by Edwin Hill
I’ve worked in the publishing industry for nearly twenty years and have launched countless new books into the world. While each book and author is unique, the best launches have almost universally happened when authors knew how to partner with the publisher, and everyone understood their roles and responsibilities as part of that team.
Assemble your team
Start by thinking about who you want on your team. You might be lucky enough to have a publicist assigned to your book. You might not. If you don’t, consider hiring an outside firm to handle publicity. If that is outside your budget, call in favors and draw on the expertise of family and friends to get the word out about your book. No matter which of these paths you go down, start out by identifying your team and what role each member takes at least six months before the publication of your book.
If you are working with a publicist, talk openly about what you can bring to the table, including any connections or areas of expertise. You’ll want to make a list of fellow authors to blurb your book and any connections to bloggers and influencers you can partner with. Beyond these basics, let your publicist know about your interests. You never know when a personal fascination with fascinator hats might land you on the local news talking about a royal wedding–and plugging your book.
Ask for the plan
Three to six months before your book publishes, request a meeting with your publicity team to walk through their written plan. You might ask your agent to set up and attend the meeting as well. Before you meet, write down every idea you have, but then start the meeting by listening. You’ll likely be surprised by how much alignment there is between your ideas and your publicist’s ideas.
Every publicity plan comes with a to-do list. Be sure you leave this publicity meeting understanding exactly what your responsibilities are, and what the publisher will handle. Also, be clear on timelines and expectations.
If you aren’t working with a publicist, ask a fellow writer who does have one to share their publicity plan, and then mine it for ideas. You might not have access to everything that a traditional publisher has available, but in this day and age there is a lot you can do on your own.
As an author, it can be tough to remember that everyone has the same goal when it comes to your book: selling as many copies as possible. Publishers Weekly offers perspectives from both sides!
Divide and conquer
Whether you have a team of two or an army of twenty, use every possible avenue to get the word out about your book—and be sure everyone knows what their role is and what they need to accomplish. Just like with managing any team, you’ll want to assess everyone’s strengths and make sure they are assigned the right tasks. My book, Little Comfort, is coming out on August 28, and all summer long my father has been driving around the South Shore of Massachusetts talking it up with librarians. Does it hurt that he served as one of his town’s library trustees for over twenty years? Probably not!
Figure out what sticks, and keep on doing it
When you want to get the word out about anything, the more data you can gather to show that what you are doing is affecting sales, the better off you will be. Choose activities that are measurable in some way—a Goodreads Giveaway is a good example. You can measure how many readers sign up for the Giveaway, and how many keep your book on their “to be read” list after the Giveaway ends. (Goodreads Giveaways also cost money and may be out of some authors’ budgets, but that’s a topic for another post.) If something is impossible to track or isn’t returning on your investment, stop and focus on what does work.
Edwin Hill was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, and spent most of his childhood obsessing over The Famous Five, Agatha Christie, and somehow finding a way into C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe. After attending Wesleyan University, he headed west to San Francisco for the original dotcom boom. Later, he returned to Boston, earned an MFA from Emerson College, and switched gears to work in educational publishing, where he currently serves as the vice president and editorial director for Bedford/St. Martin’s, a division of Macmillan. He lives in Roslindale, Massachusetts with his partner Michael and his favorite reviewer, their lab Edith Ann, who likes his first drafts enough to eat them.
Visit edwin-hill.com to learn more about Little Comfort.