Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Importance of Being Your Own Publicist

by Sandie Bricker

I was an entertainment publicist for more than a decade when I lived in Los Angeles. I represented actors in the soaps (General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, etc.), and I couldn’t put a value on the information I collected during those years in reference to my next career as a writer.

Case in point: I recently teamed up with three other authors to compile a Christian devotional for Summerside Press called Be Still … and Let Your Nail Polish Dry. The four of us have varying levels of success as writers, all four of us hoping of course to help our books find their way into more and more people’s hands.

When we were brainstorming about marketing Be Still, we decided on two specific things that, in retrospect, were standout ideas.

1. We chose to benefit a charity with a portion of the proceeds. Several of them were discussed, but we landed on the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. I am a survivor, and I can hardly tell you how touched I was that my fellow authors wanted to rally around me with support in this way.

2. I decided to take on the primary role of publicizing the book in the media, making use of the skills I’d learned in my years doing that for others. I crafted press releases that targeted specific publications, telling about our OCRF connection and about the book and its authors; I teamed up with Jon Lovitz when he opened his comedy club in Los Angeles and was donating a portion of HIS proceeds to OCRF as well; and I rallied some heavy hitters like Robin Lee Hatcher and Candace Cameron-Bure for endorsements of the devotional that (thank the Lord!) were really stellar.

I mention these two segments of a much larger marketing plan because it turns out that they worked together to make something phenomenal happen.

One of the press releases went to the local newspaper … and they did an article … that was published on Saturday morning, the very day that we were having a book launch party hosted by a local Barnes & Noble for the two of us that are here in Florida (myself and Debby Mayne, ALSO an Avalon author!).

You probably see where I’m going with this.

So many people responded to the article that every B&N within a 50-mile radius sold out of our book before noon, including the TWO CASES on hand at the store where we were due to sign that afternoon. Even after we brought in our own author copies to supplement, customers were ordering copies at the customer service desk, and we signed bookplates for them to put into the books when they arrive next week.

A lot of cancer survivors showed up to tell their stories; others thought it would make a great Christmas gift for someone they knew who either had triumphed over the disease or were fighting it currently. I was invited to come and meet with a local support group for ovarian cancer survivors. I remember thinking as I sat there signing books that I wish I'd worked harder early on to market my Avalon books and get thw word out there about them.

Certainly, I AM NOT telling you to hitch your book to a bigger star for the purposes of selling more copies! What I am saying is to use that imagination that came up with the intricacies in your book to think about the kind of people who might enjoy learning about it, and go find them in an interesting way.

I don’t know about you, but marketing wasn’t something I really thought about when I imagined being a published author. What I’ve learned along the way, however, is that it’s as much a part of putting out our books as writing them. Hoping for a good review, asking your friends to tell their friends about your book, donating a free copy to your local library; these are all marketing tools of sorts. But I’m finding that, if you think on a larger scale and become your own publicist, more people will buy and talk about your book. And that means more copies circulating out there in the world! As writers, that's what we hope for, right?


Sandy Cody said...

Valuable advice, Sandie. Thanks for sharing it. You've a couple of ideas perking in my head.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing that. Good to think about.