bad. It's potentially under my control at least.

I think my writing is as good as plenty of trade stuff, but of course I would think that or I wouldn't be writing at all.

Like I said, my biggest trade hope is for Bellerophon, at 70k. I'm hoping that if I land an agent for that one, I can get feedback from them on H&G. Kind of a back door hope.

ETA: First chapter of H&G went through SFF SYW, too, and I ended up rewriting it (and re-posting).

Fuchsia Groan
01-25-2017, 08:39 AM
Whether you end up self-publishing or not, definitely contact local newspapers. We are still here! Either a formal press release or a personal email is fine, but make sure to put certain info up front: your local residence, any local connections with your book's content (people love to read books set where they live, especially if it's an unusual setting), and any pro or semi-pro pub credits you have. Oh, and pub date, publisher, page length, and price!

I get press releases about books, many self-published, from all over the world. Several a day, sometimes dozens -- it's hard to say because I auto-delete most of them without a thought at this point. However, if the subject line says "Local Author" or "Vermont Author," I read the email. If the writer has taken time to read our book coverage and says something nice about it, I read especially carefully.

Even better, if you can afford it, is to send the paper an ARC. A hardcopy book sitting on one's desk is a great reminder. Probably the safest route is to email and say, "I'd be happy to send an ARC if this interests you."

Even local newspapers are inundated with books these days, due to self-publishing. We couldn't possibly review all the ones we receive. But a few years ago we thought up a fun way to cover them without reviewing: every month, we feature brief blurbs about five books with a one-sentence quote, always taken from page 32. Some are trade, some self-published, and the quality varies wildly, but the mix is always interesting, like a snapshot of what locals are writing.

Does this sell books? I have no idea. But booksellers have told me they sometimes get customer requests for a book after our regular reviews, so ... maybe?

A good way to find blogs to pitch is to look for reviews of comp titles on Goodreads; you'll get a sense of who the prominent bloggers are in your subgenre. This hasn't worked so well for me, but I can't say I pitched a ton of them.

Old Hack
01-25-2017, 11:15 AM
Even local newspapers are inundated with books these days, due to self-publishing. We couldn't possibly review all the ones we receive. But a few years ago we thought up a fun way to cover them without reviewing: every month, we feature brief blurbs about five books with a one-sentence quote, always taken from page 32. Some are trade, some self-published, and the quality varies wildly, but the mix is always interesting, like a snapshot of what locals are writing.

Does this sell books? I have no idea. But booksellers have told me they sometimes get customer requests for a book after our regular reviews, so ... maybe?

That's such a good idea, Fuchsia. I love it!