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Publicity and marketing

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Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 1582
Location: Massachusetts
Publicity and marketing  Reply with quote  

I know publicity and marketing budgets (for tours, swag, advertising, etc) vary according to the author and book, and publisher's budget, time of year, what other books and authors are on the same list, etc. I've seen Million! Dollar! Marketing! Campaigns! for bestselling authors and next to nothing for first-time novelists. On the flip side, I've seen ten-city author tours for a new author we think could make it big, and had an author that's had over 15 books published (that always sell steadily, but aren't bestsellers) tell me that publicity seems to have forgotten him in lieu of the hot new "fresh voices".

So, Chris, I was wondering if you'd be willing to share some of your experiences in this vein - how was Demonkeeping promoted when it first came out? What, if anything, did you have to do on your own? How much input do you have, and has that changed from the first book till now (I'd assume that would be a yes, but my mom taught me not to assume)?

Any advice for people who find themselves suddenly published with not much of a publicity budget, or things first-time authors should consider asking for when talking to the publisher (if they have any contact with publicity at all)?
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Post Tue Aug 17, 2004 4:36 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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There's not much to share, Lauren. For one, they don't tell me what my marketing budget is.

My tour for Practical Demonkeeping was San Luis Obispo, Ca and Santa Barbara, but they did buy a quarter page in the NY Times Book Review. For Coyote, the same (but without the ad), for Fiends, it also included San Francisco and Emeryville. (San Fran on Thursday night at 8:00pm during the height of Seinfeld's run.) When Avon picked up the paperback rights to Coyote, they sent me to Seattle, San Fran, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Shortly I moved my hardcover contract to Avon as well. Love Nun was another West Coast tour, but with a couple of stops in Texas also. Love Nun made a couple of regional best-seller lists. Meanwhile, all of these books had received positive reviews in national magazines and big papers.

With Lust Lizard I did my first national tour, with focus on the West. Again, almost no advertising, but a couple of early morning TV spots in Phoenix and Austin. Lust Lizard hit lists in Austin, Dallas, Phonix, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Lamb was about the same, adding many cities to the tour, including Ann Arbor, D.C., Miami, St. Louis, and Denver. Lamb made the extended NY Times list, getting as high as 16, I believe, and also made lists in LA, SF, Seattle, Portland, Denver, and in the top 50 on the USA Today list. There was some radio, but the main focus of the publicity campaign was getting AREs in the hands of booksellers. Lamb sold out eleven printings, going into hardcover reprint right up to a month before the paperback was available. I toured nationwide for the paperback of Lamb also. There were no ads that I know of for the book.

I toured nationally for both the hardcover and the paperback of Fluke, as well as attending two BEAs and a number of regional booksellers' conventions. There were no ads that I know of for the book, but there was a lot of e-mail and mail-out stuff, again focused on independent booksellers. While I do have some say in where I tour, and how long I'm out, it never feels safe to say no. I'm very lucky to be able to tour, and although I'm not exactly sure how they are making any money when I'm selling a hundred books or less per city in many instances, but it's still one of the cheapest ways to promote a book there is, and I'm not horrible at it, so there you go.

Essentially, unless there's some amazing stroke of luck, it's my experience that the ad and PR bugets will be directly proportional to the advance paid on the book. Ocasionally lightening will strike, someone will buy your book for a movie and actually make it, Oprah will call, the President will get your book for Christmas and like it, and say so in the news, or even more rarely, readers will get your books on the list by word of mouth. At this point, you are flirting with odds little better than the lottery, and with a lot more effort to play the game.(Nevertheless, I've dealt with people in publishing for years who are banking on just this sort of lightening strike. Sometimes it's their only strategy. Even though, in their experience, it's never worked.) I'm getting depressed just writing about it.

Some authors have gone to Herculean lengths to promote their own book: going on long, self-financed book tours where they drive from town to town in their own cars, getting their family to man a phone bank that calls book stores all over the country, asking them if they are carrying the book, even trying to attach their book to some cause that can garner larger media attention. For the most part, these authors fail miserably. It's simply too hard to sell books one at a time. I'm just out of ideas, frankly.

The best way to get on the NY Times list is to print and distribute a ton of books. The best way to stay on the NY Times list is to get on the NY Times list. Position one to fifteen is gold. Anything below fifteen is shit. You get the merchandising with 1-15. You get merchandising akin to no other, because every bookstore in the country and half the grocery and department stores put you in the front of the store. That kind of merchandising would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you're on the list, it's free. And if your on the list, the publisher is making enough money to advertise you. And back to the top of the paragraph, the best way to get a ton of books printed and distributed is to get the publisher to pay you a shitload of money for your book, so they have to sell a lot of books to recoup the advance.

So, my best advice for how to promote your book boils down to two steps:

1)Write a Book
2)Sell it to a major publisher for a million dollars.


Okay, go.

Post Tue Aug 17, 2004 6:26 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
seamus



Joined: 15 Jun 2004
Posts: 39
Location: West Chester, PA
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Hey AG, thanks for the advice. That's the sort of practical, nuts and bolts insight most professionals are to uppity to share with us regular folk.

Post Wed Aug 18, 2004 6:14 am   View user's profile Send private message
Lauren



Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 1582
Location: Massachusetts
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I didn't mean to depress you, CM. I second what Seamus said - it's something people starting out don't know anything about. Hell, I get marketing info day and night for our authors, but I can't figure out the rhyme or reason to it (why is this one getting commercials? why not that one? etc).

