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?