As mentioned previously, marketing your book is one of the hardest parts of being a successful author. If you choose to self-publish, you do a lot of the work that a major publisher would normally do for you. However, many self-publishers do have a marketing department, and while they will not do the work for you, they are to guide you and help you get a good sense of what to do to get your book out there. But like everything else, you need to be careful and trust the person assigned to you.
What A Coordinator Does
In a traditional publisher, a coordinator would act more like an agent- they work a campaign, set up book signings, publicity events, and other promotional methods (which we will get into in future entries). A marketing coordinator in self-publishing works on a smaller scale- they will require payment, and do not set up events, but educate you in ways to promote yourself. I personally learned about online methods, like Twitter and Facebook to promote my book, and got help in finding different venues to promote my work. And even though my time with the coordinator was temporary, it gave me the tools I needed to continue to market the work without her.
However, this experience came about as a result of my time with a previous coordinator. I bring this up because while there are many coordinators that will work hard to help you develop a campaign and be informative, others will not be as helpful. My only bad experience in my self-publishing came when I was first assigned a coordinator. The person I was assigned outlined three different campaigns, which contained events like a trip to Pitchfest (an event designed to allow writers to pitch ideas to Hollywood), a small team working to promote the book online and various other options that sounded profitable. However, all of the packages quoted to me were well out of my price range, and I was seriously considering working on my own. However, I spoke to my previous editor, who agreed with me on the high prices and looked in this particular coordinator. She learned that he was working outside of the US, and had been instructed to get clients to spend as much money as possible. She instructed me on how to request a change, and specifically how to get an American agent, which allowed me to get similar services at a far better price.
While this story might paint my publisher in a bad light, I tell it to illustrate two points. One, that even the best publisher in the world can have bad people working for them, who simply want to make money and move up. The second, is that no matter how your work gets out, you have to be on the lookout and decide if what you are being offered is truly in the best interest of your book, or is just a scheme. One further point, is one of the earliest lessons I learned about marketing your first book- that it is your first book. Someone established might have a book campaign that takes them all over the country, promoting in different areas and venues, because they have that large fanbase. When you start, you have nothing, and if you self-publish, you need to use your funds wisely. Don’t look to immediately do the biggest, farthest reaching campaign that will exhaust your funds to reach an audience that doesn’t know you (especially with social media allowing you to reach out around the world). In the beginning, work locally and around you, reaching out to institutions that would be glad to have a local author come in. If you can build a strong audience around you, then it can spread out and your next book will already have a receptive audience.
Getting someone to help you with marketing is a valuable step, and with the proper precautions can be well worth the money. You need to know what can be done to market the book, and the best process to set up to maximize your avenues. But just like you did with your publisher, get a good feel for your coordinator. Make sure you can really use what they offer and that you can afford to get it. And don’t be afraid to ask for someone else if you aren’t getting it. And above all else, be sure to remember that no one retires off their first book, and throwing money around to promote to foreign audiences is just throwing money around, especially in today’s high tech world. But we’ll get into that more next time.
At this point in the publishing process, writers have hopefully found a publisher, and been through a lengthy editing process. This leads into perhaps the most challenging part of the professional process- marketing. Knowing just what will get a book into stores and popular is near impossible, which is why the previously mentioned ‘vanity presses’ are so dangerous. And because of the various nuances of the marketing process, this entry in the process will take multiple entries to go through. To begin with. I plan on speaking on the ‘simplest’ part of the process, and the very first one- getting a cover design.
Judging a Book
The expression ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ may be true in reference to looking at other people. But when it comes to actual books, it’s a standard that no one ever meets. The cover is the very first thing we see when we look at a book, and it’s what grabs our attention and hopefully makes us purchase the book. Therefore, whatever your book might be, you need something on that very first look that will grab people. I have seen authors publish book with a simple colored background cover, with the title emblazoned on it. It may be direct, but it doesn’t compete with something like this.
Therefore, when you are ready to get your book out there, you need to have some sort of plan in mind for the cover. I was inspired by the cover of a Green Lantern graphic novel, so be sure to observed media around you for ideas. If you are lucky, your publisher will help you; iUniverse offered me a chance to work with their graphics department and design a cover when I started working with them. Granted, not every publishing method may offer this, but most major ones will. Remember, a good publisher wants your book to sell, and they will have the materials in place to help you achieve this. But if a writer desires more control, then today’s market does offer many options, including hiring an artist to do your cover independently.
Finding an Artist
With the advent of the internet, it is much easier to find an artist to do your cover. Sites like Deviantart.com offer a multitude of different artists, with varying degrees of style and ability posting their work online. This can be overwhelming, but it is certainly gives plenty of options. Still, you want to make sure you find an artist that not only matches your vision for the cover, but also has the ability and skill to do a full cover, not just a character or background sketch. I was fortunate enough that my artist, Derrick Fish, was not only stylistically qualified, but had experience in doing full covers and created title credits as well as a full cover for Lightrider.
Of course, there are many other things to consider in taking on an independent artist. First, you need to make sure that your publisher will allow you to use an outside artist. Second, you need an artist that you feel you can trust, establish a fair payment with, and that will complete your work on time. Work for a cover can be expensive, and most artists will charge a minimum of $500 for such in-depth work. And you find yourself with an artist that doesn’t live up to expectations while you have a deadline, it can be a serious financial issue. And once all that is worked out, you still have the legal ramifications of using an artist. Publishers will need a written form that gives them the right to use an artist’s work, and without this, you may face copyright issues, so above all else, be sure to get this taken care of, no matter what your publisher may say. In my case, I fortunate that Derrick was very easy to work with in this matter- he considered the work he did for me to be my property upon completion, offerend manys suggestions that improved the overall design of the cover, and filed out the required form with no complaints. For my part, I made sure to give him credit in the book’s liner notes.
Marketing anything is hard, and there are a lot of things you will have to learn. But hopefully, advertisements you’ve seen for film, TV, and books, will have helped instill on you how important having a good central image can be. And with the resources available from either your publisher, or from an independent source, you can create a cover that is not only true to your vision, but also dynamic enough to grab the attention of the public and get your book on their shelves.