Thankee for the insight.

If it would cheer you up, you can call me a name in all caps. Cool
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Post Wed Aug 18, 2004 6:29 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
Goudron



Joined: 03 Aug 2004
Posts: 2570
Location: near Cleveland OH
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Not only did you enlighten us with your marketing knowledge, but now we know the current amount of a shitload of money is $1 million. Someone let Dr. Evil know so he's in the loop.

Seriously, thanks for the info.
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Post Wed Aug 18, 2004 7:42 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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I don't know if a million is a shitload of money, but it is a shitload for a new novelist. For instance, the advance on the Da Vinci Code was $500K. That's still a big advance in the fiction world. I'm sure Brown will get much more for his next book.

Post Wed Aug 18, 2004 7:58 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
earthshoes



Joined: 17 Jun 2004
Posts: 213
Location: SW Missouri
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From where I sit--mother of four rapidly growing boys being raised on a blue collar income--any amount of money sounds good. But a million . . . I might just be able to put them all through college on that.

I rather like the advice though.

1)Write a book (check)

2)Sell it to a publisher for a million dollars. (still working on step two)

It was interesting to hear your end of it Chris. I've always wondered if book tours came before or after popularity set in. It sounds like it's some of both.

I haven't checked your timeline. Did you decide to write the second book while you were still looking for a market for the first? Or did you wait to see how it went first?
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Post Wed Aug 18, 2004 8:43 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address Yahoo Messenger
chris
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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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earthshoes wrote:
I haven't checked your timeline. Did you decide to write the second book while you were still looking for a market for the first? Or did you wait to see how it went first?


I knew I should start the new book immediately, but I didn't actually start writing it until the first one had sold and I'd gotten paid for it (and then some). Unfortunately, the deal got mucked up and I didn't get paid for almost seven months after the offer had been made. I had quit my job, so I lived on credit cards and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on credit from my friend Mike's diner. Since it looked like the money could go away at any second, I was, let us say, too stressed out to write. And since I didn't really know a damn thing about indians, and couldn't afford to go find some, I couldn't start the book. The day I found out about the movie deal, I also found out that the woman I was living with at the time had been "dating" while I was at work waiting tables, so I was also looking for a new place to live. (That took a bit of the joy out of the whole "big movie deal" thing. )

I took the movie money from Disney and went to Montana to research Coyote Blue. I failed miserably on my first trip to find what I needed for the book, so I went home for a few months and started reading, thinking I might have to pick another subject for my second book, when a guy called from Montana who had the connections to get me onto the Crow Reservation. I took the trip, got what I needed, came home and a month later, sat down to start the book. Within five minutes my landlord called and said he was going to sell the house I was renting and the open house was in three days.

I called a realtor, bought a house, bought furniture, moved in, found a new girlfriend, and started writing Coyote Blue. It was almost 22 months since I'd finished the first draft of Demonkeeping, about 16 months since I'd gotten it into shape to submit to agents. (I ended up writing Coyote and Fiends in my friend's diner anyway, so the house wasn't really as big a deal as I thought it had been, but this had been the fifth rental that had been sold out from under me, and I didn't want to move in the middle of writing a book. I still wasn't sure if I could write another one at all at this point.)


So, no, I didn't start my second book right after I finished my first. I started thinking about it, researching it, but I didn't start actually writing it for a long time. Like I said, I should have started the second one. I advise people all the time to start the second one right away. But I need routine in order to write. I don't necessarily need a barrel of free time (I was working four part time jobs while I wrote Demonkeeping), but I do need sameness. Trying to simultaneously deal with being rich, poor, adored, envied, cheated on, homeless, famous, and completely unknown, was not what I'd call "sameness".

I only know one other writer, personally, who had that kind of success hit her suddenly, and it spun her quite a bit. Fortunately, though, she had taken the conventional advice and had written two books that had yet to be published, so when her second book hit it big as a film, she was free to go be rich and crazy for a little while. Her agent was also in a position to get piles of money for her other books, before the publisher had even seen them.

Okay, that was sort of a craft question, I guess. Talking about work habits, in a way. There is a big difference between "being a writer" and actually writing. A lot of people romanticize being a writer. Perhaps the above can function as a bit of a cautionary tale. It's not always pleasant. Being a writer can sometimes take you pretty far from the writing. Now, eight books into this odessy, I spend about as much time being a writer as I do writing. I find I always hunger to get back to the writing when I've been out being a writer for a while. It's always challenging, hard, humbling, but exciting. Creating characters, writing sentences that you know will make people laugh, or move them to tears, mining your imagination for something no one has ever seen before: these are the reasons we do what we do. The rest? Irritation and gravy, joy and desire. When we write, we love the idea of desire, it's a great engine to drive the story, but when we live desire (as the Buddah said) is a motherfucker.

Write the next book, Shoes.

Carry on.

Post Thu Aug 19, 2004 2:39 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Guest





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Point taken.

I'm on my way.

Post Thu Aug 19, 2004 4:59 pm   
earthshoes



Joined: 17 Jun 2004
Posts: 213
Location: SW Missouri
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Hmph. That was me above. Not sure how I got logged out.
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(The Velveteen Rabbit)

Post Thu Aug 19, 2004 5:09 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail AIM Address Yahoo Messenger
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