You’ll probably be your own publicist. Unless you don’t need to market your book (for example, if you’re publishing a family history with a limited audience) this part of the work continues after your book’s publication, has to be maintained, and can become very time-consuming. How much marketing you do is up to you but if you devote a lot of time to this you need to make sure that it’s time well spent, that it wins you readers and increases sales. Who do you need to get on board to help spread the word and get your book to readers? Consider getting in touch with newspapers, radio stations, libraries, schools, organisations and interest groups to publicise the book’s arrival and, if appropriate, to let them know you are keen to do interviews, talks, readings or presentations.
Tip: even if you feel anxious about interviews, the nerves tend to disappear once someone is asking you about something you know as well as your own book.
Not all writers enjoy public speaking but meeting readers directly, for example at book clubs, or indirectly via a radio interview, is a very good way to promote your book. Most people like to feel a connection with an author beyond words on a page. You can keep your marketing going in the long term with minimal expense using a website and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These are powerful but not essential tools. This is an enormous topic and there’s a lot of advice available
The surge of emotions from a book launch, the excitement of positive reviews, an enthusiastic start to sales figures and repeat orders from booksellers feel like the rewards of all your hard work. On the other hand, if you aren’t used to marketing yourself or feeling as if you’re the centre of attention, all this can feel uncomfortable and difficult. How far you go with marketing and publicity is a personal decision but do what you feel able to because, somehow, booksellers, readers and reviewers have to find about you and your book, then remain interested. We tried a few things as marketing experiments such as posters for booksellers and bookmarks to hand out, printed at home on photographic paper and cut to size. Over time, I collected digital photos that could be used when people asked for publicity material and for use on my website and social media. How much you do depends on the time you have available. Creating video clips, posting photos online, writing updates to your news all take time but they do allow you to reach more people without travelling.
Tip: the quality of online interactions is very different from meeting readers first hand so one isn’t a substitute for the other. My own experience is that any opportunity to meet with readers and talk with them is both good business sense and personally enriching.
Even if you start by adapting a ‘bio’ you’ve used before in another context, this isn’t always as straightforward as it might seem. If your book is connected to the work you do, then your readers might want to know your qualifications but if you’ve written historical fiction they’ll probably be more interested to know your connections with the place where the story is set. The style of your bio is a very personal choice and there are no rules but if you look at a few examples you’ll see that a bio can reveal quite a lot about how that writer wants to be seen by the public.
I found writing a bio to be one of the hardest tasks. Suddenly, everything seemed to be about me and I disliked that focus. Each time you go to do a talk you’ll probably be asked to send a bio for their publicity. It does get easier as you get used to the idea that you have an audience but so far, after more than two years, I still don’t feel at ease with it even though I value very highly the fact that anyone wants to read my work.
Do you need a book launch?
Most of the people who attend a launch will probably buy a copy of your book anyway so you won’t hugely increase your sales by having one but it will be a very special occasion to remember, a personal marker of your achievement. It’s also a celebration for everyone who’s supported and encouraged you along the way. If you decide to arrange a book launch, make sure it also helps to create interest in your book, and think about how you can make it work for you, for example by creating additional publicity around it.
Planning and organising a book launch
A book launch can be many things and it’s all up to you – and your budget. It can be a small, invited group or a larger more public gathering. You can choose an unusual or intimate venue or somewhere more traditional like a library or bookshop. You can provide nibbles and beverages or expect people to pay for their own orders. Whatever you decide, you’ll need to think about invitations, advertising, publicity and booking venue and caterers. In the end, it will be an event that matches the messages you and your book want to send to the reading community.
We held just one launch at our local bookshop in Margaret River. It felt like the right place, given that we had received so much local encouragement and the bookshop had been the first outlet to say they’d like to stock the book – a thank you as much as a celebration. We kept things simple, a combination of individual invitations we sent ourselves and a public invitation via local media. We provided the nibbles and soft drinks, with donations of wine from some local wineries. We hired the glasses and the bookshop did the rest of the organisation. It would probably have been a good idea to do other launches, perhaps in Perth, but that was beyond our finances.
Tip: people will be there either to support you and celebrate with you or because they’re really interested in finding out about your book, perhaps wanting a signed first edition copy. They really won’t mind if the food’s not posh and plentiful.
It might seem too soon to think this way but the publicity you get now (not all of it be generated by you) isn’t just about creating the market for this book. If people like you as a writer and are interested in you as an author, they’ll be looking forward to the next book. This is what keeps them interested after this one’s published and while you’re writing the next one.
What a customer has to pay for your book will affect the numbers sold. You will have worked hard to keep within budget and agree what booksellers pay you for stock, hoping to keep the price within a certain range, but be aware that shops and online outlets can make marketing decisions too. They can sell at a lower price, cut the price or offer discounts. This means you could find your book on sale at a range of different prices.