I see a LOT of articles that outline the biggest mistakes that an author can make. I love these articles because they help other authors and industry folks learn from the mistakes others have made in the past. I find that the path I walk as an independent small press (read: self-published author) is MUCH easier with a road map marked up by others who have walked this path before me.
With this in mind, I would like to offer my experience and advice around mistakes that my clients and I have made while publishing and promoting our own books. This week, I have asked Joan Stewart, publicity expert and owner of www.publicityhound.com to help me explain the first mistakes I made and how I fixed them.
What I Did: Pitched My Book Instead of My Expertise
When my book came out, I KNEW promotion was the key. I was sure that my next step was to contact editors and bloggers, radio and TV producers and pitch the book.
Here is why that was a mistake: These folks are pitched books ALL THE TIME.
There are now thousands of books being published every day. The many online and computer tools at our fingertips can make anyone an “author.” There are authors under every rock. Joan Stewart reminded me that experts are more in demand than authors. What producers and editors are looking for are experts to comment on current events.
What I Should Have Done Instead
Editors need content from experts, and well-written content rises to the top of the pile.
Am I an expert in book sales and marketing? Then WHY am I pitching my book (one of many on the topic) instead of presenting the editors with a lot of great article ideas on book marketing?
I made the mistake of thinking that folks would care about my book and the advice in it. They didn’t. (They REALLY didn’t.) What they needed was great content from an expert.
What I Then Did
When Joan reminded me of the fact that books are everywhere, and authors are thick on the ground, I switched my emailed requests to offerings. Instead of asking editors to review my book or interview me about my book, I offered them my expertise.
Content IS king…. My writing and advice was starting to show up in blogs and newsletters across the US and my book sales increased. I was able to promote my writing BY WRITING.
What I Did: Rushed to Contact Editors and Did Not Research Who They Were
I was in SUCH a hurry. I had been reading a column by “Josie” in Publisher’s Weekly for years. I also knew that I wanted to get my book reviewed by a certain magazine in Cincinnati. So as soon as I could, I dashed off an email to PW and also sent a copy of my book to the name at the top of the masthead of the magazine in Ohio.
I did NO research. Joan was not at all surprised to hear that I did not even get a response back.
What I Should Have Done Instead
I should have taken the time to read more of Josie’s posts and seen that she does not even DEAL with non-fiction books! Her expertise is bookstore news and fiction releases.
I was in such a hurry to get my book out there, I wasted an opportunity AND looked like an amateur. With the magazine in OH, I did not read the submission guidelines closely enough, or I would have seen that the person to whom I had directed my pitch asked SPECIFICALLY not to be sent books…. She just wanted a letter to start.
I was SO sure I knew the best way. But I learned very quickly that I cannot send out 35 emails and 12 book mailings in identical packets. I was asking someone to treat my book as special; I was asking someone to consider my presentation and see that my writing and information is head and shoulders above all of the rest. So, shouldn’t I have treated THEIR time and venues with the same respect?
What I Then Did
I followed Joan’s advice and started taking time (yes, a LOT of time) to research each person I was pitching. I checked the gender to make SURE that Joe was not actually a Jo and that Chris was a man and not a woman. I read everything I could of their profiles to make sure that the fit was a good one. I went deeper and took more time in my research, and it REALLY paid off.
I started with professional organizations and made SURE that I had spent a great deal of time on their websites before reaching out to them. Yes, I was still emailing strangers, but now they were strangers who could see that I had done my homework. I started getting more responses and successful hits.
The best part? Even if I never heard back, I knew I had done the right thing and no longer looked like an amateur rushing to spray my requests all over. I was taking more time and getting better results.
More to Come, and What About You?
Next month, I will have more screw ups and mistakes to share with you. I hope you find my DO THIS, NOT THAT features helpful. I want to thank Joan Stewart, again, for her help and guidance as I navigate the scary world of book PR!
What about you? Have you rushed in when you should have researched? What have you learned from trying to promote your own books? Let us know in the comments, we can all learn from each others’ mistakes.