This post, by Holly Robinson, originally appeared on The Huffington Post on 2/28/12.
Now that I’ve got feet in both camps, I have a unique perspective on the good, the bad and the mysterious truths about book marketing. My memoir, The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter, was published by Random House. I leaped into the indie world when I self-published my first novel, Sleeping Tigers, a couple of months ago. My second novel, The Wishing Hill, will be published by Penguin in spring 2013.
These experiences have taught me a lot about book publicity, but I’m still learning new things every day. There are some differences in how traditional and indie books are publicized, but those differences are shrinking by the nanosecond. The truest thing I can tell you is that, no matter how your book makes it into the world, you’ll need to take an active part in the publicity. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Mine the Free Resources
The Internet is a wonderful tutor. There are more free resources out there about marketing your book than you’ll ever have time to read. Google anything from "picking a book cover" to "social media for authors," and you’ll get enough hits to last through a few thermoses of coffee each time you do it. Make good use of these resources. One of my favorites is Novel Publicity’s "Free Advice Blog."
Prepare Your Platform
No matter who you talk to in publishing — agent, editor, publicist, or sales team — they’ll tell you that their ideal is a good book written by an author with a "solid platform." Basically, that means that they want you to be famous before you even give them a manuscript — or they want some hook, like you chewed off your arm during a battle with a grizzly bear. (Even then, they hope you’ve been blogging about it.) One easy way to start building your platform is by crafting a virtual identity. Social media tools are free and easy to use. Start a blog, create an author Facebook page, get a Twitter account, and set up a Goodreads page. Give people useful information — don’t just pimp your book. If you know how to do something — anything from fly fishing to quilting — blog about that, guest post on other people’s blogs, and people will start following you. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it’s also incredibly fun to connect with people. If you’re trying traditional publishing avenues, it will help your editor sell your book to the publisher if she can prove that you have an active presence online. Indie or traditional, you’re cultivating a loyal readership.
A Publicist Is Just Part of the Picture