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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Are You Promoting Your Book In Season?

Do you ever notice that the big diet books are released in December or that many gift coffee table books come out in late Fall or that baseball books come out around March 1st?  Well, they do.  It’s called seasonal selling.

Even though a diet book should be good for any time of the year—is there ever a wrong time to lose weight and get into shape?—January is when the demand and need is greatest.  After a winter of no outdoor activities and holiday gorging, coupled with vows of New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, January becomes diet book season.  It goes on through the first week of spring (to give people enough time to get in shape for June weddings, graduations, and bathing suit pool parties). Then most people give up – until January rolls around again.

Just as bookselling has its seasonal cycles, so does book marketing.  Are you promoting your book with the calendar in mind?

There are many holidays to use as a hook to pitch the media.  We use Valentine’s Day for books on dating, love, romance, marriage, etc.  We rally around Memorial Day to promote books on the military, barbecues, throwing parties, travel, and great beach reads.  Labor Day features back-to-school/parenting books, career books (Jan, too), politics (election season), etc.  You can set your book marketing watch to these things.

So, in order to promote a book efficiently, you should, at the very least, consult a calendar to see which holidays and seasonal events are coming up—and to pitch the media far enough in advance of those celebrated moments.  Just as you don’t sell ice in the winter to an Eskimo, you don’t try to push books to the media outside the normal season for doing so unless you have something exceptional to present.

In addition to the national holidays, four seasons, and patterns of human behavior, consider pitching around anniversary dates, and honorary days, weeks, and months (April is National Autism Month and Financial Literacy Month).  Again, present your book to the media far enough in advance of these special times so they can consider it under the demands of their editorial calendar.  For instance, a story that links your book to Mother’s Day would be published in the May issue of a women’s magazine. That issue hits the newsstand in April.  The content is written by December, possibly early January.  If you contact them in March you have no chance. 

Recently I noticed that the parking lot at my Metro North station was less than 25% full.  That week, in New York, public schools were closed for spring break and Easter-Passover.  Many adults took off to not only be with their kids but to vacation somewhere.  This is an example of a seasonal pattern that a book publicist can capitalize on.

This all makes the news media sound predictable, which to a degree, it is.  But the media varies in how they choose to cover a topic such as Father’s Day.  Aside from you needing to consult a calendar to know when to pitch a story, you now need to dig into the creative well to come up with unique ways to present a tired subject that has a lot of competition for coverage.

Who would expect a pitch about America’s worst fathers or a top ten list of why someone hates their dad or seven reasons kids don’t need to be raised by a man?  Or how about stories from prisoners who have yet to see their kids?  Or a story about a child who discovers her dad invented an app that swindles people out of money?  Ok, maybe those are a bit strange, but you get the idea.  Think out of the box, otherwise your pitch sounds like every other one the media will receive this year and in years past.

The only thing more predictable than the calendar is that the media will receive stale, late, uncreative pitches.  Filter your pitch to the media.  Screen it for the tried and true and experiment with the unknown and unproven.  And whatever you do don’t sell winter coats in June—unless you’re in Australia.  


Interview With Poet Sharon M. White

1.      As a published author of short stories and dark poems, what do you make of the new publishing landscape? As with any new thing, it takes some getting used to. I hear a lot about the pros and cons of electronic publishing. Some people love it and others hate it. I, on the other hand, came into the publishing world right alongside the new wave of electronic publishing and am pretty neutral on the subject. If you are careful on the business side of your writing career, you will be all right. Watch out for the fly-by-night publications. Anyone with a computer and access to the Internet can start up a book publishing business or an electronic magazine these days. One rule I live by: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. I love seeing my work in print magazines and books that I can hold in my hands and pass around to others but I have no problem with electronic publication, either. The main difference, for me, is the pay. Usually the electronic markets pay less than the print publications. But, you have to remember, the Internet is worldwide. I have a much larger and more diverse fan base because of the Internet. I don't know how other writers feel about this, but for me it balances out quite nicely. I like the fact that my friends in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States can all read my work with a few clicks of the mouse. Also, there is the chance to interact with my readers on the Internet. Now, you have to admit, that is great.

