Press Releases, Magazine & Newspapers, Boothing & Presentations
So far, this summary has focused on online advertising, which is shiny and new. However, don’t forget the older forms of advertising out there, because they can also work quite well. Last post, I provided the link to Garden & Gun Magazine, which has both print & digital editions, and provides the reach for both. If you’re publishing in a niche that also has a magazine covering it, you can advertise via the direct route of purchasing an ad, or the indirect route of having them pay you for an article or a story.
James Young writes alt-WWII fiction (start with Acts of War), and has advertisements in at least one history magazine, because his target audience includes a lot of history buffs. Similarly, when paging through my subscription of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s magazine, I saw an ad for aircraft design books – and the online edition has a hotlink to their website. (http://www.aircraftdesigns.com)
Purchasing an advertisement has the advantage of being straightforward, simple, and guaranteed to appear in X many issues after you pay for it. Unfortunately, they’re subject to the readers ignoring them with the same ease as online advertisements. If you really want a magazine reader’s attention, the best (but not easiest!) way is to provide the content they’re looking for. This can be either articles or stories, depending on the magazine. If you provide a compelling short story or nifty new article on some aspect of the magazine’s focus, the readers may seek you out for more – and the magazine will pay you for it! (And if it’s a story, check the contract carefully before signing, but magazine reversion clauses are usually fairly straightforward and simple.)
This does have the disadvantage of submitting content, waiting to see if it’s accepted or rejected, possibly being subject to editing, etc. I don’t recommend it as a primary method of advertisement, especially not to the detriment of your main writing, but for those who are writing nonfiction, and those who like writing short fiction or nonfiction, it’s a possibility. Important Common Sense: Make sure you actually read a few issues of the magazine before submitting, and make sure your piece is a good fit!
Writing press releases is a learned skill and an art form. There are many very lazy “journalists” out there who will swallow a press release whole, and reprint it as news with the header of the email stripped off. The better you get at writing press releases, the more you’ll recognize them. For those who wondered why so many publications reprinted very nearly the same word-for-word libel about the Sad Puppies at the same time, it was just another press release sent out to sympathetic reporters who thought it sounded juicy. Because it fit their prejudices, they didn’t even bother to research it before putting that raw press release up as an article.
Press releases can be used for good, too. For example, local papers who need content may want a “local author does good” story to fill out a slow news day, or “Local History / Urban Legend explored by local author.” (The latter is more likely to get people interested in Local Thing to look you up, the former is better advertisement if you write books that you can’t tie to something a local paper would be interested in.) Variants include getting several authors together, and “Local Authors getting ready for Summer Reading with their new releases” or “Local Authors sponsoring Fairy Tale Day at the Library.”
This also works on more than a local scale: internet opinion sites that masquerade as news are always content-hungry. Huffington Post doesn’t pay for their content, so if you start looking, you’ll note a lot of their posts are followed by “this posts’ author has book X out on this subject.” Important Note Here! Never do work for “exposure”, unless you’re getting a measurable advertising return that produces measurable sales results! After all, the point of being a professional author with your work for sale is to Get Paid, so make sure that you’re getting paid either up front of in click-through sales for the work you do!
There are variants on this for local and national television (and radio). I’m not the person to talk to on this, and suggest you do your own thorough research.
Then there’s in-person advertising. This means showing up and selling yourself and your books. Traditionally, science fiction and fantasy authors did this via panels, readings, and signings at targeted, themed conventions, to catch the trad pub editors more than the fans. It doesn’t work very well for authors, as the fans generally aren’t there to see new authors. Many conventions also won’t attract large audiences (DragonCon and GenCon being two major exceptions to that). Cons are great for catching up with friends, networking and socializing with other authors and editors, and having a great time, but they’ll almost never earn back the coin spent there, unless you’re running a booth.
Yes, boothing. Being a vendor. It’s best done with a partner, to help cover getting food or bathroom breaks, and a table full of books, and some real practice and effort in hand-selling to the passing crowds. See James Young’s earlier post on boothing. Understand this means you won’t be able to attend many panels, or kibitz during the hours the vendor hall is open, and you’ll be too tired to do much after-hours socializing. Which cons you attend becomes a business decision vetted by the bottom line, and they become hard work instead of pure play. However, if you have enough stories and related paraphernalia, and some basic sales training and a lot of enthusiasm and stubbornness, it’s a viable option.
Boothing isn’t just for scifi conventions, either. Given the target market, you’ll find authors joining together or boothing individually at Renaissance Fairs, Bluegrass festivals, gun shows, art shows, town festivals, the NRA Annual Meeting, library fairs, and so on.
For middle grade authors, there are also school tours – that is it’s own beast. Children’s books are a tough market, because the audience that loves the book isn’t the market that pays for it. So you have to market to both the kids and their parents.
In the nonfiction crowd, many people make their living with admission or speaking fees for presentations they give on a topic, and they sell the book at the end much like a bar band selling t-shirts and CDs at a concert. Nonfiction authors are odd, because they often have only one book that they produce, and then they market themselves as a Subject Matter Expert on that topic. Fiction authors, by contrast, produce many stories, and make their living from selling stories. If you run into advice on how to market yourself instead of your book, check which authorial audience it’s aimed at.
On Presentations and Talks:
You may end up doing these. You may be a nonfiction author, and these are your bread and butter. You may be a fiction author, and you’re giving a talk or being on a panel at a convention. You might be a mystery author who was invited to a book club meeting.
This is not the same skill set as writing. It is, however, a skill set, and there’s a whole lot more to public speaking than “just picture them all in their underwear” or other unhelpful advice. The following links are a good place to start.
Kelly Grayson, who is an excellent paramedic and brilliant teacher (and the guy who had his young daughter shave my husband’s chest after a cardiac event, with a bright pink razor and a whole lot of giggling), has two blog posts on presenting at conferences.
For those of you who will be on panels, one more crucial bit of advice in the form of watching a master at work. Note that Dan Wells is not a natural extrovert; you’re watching a lot of skill and practice at herding the cats. (All you need is in the first 14 minutes)
The first thing he does is get the audience’s attention, then their participation. Getting everyone to stand up and move to the center accomplishes a lot of things in one fell swoop. 1: It provides a clear signal the panel is starting, and it’s time to pay attention.
2: It gets everyone to move to the front and center, so late-comers have a place to sit without completely distracting folks as they get to an empty seat.
3: It confirms what the panel is, and who’s running it (in this case, who was supposed to run it, and Dan’s running it now.) This is so people who are tired, distracted, decaffeinated, or sleep deprived have a chance to go “Oh, no! I thought this was Panel X!” and slip out to go find the panel they really wanted.
4: It engages the audience by having them do something, so they are are now inside a feedback loop, and paying attention to the panel. Note the jokes – that’s not just because funny is a good way to hold attention, that’s also measuring audience engagement by the reaction.
Then comes the introductions. PAY ATTENTION TO THIS.
Yes, your introductions should be a whole lot like Dan’s, not the other two authors. Name, Genre, Title of Book you’re promoting, Presentation of cover for long enough that the audience can see and recognize it! When doing panels, an awesome thing to do is to have a small stand, so you can have your book propped up next to your nameplate where the audience can see it. After all, you want readers to recognize your book on sight! (When doing single-author presentations, we have a much larger stand, with the book cover blown up to almost two feet high, so even the back row can clearly see it.)
And yes, one book. Pick a book, either your latest or the first in a series, and promote that one at the conference. This not only allows for measurable return on that book, but also provides one consistent, clear advertisement that may stick after three other panels and some socializing.