Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Countdown Begins

I looked at the calendar today and couldn't believe it: I'm less than seven months out from publication. Which might sound like a really long time, but in the publishing world, it's not. It's really, really not. In fact, I just sent in my copy edits (for those of you unfamiliar with the process, this is an excruciating process in which you receive a hard copy of your manuscript with red pencil all over every tiny grammatical error or non-literal word use or typo...in other words, NOT FUN!), and I should be getting galleys fairly soon. Yikes! And with galleys, so begins the big promo push.

So now, I'm engaged in that age-old debate: do I or do I not hire an outside publicist? Every single published author I've ever met has encountered this question, and even though I've been through the process before, I'm still as confused as ever. The thing is this: outside publicists are very, very costly and the truth is that you can't really quantify what exactly they do for your sales. And one of the reasons that you can't quantify this is because no one in the industry really has any freakin' idea as to what sells books. Well, sure, co-op space does (the space at the front of the store where new books are presented - publishers pay for that) and a large print run often does too because it increases visibility (though having a huge print run can also backfire), but other than that? No one really knows. A friend recently asked me if getting reviewed in Redbook, Marie Claire, etc, really helped boost sales, and I could only say, "I have no idea! In theory, I'd think so, but I have no concrete proof of this." And it's true...I'm not entirely convinced that reviews boost sales except in huge named places like People.

That said, of course you still want to receive this exposure, and thus, I'm right back into the do-I-hire-someone-else debate. I'm really excited because my in-house team is evidently doing a lot for both me and the book...but still. You hate to wake up one week after your publication date and think, "If only..." And I did feel that way with The Department, for sure, and by that point, there was little more that could be done.

Frankly, I'm not convinced that your book can do really well if you don't have a healthy print run. (Exceptions aside, which we discussed a few weeks ago.) I really believe, as do a lot of other writer friends, that if your book isn't saturating the market, it doesn't matter how many reviews you have: you're screwed. So I'm also having that chicken-egg debate: what if I hire a publicist and I have a crap print run? Then what? But maybe this publicist can get me some great clips and placements, which might excite the sales team enough to do a hard sell and thus increase my print run? (Print runs are usually based on how many books the sales team has initially sold to stores.)

Argh. Who the hell knows? It's all a toss-up, and for me, that only adds to the stress of the decision.

In the meantime, one thing that I know DOES work is emailing directly with readers. So, if you're interested, please sign up to be notified about my latest news. (I promise I'll only send a note when it's important!) See that box to your left? Yeah, enter your name there. Thanks!

So readers and authors who have BTDT, what do you think is the best thing an author can do to promote herself? Anyone hired an outside publicist and found it worth the money?


suzanneelizabeths.com said...

I signed up.

I believe the work you do on this blog and Writer Unboxed, as well as resulting word of mouth must help sales. That's what moved me to read DOLF.

I also believe that your readers from DOLF will eagerly look forward to reading your second book.

As to hiring a publicist, wouldn't it be nice if they could be paid based on some performance index?

Or if you decide not to hire one, how much of their work can you do yourself? Do you have access to the same venues that they would? Do you have the time?

This is a tough one, to weigh. I'm assuming that the cost of a publicist is substantial, if it wasn't you'd probably answer the two questions above and quickly decide your time was worth hiring someone else to take care of this stuff...or their access to publicity was proprietary, or the link between sales and publicists was strong enough to convince you that their cost would be more than compensated by increased sales.

All of which is to say, I'm whistling in the wind....but look forward to what others have to say.

Jenny said...

Congrats on the approaching publication.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

That's exactly what my husband says: that they should be paid on performance...but unfortunately, they're not. I think the issue for most writers is that outside publicist give them access to venues and publications that they couldn't reach otherwise. I didn't hire one last time b/c I have so many magazine contacts, but now I'm wondering what else I can do to generate sales...and therein lies the BIG question: what sells books.

Who knows? :)

Thanks for the thoughtful reply, and Jenny, thanks for the congrats!

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Allison, you didn't hire an outside publicist for Department, right?

So, this time, bite the bullet and do it and see how it turns out! I think that's the only way you'll really get your answer to know if it's worth it or not, right? And you've got enough industry contacts to know who's good and who's not, and probably publicists chomping at the bit to want to take your book and run with it--it could be a total blast!

I say, if money's not an object, then GO FOR IT!

And you know you've always got your blogger pals you've got your back when you're ready to promote that way!

: )

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

OOps, I meant, ... blogger pals WHO'VE got your back!

abigail said...

Hi Allison - congratulations on another successful manuscript!

I agree with manic mom above. You've tried getting a book out there with out a publicist, now try life with one. I think it would be a very beneficial move since you also have devoted readers (like moi) this time around to help the process.

Whatever decision you make, I'm sure TOML will do great!!

Good luck!


Larramie said...

Since there's a road you haven't traveled yet, I would try the publicist route. Then you can put that "what if" to rest.

Jen A. Miller said...

I agree -- it's a toss up. Indie publists can be so expensive, and I rarely work them, either because they don't think about freelancers, or it just doesn't work out that way. Almost always, when I want to write about a book or author, I go through the in-house PR team (and you have a great one, by the way) or the author directly (and you're pretty cool too!)

The one time I did write about a book repped by an independent publicist, well, the book sucked. The author got a lot of press, but the book still stucked. So I think that no matter how you get the hands in the book of the media, the quality of the book has to have SOMETHING to do with it.

I haven't hired an indie PR person for my book, mostly because it's a local book and I've worked in local media for six years. But I might be having the same debate if it was a national release.

Eileen said...

Oh man I feel your pain. I'm trying to figure out my plan for the next book too. What I can say is you did the best type of promotion- your first book was FANTASTIC and I suspect anyone who read it will be sure to pick up your next.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

What great suggestions - thanks to everyone on and off the blog who wrote. I'll be assessing the situation in the next couple of weeks, and I'll let you know what I decide.

Eileen - Thank you! I've actually been recommending Unpredictable to everyone I know! I'm just cracking it this week - been so busy - but that hasn't stopped me from telling everyone that I know you and that you're hilarious, so I'm sure your book rocks! I hope it's resulted in a sale..or two. :)

suzanneelizabeths.com said...

I want to second manic mom's comment about using your blogger fans....I know I'd be happy to post an ad for your book on my blog, do an interview, or whatever else would help out. So, multiply me by your other regular readers and you've instantly got a lot of free word of mouth or viral (I have no idea what the proper terms are) publicity.

Bottom line, just let us know how we can help.