By Cindy Hudson
Elizabeth Lyon is the author of six writing books on fiction and nonfiction, revision, and marketing: Manuscript
Makeover, A Writer's Guide to Fiction, The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit,
Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, The Writer's Guide to
Nonfiction, and National Directory of Editors & Writers.
Manuscript Makeover was featured in the December issue of The Writer as one of "10 Great Writing Books in 2008," and as "perhaps the most comprehensive book on revising fiction." Lyon lives in Springfield, Oregon.
Q. What can authors do before their publication date to make a book launch more successful?
A. As soon as the finished manuscript is delivered, authors should dive into reading how to promote books. I recommend Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz, 1001 Ways to Promote Your Book by Jon Kremer, and books by Dan Poynter.
They should create a marketing plan, as strategically detailed as if they were planning a presidential campaign. Their plan should include setting up a modern website, finding related websites where they can plan to ask for reviews and offer to be interviewed and write short articles, build a targeted list of "special venues," organizations, associations, and sales outlets that will sell the book but are not bookstores. They should plan speaking engagements, magazines and e-zines where articles or stories may be sold or offered, newspapers for features about them and their books, radio talk show venues if appropriate, and networks of friends and colleagues to help.
Realistically, any advance money should go to hiring a publicist, especially a publicist who specializes in Internet promotion. If there is no advance, the author should pony up money for promotion and know the royalty begins with the first book sold.
Q. What do you like best about promoting your books?
A. I'm more of an extrovert than an introvert. As a result, speaking engagements, teaching, and travel is stimulating and supplies much-needed people contact that I don't get at home editing or writing.
Q. What is one mistake you made promoting your first book that you'd recommend others avoid?
A. My first book was self-published. The first review to come out the reviewer did not like the book, primarily because of uncensored black-and-white photos of women giving birth. I was horrified by the review, fearful of having 2500 copies of a book forever in my garage, so I wrote a rebuttal and sent it to her - and to her managing editor. Don't do this! Later in my career, I had a bad review in The Writer magazine and I knew the reviewer had read my preface, scanned the book, and/or had some personal reason for panning it. I did not write a flaming letter. I did find a discrete way, years later, to inform the right person about what had happened.
Q. Can you share your top book promotion tip for first-time authors?
A. Find relevant websites to your subject (nonfiction) or your genre (fiction) and write an e-mail note to the newsletter editor introducing yourself and asking if that person would consider reviewing your book or posting an announcement. Of the 60 sites I tracked down for Manuscript Makeover, I received 25 reviews (all positive), which resulted in writers all around the country learning about the book, website or blog interviews, and which resulted in a number of speaking engagements in places that did not already know me.
Q. Is there something that is never too late to do when promoting your book?
A. In my opinion, it is never too late to do anything in your business plan for marketing your books. The only limitation is your time and energy. On my long-term follow-up plan is to track down the personal e-mail addresses of teachers of fiction and nonfiction in community colleges, colleges, and universities and to send a personal e-mail to each, by name, letting them know about my books and pasting in some compliments of them by other professors and teachers. I believe we authors must make personal relationships and help each other.
Last, we need to be the captain at the helm of our books, knowing that no one cares about their success as much as we do. Our partners are booksellers and librarians. My publishers don't market to libraries - a great awakening that was - so another author privilege is to let librarians know of our books. And, we can solicit three-way talks and mini-workshops to take place at libraries with books supplied and sold by booksellers.
One half of the job of being an author is writing, but if you want to have a career, the other half is all business.
Cindy Hudson is putting the finishing touches on her manuscript for Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs (Seal Press 2009). Her website, and its companion blog, feature reading lists, book reviews, author interviews, book giveaways and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian and edits the monthly e-zine, Writers on the Rise. Visit her online at MotherDaughterBookClub.com and CindyHudson.com.