Friday, December 4, 2015

The Cart Before the Horse by Jim Hart

After an author’s book is just released, literary agents are often asked “what can I do now to promote my book?” The honest (and cruel) answer is “you probably should have thought about that a year or two ago.”  

And yes, it may seem like a classic ‘cart-before-the-horse ‘scenario.

There are two great advantages about getting your marketing plan ramped up and in place before your book is even picked up by a publisher.

1) If your marketing plan in your proposal is strong, and you’ve listed not just what you’d like to do, but what you’ve actually done and know that you will be able to do, then the acquiring editor who is looking at your proposal will have a greater reason to continue reviewing your proposal. We have been told numerous times that an editor often goes straight to the marketing section of the proposal before even reading the samples. That’s how important this is. And to be honest, the strength of a proposal’s marketing section carries a lot of weight in my own decision process when considering a potential client.

2) When your book is finally published you don’t have to wake up in a cold sweat wondering how you’re going to promote your book. (You’ll have plenty of other reasons to wake up in the middle of the night!)

So though it sounds backwards, you should begin setting up your marketing campaign before your book and proposal are even finished. 

So where to start?

Be active, or more active, on social media. Which ones? There are many opinions on which are the best. I’ve found that as soon as Facebook is identified as the best social media platform to market your book, then it’s announced that now Pinterest is where you need to focus. Or Twitter, or Instagram. My current opinion is pick two and dominate them before moving on to other sites.
Setting up a professional looking web page is a great investment, in time, money or both. I favor good old fashioned blogging from a web page. Why? First, because it forces you write in a concise manner. 

Second, a great blog post will let your readers into your head and your life. It’s a direct link to where you are in the moment. The secret here is to connect and engage your readers. Your blog posts should elicit comments and begin a conversation. 

Third, a blog is where you can collect e-mail addresses from readers who will subscribe to your blog. Offer something in return for their e-mail address. Do you have a short story lying around that you don’t know what do to with? Format it into an e-book or a very nice PDF and offer it free. Or maybe write a week’s worth of solid devotions and offer that. 

Don’t forget that an audio-visual connection can be powerful and effective. YouTube channels are easy to set up. Podcasts are great as well. Periscope is a fun new app with Twitter that you should check out.

And then take it a step further, and start to make connections in person with local bookstores, coffeehouses, churches, libraries and book clubs. These are great places to hold an event like a book signing, a release party, or an author talk. Try to have as many opportunities in place as possible, and then list them, by name and location, in the marketing section of your proposal. 

Because there are so many options available, that’s why it’s time to start NOW to market your book.

So hitch up that horse right in front of your cart. You might get there faster.


Joyce Hart said...

Good post - so important, marketing your books. Marketing is what makes books appear on the bestsellers lists. Marketing plans, as you say, is what catches the attention of agents & editors. It's hard work and takes time when a writer would rather be writing, but it's part of publishing these days.

Ellie Gustafson said...

Very helpful blog, Jim, and I scribbled notes as I read. Now--to put it all into practice...!

Mary Selzer said...

Great post, Jim. Appreciate it

Anonymous said...

This is a great reminder. Wished I'd have understood this years ago. Years ago we didnt have social media as the number one source for information. Makes the marketing part so much easier. I'm going to reference this piece with my critique group.

Joy Avery Melville said...


Now to get it into practice again.