Monday, March 21, 2011

#VAbook: Promoting Like a Pro

On Saturday, I attended The Virginia Festival of the Book.

Unlike last year (some of you might remember THIS) I wasn't alone! Cristin Terrill and Ricki Schultz came with--and it was fabulous. We went to some of the publishing panels and came back with lots of information to share.

The first panel was called Promoting Like a Pro. The panelists included:

  • Jessica Francis Kane, whose novel The Report, is finalist for the 2010 Flaherty-Dunnan 1st Novel Prize. 
  • Micah Nathan, the author of Losing Graceland. His debut novel, Gods of Aberdeen, became an international bestseller. He received the 2010 Saul Bellow Prize in fiction.
  • Lori L. Tharps, the author of Substitute Me. She is also the author of two critically acclaimed non-fiction titles, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America and Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love, & Spain.
  • Gene Taft, who runs GT/PR, a Washington DC public relations firm, promoting books and authors. He spent 15 years in New York working in-house for several publishers.


Gene's guidelines/best practices:

  1. The author needs to understand the publicity process. Ask questions--and then LISTEN to the answers.
  2. ALWAYS cooperate
  3. Use resources wisely. While money is a huge resource, time is often the most important
  4. Stay focused and keep your goal(s) in mind.
Jessica: Only do what you really want to do. Don't do something solely to promote your book (ei Twitter, don't just tweet book promotional things). Let your personality shine through. 

Jessica did a radio satellite tour (a series of back to back interviews on different radio stations across the country) which really helped her land tour. People showed up to her signings/readings because they'd heard about the book on their radio!

Micah's novel has an Elvis character in it, so he contacted the top 30 Elvis Fan Clubs around the country. He sent them free copies of his book--but didn't ask for anything in return. Don't SELL. Just TALK. It gets you a lot further.

Lori: Use every opportunity to promote your book--even if it doesn't seem like an opportunity. (For instance, Micah goes around to different private schools/colleges to talk about writing. He's not speaking about his book--but still, people are interested in HIM because they learn who he is through his talks when they might never have otherwise heard of him, which leads to them becoming curious about his books... which leads to sales.)

You're promoting your writing career, not just your book.


Lori: Don't beat yourself up if you don't get EVERYTHING done that you want to within that 6-8 week publicity window that your publisher will set up for you. Keep promoting your book long after on your own.

Gene: Get a publicist on board as early as possible. He prefers 6 months out--that way he's able to take the time to really shape the promotional campaign.


Gene: Hiring a publicist is not cheap. NO less than $3-4k,  and as much as $30-40k. $6-10k will get you some help.

Put at least 50% of your advance aside to promote your book. The smaller your advance, the MORE you should set aside. 


Jessica: The historic background to her novel really worked as a hook. Being able to chat about it has helped to get her interviews & such, which = sales.

Micah's hook: The 76th Birthday of Elvis! He promoted his book to coincide with Elvis's birthday, which lead to his book being reviewed/written about a LOT more than it would have.

Lori's novel about the relationship between a mother and her baby's nanny came out two months before NYC passed its first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. She used the HOOK to get some radio interviews and other things. (Hook: Nanny Culture)

Gene: Don't JUST cater to your audience (ie: Elvis fans) because you also want to stimulate word-of-mouth with readers who aren't hardcore Elvis fans. Or people with nannies, etc. 

Set up google alerts for your topic and save the articles, so when you do publicity you:
  1. have a huge library of information
  2. can contact the article authors about your book to generate interest

Gene: There's a fine-line between giving someone a small nudge to get someone moving and making them scared to hear from you. Don't push too hard. 

If you don't push at all, you might be forgotten--but if you push too hard you'll be avoided. 

Lori: THANK YOUs are important. Publicists. Book Stores. Etc. 

Jessica brings treats to give to the book store workers at her readings. 


Overall, it was a great panel. I haven't even started thinking about book promotion yet, so a lot of this really opened my eyes!

QOTD: How was your weekend?


  1. I'm SO upset that I didn't make it this year--and I live in VA. :( Sounds like an awesome panel, though--thanks for sharing!

  2. What great information! All this book promoting info gets stored in my head for later use. Love it.

  3. Wow, very interesting information here, thanks Sarah! I'm not sure I'm ready for all of it, but that's the beauty of the internet, I can always come back.

  4. What awesome tips! I love the google alerts idea. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Great wrap-up! Thanks for sharing all you learned. I remember you posting on this last year! The mixed up shoes...hehe.

  6. Awesome post, Sara! Lots of great info there. :-)

  7. This was super helpful! Thank you so much. I feel like I know a little more about marketing now. The Google Alert tip was great. I'm doing that.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  8. Wow that is a bunch of awesome info! I didn't even think of ever using an advance for a publicist. Interesting!

  9. Ha! I totally remember reading that boot post before...it must have been right when I discovered your blog.

    These are GREAT tips!

  10. Wow, wow, wow, what fabulous information! Thanks so much for sharing it ... valuable advice.

  11. thanks so much for sharing this info! Great stuff here! Glad you had fun.


Yay! I love when you have things to add :)