Q. What can authors do before their publiction date to make a book launch more successful?
A. There are three things that are key to promoting and selling a book before publication.
1. It all starts with negotiating a good deal. The more money they have invested in you, the more they will want to help you promote your book to make their money back. You also want to negotiate as many free books as possible as part of your deal. These can be used for promotion to smaller, specialty media outlets your publisher may not want to bother with. Finally, the "buy back" clause is important, if you can buy books cheaply enough, they make a better promotional tool than a brochure, and are more effective.
2. It is so easy to be overwhelmed, distracted, and discouraged when it comes to promoting a book. A simple publishing calendar with target dates gets you thinking about deadlines and should motivate you to do more promotion. It also breaks down what needs to be done, and when it would be best to do it. A promotional plan is handy, but I have also found that by simply spending 30 minutes to an hour a day (every day) doing something to promote a book is best. Use Google, past leads, look at where books like yours are being featured, contact your local media, AND set aside time for follow-up. Each one of these doesn't take all day, but the consistent and relentless approach really works.
3. Don't underestimate friends and family. Chances are they know someone who knows someone who will either buy a bunch of books or get you on radio or television. The good thing is, these people know you, want to see you succeed, and won't mind putting in a good word for you. Let everyone in your inner circle know about your upcoming book and if appropriate, ask for their help to promote it.
Q. What do you like best about promoting your books?
A. I love doing radio interviews. What could be better than having someone ask you about your book and having thousands of people listening who could (and should) rush out and buy it? As for the benefits of promoting a book before publication, I have found that speaking engagements are great for getting the word out because they can lead to publicity, attendees hear about the book in your bio (or you create a talk around your title), and when the time comes to give the speech, you sell a ton of books at the back of the room. Plus, you get paid to give the speech, too.
Q. What is one mistake you made promoting your first book that you would recommend others avoid?
A. Not focusing on the outcome you seek -- to sell books. At first it's so cool to see your name in the paper or have friends and family say they saw you on TV. After a while, you realize that feeling is fleeting and fame doesn't pay the bills. The object is to use promotion to SELL books, and build your brand, but in that order.
Q. Can you share your top three book promotion tips for first-time authors?
A. I think my answer to question two covers it. But here is a point worth putting out there. Keep in mind when promoting your book that it's not about you, it's about them. The entire focus of your energy is to help people, solve a problem for them, improve their business, or in the case of fiction, provide entertainment or escapism. No matter what, promotion isn't about you. This helps authors overcome the fear of promotion and it helps focus the message on what's most important and that is what your book does for others.
The question that needs to be answered is this: "Why should I buy your book?"
Q. Is there something you would say is never too late to do when promoting your book?
A. Look for timely tie-ins. Watch the news for things that relate to your book and give it (and you) another chance to garner some good publicity.
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.