Figuring out how to promote your book before it comes out is a weird process. When you’re traditionally published, you have a team of professionals working with you, building buzz and anticipation for the book before it hits.
But what does that actually involve?
Every author, every book, and every publisher does things a bit differently, but here are some things I’ve done to try to get my name out into the world and to build awareness of/interest in my books:
- Podcasts. I love podcasts. When I was a traveling rep, podcasts and audiobooks were my lifeline, my connection to the SF/F world. As a result, I had a list of podcasts to reach out to and make appearances as a guest. I made appearances on the Functional Nerds, Speculate!, Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing, and the Roundtable Podcast, among others. And last year, I became a co-host on The Skiffy & Fanty Show, while continuing to appear as a guest on others (most recently including the SF Squeecast). Podcasts are great for verbal thinkers and people who enjoy discussion in community (I am one of those people).
- Blogging. I used to blog a lot more, when I was a pop culture scholar trying to get into PhD programs for cultural studies/media studies. As a writer, it’s great to share your interests and connect with people who are both readers and members of the same interests/hobbies as you. I don’t blog quite as much anymore, since I spend more of my writing time on prose, but keeping your blog at least somewhat fresh is a good way to slowly build a readership, which then sometimes transfers over to buying your books
- Conventions. As a social monkey, I love conventions. They’re sleepover camp for adults – inspiring panels, live readings, and hours-long conversations at the bar. There are a number of very different kinds of conventions – some are more about writers meeting and trading tips and connections, some are driven entirely by fans, and others are both of the above and more. But every convention is a chance to make connections, to get your name out there. Since I work in publishing in addition to being an author, I have a few different perspectives on the business, and I love shop talk – this means that I can connect with people who want to talk publishing shop, and my writing can come up as a free conversational bonus, rather than leading with “Hi, I’m an author!” I’ve really enjoyed ConFusion, a smaller but healthy and very well-run fan con outside of Detroit, and I’ve made it to the last two WorldCons (in Chicago and San Antonio). WorldCon is on the larger side (6-7000), and combines the critical mass of a large fandom without losing too much focus on the literature of SF/F. If you like feminism or want a LGBTQ/QUILTBAG-friendly convention, I highly recommend WisCon in Madison, WI. It’s got an amazingly supportive and inclusive feel to it. I’ve also been to New York Comic-Con twice now, which is utterly gigantic, almost too big for being as useful as a writer. But this last year, I had a blast on a panel about Nerds and Nerd Culture, and it allowed me to make an impression on a crowd of more than a hundred people all at once, which doesn’t suck.
- Contests & Swag. Contests are great for book promotion. Explore Goodreads giveaways to drive bookshelf additions and convention ARC giveaways. Since my Ree Reyes series is in eBook and audio formats right now, without print editions, I really wanted a physical thing I could give away to potential and existing readers. I believe in the strong utility of a transactional social item to cement an in-person connection – that can be a signed ARC given to a reader, a signed bookplate, or a T-shirt. In the run-up to the release of CELEBROMANCY, the second Ree Reyes book, I decided to get some swag – I ordered custom sunglasses with “Celebromancy” printed on the side, connecting sunglasses to Hollywood. I wanted an item that had at least some real-world utility, so it wouldn’t just be a tchotchke. Check them out:
It’s a strange alchemy, trying to promote your book. Your publisher does a lot of production work, between cover design, editorial feedback, layout, engaging the sales force, and planning marketing/publicity, but in the 21st Century publishing environment, authors are absolutely instrumental in terms of promoting their own books. If I knew one guaranteed way to make every book succeed, I’d be on all the bestseller lists. Each author’s journey is their own, and each book’s journey is its own, but this is how I try to support my books, and I hope that hearing about it is useful to you.
Michael R. Underwood, a longtime Book Country member, is the author of several books published by Pocket, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Connect with Mike on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Check out his website, Geek Theory, too!
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