Sandra D. Bricker (www.SandraDBricker.com) has been publishing in both the Christian and general markets for years with novels for women and teens, magazine articles, and short stories. With ten books in print and three more slated for publication through 2010, Sandie has carved out a niche for herself as an author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market. Last year’s Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas garnered three readers’ choice awards, and this year’s Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida, as well as the devotional she co-authored called Be Still...and Let Your Nail Polish Dry, has them lining up at bookstores and author signings. Sandie was an entertainment publicist for fifteen-plus years, an experience that fuels her penchant for promoting her books with flare and creativity. She currently writes for Summerside Press and Abingdon Press while working a day job as a content editor in Tampa, Florida, where she resides with a free-spirited collie named Sophie.
So You’ve Sold a Novel—Now What?
When I started entertaining fanciful notions about becoming a writer one day (around the age of twelve, I think), it was through the eyes of screenwriters and authors. I saw myself making that big deal for my genius of a book, the publisher arranging a press tour where I flew first-class and stayed in five-star hotels while an enthusiastic public awaited my next release.
Did you hear it? That obnoxious noise was the screech of the needle across the record of my story.
As aspiring and professional writers, we probably now know that our book deals unfold in this manner about as often as unassuming women are swooped up by a handsome prince, riding off into the sunset on the back of his white steed. Oh, it happens, I suppose . . . but not to anyone we’ve actually met. In fact, as writers we—not someone else—are largely responsible for those complicated steps that follow the sale of our novels.
Rachelle Gardner, agent at WordServe Literary, is the author of Rants & Ramblings on Life as a Literary Agent (http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/), a blog named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest. Her take on the subject: “In the golden days of publishing, it was common for publishers to put a book out there, then expect it to slowly build. They’d allow time for readers to find it. But today it’s rare to get that kind of treatment. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for an author to find an audience.”
“It makes perfect sense to me now, after years in the business,” says fan favorite Trish Perry (www.trishperry.com), author of The Guy I’m Not Dating and Sunset Beach, “that publishing houses put their greatest marketing efforts behind the authors whose books consistently sell well.”
But how do we go about ensuring that we initially sell well?
In an unofficial survey, I asked forty average readers of various types of CBA women’s fiction what inspired them to purchase a novel by a relatively unknown author. Over 47 percent said that word of mouth from other readers is the number one reason for them to give a new author a try. Favorable reviews and a killer cover were other influential factors, but neither of them fared as well as good, old-fashioned Reader Buzz. And the buzz, as Ringo Starr once sang, “don’t come easy.”
“Nobody promotes a book like the author that wrote it,” says Jeane Wynn, President of Wynn-Wynn Media. “The author is still the most amazing resource we have. The days are gone when you leave it solely up to the publishing house to promote a book. Writers don’t just write any more. The optimum audience has to be reached, and getting to the reader is the bottom line. If you can’t do Oprah, the next best thing is to focus on strategic, key national exposure.”
In her work to promote the Love Finds You line of romantic fiction, Wynn knows that this kind of exposure comes from various avenues as social networking explodes even beyond past expectations. “We had to introduce the line to a market that didn’t know anything about this new company called Summerside Press (www.summersidepress.com). For the outlets that wouldn’t normally pay attention to series fiction, we had to present them in a way that got their attention, approach them on a different level so that ground could be broken. These days, it takes layering to make that happen: the publisher, the publicist, the author, all of it. An author willing to get out there
and speak to groups, participate on Facebook, Twitter, Shoutlife...that part of the overall plan is key.”
Maegan Roper, Marketing and Publicity Manager for Abingdon Press’s (www.abingdonpress.com) new line of fiction, is a true believer in an author building a platform and fan base as early as they can. “Availability and accessibility,” she states, “are the key factors in building a readership. I’ve heard authors say, ‘I’m a writer, not a speaker,’ but the advantage comes from being both, or at least learning to be both. Getting out there creates a personal connection with fans, an imperative part of selling books.”
Roper also adds that an author shouldn’t be quick to discount the importance of a strong video trailer for their book either. “I saw a blog recently where a writer said that trailers are unimportant. But when you, as a publisher, have thirty seconds to present a title to a room full of retail buyers, you’re going to want to make the most of those thirty seconds!”
If my unofficial reader survey is any indication, a short, well-done video trailer (thirty to sixty seconds) can influence individual buyers as well. One of the substantial write-in suggestions for generating excitement for a book was a video trailer posted on YouTube, GodTube [now tangle.com], or an author’s Web site.
One of this year’s fiction phenoms, author Joyce Magnin (www.joycemagnin.homestead.com), came to the reading public through the publication of her first novel, a breakout hit titled The Prayer of Agnes Sparrow. “Here’s the thing,” Magnin states. Even before the connection between Agnes Sparrow and Abingdon Press was forged, “I don’t believe I had any hope that my publisher would promote my debut novel. I suppose hanging around the conferences taught me that the bulk of the promotional responsibility would be on me. So with that in mind, I began networking a long time ago, building contacts and nurturing a fan base that I hope will keep growing now.”
Magnin says that the most important thing a new or aspiring author can do to promote their work is to network long before the contract or release date. “Get on Facebook,” she says. “Build an e-mail list. Go to conferences and get to know people. You can only get noticed if you are visible. Get visible!”