2.      What advice do you have for struggling authors? Keep writing. Keep at it. If writing is what you really want to do, do it. If you are seeing progress, you're doing something right. If you're not seeing progress, maybe it's time to step back and reassess what you're doing and how you're doing it. If you need to take some classes to brush up on your skills, do so. It'll pay off in the long run. If you are getting stacks and piles of rejections and few to no acceptances, something's wrong. Maybe you're targeting the wrong markets. Really read your work, not from your perspective but from a reader's perspective. Now, study the markets and find a good, snug fit for your kind of writing. I once wrote a story and received six rejections in a row from horror magazines. I couldn't understand why. The editor at the seventh magazine wrote me a simple note about why she rejected the piece: "Your story is very entertaining and extremely well written. I would like to publish it here, but we only publish horror. Try our Fantasy magazine with this story." Fantasy? My story? But I am a horror writer. I was shocked, but after re-reading it with that in mind, I saw that it was dark fantasy and not so much horror. It was an invaluable lesson.

And, even though I know you've heard it a million times, I'm going to say it again: Write something every day. You have to commit to writing. If that means you have to steal an hour of your sleep time, so be it. If the dirty dishes have to be put off for an hour, do it. Don't make excuses or you will get lazy and then one day you will realize you haven't written anything in months.

Remember, the more you struggle for it, the more you'll appreciate it when you get it.

3.      What inspires you to write? My inspirations are my wild, vivid imagination and my life. I've lived a colorful life full of experiences, achievements, losses, pain, joy and love. Growing up in the Appalachians helped, too. We are secluded here and our way of life is different from anywhere else. My family is chock full of storytellers who sparked my imagination and inquisitive nature at an early age. Appalachian life is not easy but the harshness of it makes for some thrilling situations. The folklore and legends of our culture are as vibrant and rich as the mountain colors in fall.

Music and art are big inspirations for me, also. I listen to two kinds of music--heavy metal and classical--and both inspire me to write my dark fiction and poetry. The music paints images in my mind that take on life. I love it when that happens. And sometimes I see artwork that will tell me an entire story.

4.      What do you love most about the process of writing? I love the entire process of writing. From the moment inspiration hits me, out of the blue and completely unexpected, to the finished piece. Then there's the other part of the process--finding a market for the manuscript. It's not easy, but I still love it all. I guess if I had to pick just one aspect as being the most loved, it would be that instant when a story falls on me unexpectedly and I get excited and want to write it down immediately. That's an awesome feeling.

5.      What makes for a great writer? A writer who can weave a tale and tell it in a way that makes me forget it isn't real. That writer must possess a passion for writing. When he/she is passionate about writing, it shines through and makes the reader's experience more vivid and fulfilling.

6.      Which skills must a writer possess? A writer must possess a good grasp of grammar, spelling, word and phrase usage and the ability to tell a tale without intruding on the reader's experience.

A writer needs to have an easy relationship with how people communicate in real situations and the ability to put that down on paper. If the prose or dialogue is stilted, the story will fall flat. The best way to hone this skill is to be around people and observe the way they communicate with and without words. Any place--the family's dinner table, the mall, concerts, supermarkets and bars--is great fodder for the observant writer.

A writer must possess the ability to paint with words. A few well-chosen details can, and will, set the scene and move it along, leaving a picture in the reader's mind whereas several ill-chosen words will confuse and scramble that picture. Sometimes less is more. You want to engage the reader as much as possible and allowing them to fill in some of the blanks is a good way to do this without intruding. Don't give every minute detail about characters or scenes in the story or the reader will become exhausted and quite possibly disinterested.

Sharon lives in the small rural town of Erwin, Tennessee with her husband and children. Several of her short horror stories and dark poems have been published in various media including online & print magazines and several anthologies. Visit Inkspot, the author's Web site for news, updates, free reads and links to read/buy her published works.

 

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s leading book publicity firm. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person

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