Guest post by fellow Wisconsin author Julie Mata.
Two years ago I learned that Disney Hyperion wanted to publish my middle grade novel, Kate Walden Directs: Night of Zombie Chickens.
Cue euphoria, screaming, toasts of bubbly.
Last May, my book finally hit the shelves. My happiness was complete. Sort of. Actually, it was more like happiness tinged with fear.
Publicity/Marketing was like this evil, two-headed giant casting a long shadow over my authorial bliss. I didn’t understand how that stuff worked or what I should be doing to promote my book. So I did what any good introvert author would do—I stuck my head in the sand and hoped it would all go away.
So here are a few tips for all those other introverted writers out there who are currently eyeing the nearest sand trap.
1. Don’t wait until the last minute to establish your presence on social media.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it wasn’t for me. About five months before my book launched, I got a call—not from my publisher, but from the publicist at my agent’s literary house—I needed to be on Twitter, I needed a website, I needed a Facebook author page, and I should do any other social media I could manage—the more the better.
And I needed to do it as of six month ago. Cue shock, confusion, panic.
The months leading up to my book launch were spent learning how (and what) to tweet, creating a website, and figuring out what, exactly, is Tumblr? I should not have relied on my busy publisher or literary agency to tell me that, yes, social media matters.
2. Don’t rely on an in-house publicist to do all the heavy lifting for you.
I was assigned a publicist with Disney Hyperion. She was a great help, but the reality is that in-house publicists are often very overworked, with too many projects and too little time to carefully oversee each one.
If you are assigned an in-house publicist, call him or her and start to develop a relationship (which doesn’t mean bugging her with tons of questions too early on).
Do ask what your publicist realistically can do for your book, and what they expect from you. If the answer seems disappointing, or if you will not have an in-house publicist, then consider hiring your own publicist. They’re expensive, so do your research first and be very specific about your expectations.
3. If hiring a publicist is a budget buster, then consider how much of your own marketing you want to take on.
By the time I dug my head out of yet another sand pit and figured out that I needed to take off my author hat and don my publicity sombrero, my book was already out. Start marketing yourself BEFORE your book comes out.
Try to engage with the local news media so they cover your book signing, and talk to regional bookstores, libraries and schools about scheduling author events. Often, these events have to be booked several months in advance.
I treated my press release like a query letter—carefully written, professional, and hopefully just too interesting to pass up. (I provided personal details about myself and some humorous anecdotes related to making the video trailer for my book.) This snagged me an interview on a local network TV morning program and a nice write-up with photos in the local newspaper.
And if your publicist is setting up a blog tour for you, check to see which blogs are on her list, and how many. Pitch in and help with any personal connections–or a wish list–you already have.
Don’t be afraid to arrange several blog appearances on your own.
The goal is to get your book out there and get it in the limelight.
4. Oh, and those debut author groups?
You might want to check into those early on, like the day after a publisher gives you the thumbs-up. By the time I even knew they existed, the groups for 2014 were already full.
5. Know when enough is enough.
There will always be authors who outdo your efforts, receive more results, seem better plugged in. If you try to keep up with them all, you will drive yourself crazy. At a certain point you have to trust your book enough to let it go—hopefully so you can sit down and start writing your next one!