by Carrie Pestritto, Literary Agent at Prospect Agency
If you want to succeed as an author, you are probably going to have to promote yourself. This can be hard for introverted writers, but I’ve seen it again and again: my authors who perform the best are the ones who do a lot of work to promote themselves and their books.
Of course different genres call for different amounts and types of self-promotion. If you write non-fiction, you better have a strong platform online. If you write middle grade, you might have better luck with in-person events at schools and libraries. That said, below are six tips for self-promotion in any genre.
- It’s never too early to start self-promoting. For most genres, having an existing online or offline platform before landing an agent isn’t required, but it will certainly help. Non-fiction authors, who are expected to be leaders before they write a book, are the exception here. While you are working on your book or searching for an agent, start researching and networking with the communities that will help boost you and your book. This could be book bloggers, librarians, or other writers. For non-fiction, you might want to other thought leaders in the subject matter you are writing about.
- Promote others. Before you have anything to self-promote, help promote others. Hopefully they’ll return the favor one day, when it is your turn. Plus, no one wants to hear you talk about yourself all the time. Once you have a book deal, joining a debut year group can be a great way to formalize cross-promotion.
- Publishers want to see more of a platform than agents. While having a strong platform isn’t essential to land an agent (except for non-fiction writers!), publishers often take your author website and social media links into their acquisition meetings. You want to do everything possible to show that publisher’s team that you have what it takes to get the word out about your book.
- Self-promotion only gets more important after publication. Once your book is published, you will have some promotional support from your publisher. Of course, certain publishers will devote more time and money to marketing certain books. If you’re with a large publisher, your book might not be their top priority. If you’re with a smaller publisher, they might not have the staff or money to do all of the marketing you’d like. Thus, getting the publicity you want is on your shoulders. You are responsible, ultimately, for your brand as an author. Work closely with your agent and publisher to maximize opportunities for spreading the word about your book, and don’t be afraid to take matters into your own hands.
- You get what you give. The more you put into marketing your book, the more you will get back. Treat your career as an author like a business. Think about the return on investment you will get for various marketing efforts, and create a realistic budget based on that return. You don’t have to aim for just book sales, because growing your brand as an author is important for your long-term career. Think about how you can measure the growth of your brand. What is the value of someone subscribing to your email newsletter? Visiting your website? You don’t need to have a spreadsheet spelling this all out, but you should consider those questions. Beyond just budgeting your money, budget your time. Do a lot to promote yourself, but don’t keep doing things that take a lot of time and/or money and aren’t driving results.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out. Sure, many authors are naturally introverted or shy. And even for the most extroverted person, it can be scary to reach out to a book blogger, a local store, or that amazing author you’ve always dreamed would write a blurb for your book. But this is your career! You can’t let the fear of hearing “no” keep you from advocating for yourself. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
- Provide value. Like I said earlier, no one wants to hear you talk about yourself, or pitch the Amazon link to your books, all the time. How can you provide value for your audience? What can you give away for free that is entertaining or informative, depending on your genre? Providing content that readers want will help you grow your audience.
- Educate yourself. Authors today are not just writers, they are marketers. Do the work to educate yourself. Some of my favorite resources are Boost Blog Traffic, Christina Katz’s site, Fiction University, Romance University, and Sterling Editing.
This is just a quick overview of some of the basics of self-promotion as an author. Have any ideas to add or questions? Comment here or ask me on twitter @literarycarrie!
Carrie Pestritto joined Prospect Agency in 2011 and is thrilled to represent New York Times bestsellers and award-winning authors. Before joining the Prospect team, she worked as an assistant at Writers House and earned her BA in English, cum laude, from Amherst College, also spending a year studying abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. As an agent, she loves the thrill of finding new authors with strong, unique voices and working closely with her clients to develop their ideas and manuscripts. Carrie always strives to help create books that will introduce readers to new worlds, whether that is through non-fiction, fantasy, historical, or contemporary novels. If it can make her forget who or where she is, she wants to read it!
Carrie is currently seeking:
- Narrative non-fiction
- Biography and memoir
- Commercial fiction with a literary twist
- Fresh chick lit
- Contemporary romance
- Upmarket women’s fiction
- Near-historical fiction (from about the Gilded Age on)
- Mystery/thrillers for a female audience
- High-concept YA fantasy
- Diverse YA and upper MG
- MG with a quirky voice
- Biographical, educational, or cultural picture books
Learn more about Carrie at http://www.prospectagency.com/.