Kelly James-Enger left her full-time law practice for freelance writing more than a decade ago. Since then she's written eight books, including Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money (Random House, 2005) and Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create Your Own Writing Specialty and Make More Money (Marion Street Press, 2008). She lives in Downers Grove, a Chicago suburb, with her husband, son, and golden retriever puppy.
As you may imagine, James-Enger has lots of great advice for first-time authors on promoting their books.
Q. What can authors do before their publication date to make a book launch more successful?
A. First, plan ahead -- at least six to nine months. I'll use Six-Figure and Ready, Aim, as examples. With both books, I had a list of possible reviewers lined up well ahead of time as well as a list of markets that would run related articles. I also started looking for and lining up speaking gigs (i.e. writer's conferences, libraries, writer's groups, bookstores) well ahead of time. I've tried postcards, but haven't had much success with them. I also promoted the books through my writers' newsletter, Writer's Gear (though I discontinued that this January.)
Q. What do you like best about promoting your books?
A. I'm an extrovert in an introvert's job, so I love getting out and talking about how to be a successful freelancer. But I've learned that personal appearances can be extremely time-consuming with little payoff, so I focus more on things I can do from home.
Q. What is one mistake you made promoting your first book that you would recommend others avoid?
A. I hired a publicist based on a colleague's recommendation, and she did almost nothing for quite a bit of money. That was an expensive lesson and a mistake I won't make again!
Q. Can you share your top three book promotion tips for first-time authors?
- Pitch articles to magazines, newspapers and websites about your subject; I always want to get paid for articles like this but I will do them for nothing for a byline that mentions the book. (It depends on the market, subject, length, etc.)
- Respond to personal e-mails. I get a lot of e-mail from people who find me through the web (i.e. "I want to be a successful freelancer, too, how do I do it?"), and those get a canned response. But I reply to "personal" e-mails (i.e. those from people who have read -- hopefully bought -- my books) briefly but helpfully, and I think that helps build loyal readers.
- Make sure your friends and family all know about your book. They'll do a lot to promote it for you simply out of pride!
A. I think it's always worthwhile to continue to write related articles about your book subject. It continues to position you as an expert, and with a byline that mentions the book, you can always sell a few more copies. As someone who writes both magazine articles and books, this is a natural for me; I was a magazine journalist for years before I started writing books as well.
Cindy Hudson is the author of 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. Visit her online at MotherDaughterBookClub.com and CindyHudson.com.