Saturday, June 21, 2008

Marketing Expectations

Many, many writers still carry around the mindset that says, “My job is to write books, and the publisher’s job is to market them.” That’s not quite how things work anymore. Bookstores are struggling, so publishers struggle, and that means they don’t have the time/money/manpower for your book. You have to take the initiative. 

As a novelist, especially a beginning novelist, it’s hard to believe you have an influence. But look at Chrisopher Paolini. He was fifteen when he self-published his first book, Eragon. Then he toured schools. He did signings and readings. He created a buzz, and people got interested. Now they’ve made a movie out of Eragon, and Paolini is working with a major publishing house on the rest of his series.

You must be your own advocate. Not only are you marketing your book, you’re marketing yourself. You may argue that it sucks away time you should spend writing. But all it takes is a few hours every week. Even a busy writer can handle that. Try to find your own balance – just don’t use it as an excuse to shirk your responsibilities.

So. How to go about it? Marketing is a sort of umbrella term that covers these three areas:

1 Building your platform

2 Networking

3 Self promotion


Building Your Platform.

In the words of Moonrat

Your platform consists of your relevant professional credentials and your published writing experience.”

Think of it as a jump-off point. The better the platform, the farther you can jump.  

You want your work out where people can hear about if. Before you ever publish your novel, try to get some credit by writing for a local newspaper, or publishing a few short stories. This helps establish you as writer, and gives you both confidence and experience. Join a book club or writers’ group. Volunteer at your library.

Next, create an internet presence. Open a MySpace account or revamp your current one, making it clear who you are and what you do. Create a personal webpage. Invest some money on a professional web designer, and try to buy your own domain name instead of piggybacking on a free service. True, there’s a cost. But all the sources I know of agree: the money is worth the rewards.

After that, start a podcast, newsletter, or blog. Maintenance is important – regular, timely updates give you reliability, and help build your fan base.


Networking is a little tricky because it’s a job that never ends. You need to become a sort of traveling salesman. Print out cards with your name, email, and web address on it, and hand it out to anyone who’s interested. Get talking to people. Hang out at the library and chat with the librarians. If you hear of any book readings or author interviews, attend them, and don’t sit silently in the corner. Ask questions. Talk to the authors. Admit you write! I know from personal experience that if you talk about your writing, people will respond.

You can also network online. Remember your platform? Start using it. Read other people’s blogs and leave them intelligent comments. Ask if you can quote them on your blog. Actively use your MySpace page by linking to your other ventures, gathering friends, and contacting the other writers, editors, or agents who have Myspace pages.

Try joining a Yahoo! Group, or an online critique group. Set up an email account specifically for writing purposes. Get someone to put your novel on Wikipedia! You can’t do it yourself, but a friend can.

Self promotion:

This final step comes into action once you get published. If you live in a suburban area, contact local newspapers and ask them to do a special on you. Donate advanced reading copies of your book to the library. Set up a book tour. Leave the large, chain stores to your publisher, and check out for community bookstores.

Do readings and signings. Get your work into the hands of book clubs. Offer to come speak. Advertise your upcoming events in the newspaper, and tack up fliers in the towns you’ll be visiting.

You can do similar things online. Go on a blog tour. Host writing contests and book giveaways on your site. Convince others to review your novel and ask if you can be a special guest on a podcast. Go a little crazy – make a trailer of your book, complete with and graphics, and post it on youtube. Create a buzz.


One final thing…if you got published traditionally, make sure to let your publisher know about your marketing plans. If they see you making an effort, they’ll make an effort.


-Creative A




JJ Cooper said...

Great tips. Essential to market your book and give it every effort. No point wondering after they take it off the shelf.

I have another year before my book's release. And I'm busy networking already.


David Isaak said...

Not quite precise on the Paolini story. His parents already owned and operated the small publishing company that first published his book. (And, no, Eragon wasn't the first book that company published, either.) And the initial press run was 10,000 copies, which is more than the average for a debut novel from the big New York houses (where 5,000-7,000 is typical).

His parents planned his publicity and pulled all kinds of strings to set up signings and readings.

The Paolini story is a fascinating success story. But he didn't really self-publish and he didn't really pull together his own publicity gig. He was promoted and heavily supported by a small and enthusiastic corportation--which his parents owned--that put a good deal of money ($30K? $60K?) into a large print run and a major publicity effort.

Creative A said...

Hi JJ, and thanks! That's one thing that can't be stressed should marketing before your book is ever ready, because it makes such a huge difference later on. Congrats that you're releasing a book! What's it called?

Creative A said..., see, I always thought that Paolini did the whole self-publishing self-marketing thing by himself, and then got snapped up by a larger publishing company.

A friend of mine's cousin is part of the team that published Paolini traditionally. I can't remember the name of the publisher but at one point I looked it up, and it was really big. So now I'm curious who's right. What are your sources?

David Isaak said...

The team that initially published Paolini traditionally was Paolini International, LLC. It was never published POD. It's hard to find the whole story in one place, and it is blurred by the fact that people, including Paolini himself, like for the story to be a Cinderella tale. And there is quite a large industry that likes for it to be "self-published"; these people also like to claim that John Grisham's first novel was self-pubbed (it wasn't). The facts are as follows (details below this list):

1. The initial publication was by Paolini International LLC, his parents' small publishing firm, and it was a traditional, offset print run of $10,000 copies (so figure $30K investment right there.) Paolini International began operating in 1997, publishing nonfiction; they didn't publish "Eragon" until 2002.

2. His family arranged his publicity and book tour and traveled with him around the country.

3. Novelist Carl Hiaasen's stepson happened to be present at one of Paolini's presentations. The stepson liked the book so much that Hiassen contacted his publisher, Knopf, who acquired it and republished it under their own imprint.


(1) ( This was traditional offset publishing, not self-publishing nor POD. The company, owned by his parents, was founded in 1997 (

(2) "In 2002 the Paolinis had Eragon published privately, and with ten thousand copies in hand, they set out to promote the book for the rest of the year. Paolini and his mother became the marketing masterminds, but the entire family traveled across the country, stopping at bookstores, schools, libraries, and fairs."

(3) Just Google "paolini" and "hiassen" and you find this story retold 25 different ways.

Google Analytics