Sunday, October 22, 2006

an author's guide to book marketing, part 1

The University of Nebraska Press gives a helpful pamphlet to their authors. Unassumingly titled (in all lower-case) an author's guide to book marketing, it helps university press authors figure out what steps to take to help their books succeed. If I were a betting woman (and okay, sometimes I am), I'd bet that fewer than one-quarter of their authors actually, carefully read it.

Why not? Well, partly because typical authors believe that book marketing is a publisher's job. Unless you got a half a million upfront for your book, it usually isn't. The most effective, committed, creative, devoted marketer a book will ever have is its own author. Even shy writers can do a lot to help make certain their books succeed. In the next few posts I will excerpt this helpful pamphlet, and comment on it.

1. THE AUTHOR INFORMATION FORM (AIF). Nebraska writes, "The AIF is a critical planning tool used to develop marketing strategy." No kidding. It's crucial. Yet so many authors I know simply fill it out as quickly as they can, sometimes in longhand while sitting in the publisher's office. But taking your time with this important document can mean the sale of many more copies of your book.

The AIF asks you questions about how you came to write the book, what influences you credit, where you sent to high school, college, and graduate school, what regions of the country and world you have lived in, what famous or influential people you know, and much more. The more thorough you are in filling it out, the better your publicist (who has a wildly difficult job that we'll discuss in detail later) will be able to brainstorm potential connections for you. Example. What happens if you only list the schools you graduated from, but not all the schools you attended? Well, if you were (say) a military brat and attended several high schools, or if you moved around and attended more than one college, they may all be eager to claim you as an alumnus when you publish. This means your book will be mentioned in alumni newsletters and magazines, you may get noticed on the web site, and more. If you leave out the schools you attended but didn't graduate from, you'll unnecessarily cut your opportunities.

The same goes for states where you lived. What if you can claim Virginia, South Carolina and Florida? Why not do so? They'll all treat you like a native daughter or son when your career takes off. Even if your spouse or partner lived in several states, or you only vacation someplace every year, list it. You never know what Chamber of Commerce or Arts Council will make it their business to help promote you. People want to be proud of you, especially organizations whose very existence depends upon the success of their members.

In the next post we'll examine publishers' seasonal catalogues, and how they affect you as a university press author.