Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ms Viola: Last Ditch Promotional Efforts and Professional Promoters

Hello, hello darlings!

I’m just back from a mahvelous week at a spa where I had a chance to share a masseuse with Madonna and had a mud wrap next to Oprah! Luffly!

And now I’m refreshed and ready to tackle two excellent questions from my adoring fans readers.

What action can an introverted author take after his book has been "remaindered?" Here's my story in a nutshell. I landed a two-book deal with a major publisher, and they released my first book in paperback a year after it was published in hardcover. I was just informed that sales are poor and the hardcover version is going to be remaindered -- basically it's going out of print. Argh! Is it too late to do effective promotions for the paperback version before that disappears, too? (I'm afraid of your answer.) What can I do to keep it in print at this point? Also, my second book happens to be a sequel and that came out a year ago. Is there any promoting I should be doing at this point to keep my books alive?

Thanks, and sign me

Regretfully Remaindered

Dahlink, dahlink, dahlink! Email me privately with the name of your editor and publicist. I will be sure to stop by when I’m in New York next week and beat them with my new alligator clutch. Ach! They should have warned you, or at least given you a heads up that your book might be in trouble sales-wise!

Truly, remaindered is one of the most ghastly words in publishing!

However, it is never too late to do some promoting, especially since you do have a paperback edition AND a sequel. A question that sprung to my mind was whether or not your sequel will be going to paperback, too. Sometimes poor sales or lack of reviews will prevent a publisher from taking a book to paperback, so you might want to follow up on that. If they still have plans to take your sequel to paperback, that would be an excellent time to launch a full out promotional campaign for both books.

The good news is that children’s books tend to have a longer shelf life and be given a longer time period to find their audience than adult books. Having said that though, you’re clock is a-ticking. You may have to resort to some rather extroverted approaches to get your book noticed.

  • Do you have a website or blog? Can you brainstorm some creative ways to get the word out about your books? How about contests with free books as prizes, just to generate some buzz and word of mouth?

  • If you’re comfortable doing school visits, consider contacting local libraries or schools and see if you can get on their fall schedules so you can bring your books to their attention.

  • Also, are your books readily available? Are they stocked in chain stores? Do the local independents carry them? If not, consider stopping by and introducing yourself to the indie bookstores in your area. Prospective readers will need to be able to find your book.

  • Consider having bookmarks professionally made (they can be quite inexpensive) and hand them out to the bookstores you visit.

  • Or consider printing up good quality postcards and mailing them to independent bookstores and children’s librarians and school librarians in your state, or surrounding states.

  • Is there a cause or association that your book logically feeds into? Can you brainstorm ways to take advantage of that?

  • Do an internet search of some of the children’s book blog review sites and see if your publisher will send out some more review copies. If they won’t, consider doing it yourself. Remember, the internet is the introverted author’s best promotional friend.

Now here's another question from Go For The Gold Gary:

I’m sure a lot of us introverts are challenged by the idea of promoting our work. Ie read a number of books on the topic, visited a zillion websites, and tried a few suggested approaches that seemed affordable and right for me (a certifiable introvert) and my book (a tween-age fantasy). I published (by a small press) with the second book in the series coming out in May 2008. I toying with the idea of contacting a professional promoter and wondered if you have had any experience with such services? Thanks for any advise you can offer.

Darling, of course I’ve had experience with professional promoters. How else could I train them?

However before you proceed down this avenue, you have to ask yourself two questions.
1. Can you afford one? Because they aren’t cheap, and from your email, it sounds like you do have a budget. They will usually want a retainer, with a two or three month minimum, at anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500 per month.

The second question to ask is, What will they be able to do that you can’t? The truth of the matter is, that for children’s books, there are only so many angles press or publicity can take. Also, as an introvert, will you be willing and able to take advantage of the highly specialized contacts the promoter might have access to? What if they secure you a gig speaking to a room full of five hundred librarians? Is that something you’re comfortable with? What if—although the chances are only itsy-bitsy—the professional promoter gets you a spot on local television or radio? Would you be able to appear and be comfortable enough to make a good impression?

Although, frankly, the chances of an affordable professional promoter having those kind of contacts might be slim.

Probably the majority of their efforts will be getting your “story” into local print media and reviews. The thing is, no one can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Either there is a marketing angle to you and your book, or there isn’t.

As you said, there are tons of websites that can show you how to write a press release, then you can collect the addresses of the most promising and send your release yourself.

Here some other things I tell my clients to consider:

Does your publisher have a publicity or marketing person that you are in touch with? If so, you could work together to do much of the same stuff a professional promoter would do for you.

If not, it might be worth spending the money, but only if the professional promoter has proven, extensive industry contacts within the children’s market. Also, have them show you PR campaigns they’ve done for books similar to yours. Don’t let them show you a book that had a lot of support from the publisher, along with a big marketing budget, and lead you to believe they can mimic that for you, if the exact same elements aren’t in play with your book.

And that's all for this week!


Stephanie said...

Promoting is the scariest thing for me. I am really lucky to have a husband who does half the work for me. By the way, I received the mug today. I love it! Thanks.
P.S. The chocolate bar was a great touch.

Jennifer said...

I have two comments for the questioners.

Before Regretfully Remaindered goes off wildly promoting, maybe she (I decided RR is a she) should have a conversation with both her editor and the marketing books person. I would. Because if mutually agreeable, maybe the remaindering could be postponed while the author steps up promotional efforts. Have a conversation along the lines of "Give my book a chance, and let's see what we can do together." This could be done via a thoughtful email, too, if the telephone is too scary.

As for Go for the Gold Gary, I'm thinking that if his publisher did the normal, expected things, like submitting his book to be reviewed by both big and little book services, he should concentrate on doing school visits, because after your book has been out for awhile, and is perhaps no longer in bookstores, this is how to sell more copies, and earn money doing it. Putting a relatively small amount of money into promoting himself as a speaker will most likely pay off more than paying a P.R. person big bucks unless there is some great hook or angle for a P.R. person to work.

Mary Hershey said...

Thanks, Ms. Vi--

A veritable treasure of good info here! And, as many before us have said, rather than allowing yourself to be derailed by a lack of sales on a particular book, get to work on the next one. Keep moving forward. Don't allow yourself to get stuck in frustration at the market. Go-make-more-books!

And, congrats to Regretfully Remaindered and Going for the Gold for having your questions selected by Le Ms. I'll be emailing you off-line to get your addresses so I can send you your seriously cool SVP mugs.

Mary Hershey

Barbara Bietz said...

Hi Robin and Mary,

Love reading your blog! Just wanted to let you know that I am doing my best to promote writer in our community in my monthly online column. I have a review of THEODOSIA in this month's column, and I plan to do a YA column in the next couple of months and I will be including THE ONE WHERE THE KID NEARLY JUMPS.." I promise to keep you posted!

Here is the link:

Best Always,


Mary Hershey said...

wow, Barbara, thanks! We really appreciate it. The grassroots method of promotion is priceless. I am looking forward to checking out the mag.

I'm so glad you are enjoying our blog!


Robin L said...


Thank you so much for adding your additional great suggestions to the mix! Awesome!

And Barbara, thank you for the terrific piece on Theodosia! That was very kind of you!