Our guest blogger today is nonfiction author Laura Laing, who took my Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz e-course in February 2011 in preparation for the July 2011 publication of Math for Grownups from Adams Media. When I learned that Laura earned out her advance in less than a year, I knew I wanted to share how she did it. Here’s her story; let it inspire you!
5 book marketing lessons from an author who is getting royalty checks
By Laura Laing
So let’s get one thing straight from the beginning. I wrote a book about math. Yes, math. And I’m proud to say that sales are churning along, and I’ve gotten some great media attention. In fact, I’ve discovered a quirky little niche, writing articles about math, giving interviews about math education. Who knew?
If a book about math can sell, you’ll have no trouble making the most of sexier topics, say caring for your elderly parents or a science fiction novel featuring the microscopic inhabitants of Pluto who are pissed off at its downgrade to dwarf planet.
In the year since Math for Grownups first hit the bookshelves, my professional life has completely changed. And it’s fair to say I’ve learned a few a few things along the way.
1. Go in for the long haul.
Old-timers tell me that before Amazon and the internet, a book’s success was determined within two months of its birthday. That’s because brick-and-mortar bookstores handled all sales and publishers took care of all promotion.
Those days are over.
I’ll be promoting Math for Grownups until it goes out of print—and then I might very well take back my rights, have it republished and go for another round. These days, sales don’t end and neither does book promotion.
Because of that, you’ve got to pace yourself. Come up with a doable plan that won’t put you six feet under within three months. Be very realistic about the number of hours in a day you have to devote to this project, and then give it all you’ve got.
2. Make the most of your publisher’s publicist.
Even though your book could conceivably be on the shelves for the next 100 years, your publisher isn’t going to offer you undivided attention, even if your name is Malcolm Gladwell.
First off, be nice to your publicist. This person is handling several titles at the same time, so don’t expect it to be all about you. But second, milk that relationship for all it’s worth.
I sent my publicist weekly reports detailing the promotion I did and media mentions I received. These reports included guest posts for other blogs, interviews and reviews. In return, she sent out copies (for reviews and blog contest prizes), handled most of the press inquiries and pitched me to the major media outlets.
My goal was to be the easiest author she worked with, so that I was front-of-mind when she wondered whom she should pitch next.
These days, you need a blog, headshot and more. Don’t skimp. When I developed my blog, www.mathforgrownups.com, I ponied up for a dedicated URL and a great designer. When I held my book launch at a local bookstore, I sprang for cookies and iced tea from a fantastic local café.
You want to look like a professional? Act like one.
You can also make your promotion work double duty. My web designer recommends me when his clients need writing. The café owner did a Math at Work Monday interview with me for my blog and promoted my book launch in her café.
4. Stay on message.
Mine was simple: Math doesn’t have to be your BFF, but you do have to get along in public. Once you have that message, find the different angles and make sure that everything you do circles back.
The worst day of my book promotion was last fall, when USA Weekend unexpectedly ran a piece about everyday math—based completely on my book. Should have been the best day, right? Problem was the poor writer got the math wrong. Readers noticed. And they blamed me.
I posted a comment to the web version of the story, explaining that the math is right in my book. Then I started promoting the heck of out of the story. Already, Huffington Post had blogged about it, and it was mentioned in Daily Kos and the Columbia Journal Review’s blog.
When I wrote my own blog post, I chose my message carefully: We all—even fancy reporters at USA Weekend—make math mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are scary and public. But the world doesn’t end.
In the end, the error played beautifully into my own message: Math is hard, and it’s worth it to get it right. The story became a great example of why my book is important.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail.
You will make mistakes in your book promotion. You will miss opportunities. You will get tired and take a break. And all of that is a-okay. Take some risks and cut yourself some slack if things not working out.
It’s just a book, not world peace (unless your book is a solution to world peace). Plenty of other people out there have much harder jobs than ours. And if you don’t take the risk, you’ll never know what could have happened.
What lessons did you learn while promoting your book? Please share them by commenting!
If you’re ready to learn how to promote your book, actually use what you learn, and get all of your “how do I do it?” questions answered, join us for the next Book Publicity 101: How to Build Book Buzz e-course June 4-29, 2012.