A few days ago, INTERN had the distinct pleasure/terror of conversing for the first time with one of the book-promotion people her publisher has hired to handle her book. It felt rather like the initial "try-out" montage in a kids' sports movie: clumsy INTERN with bottle-thick glasses and a mouthguard fumbling passes from the hot-shot coach who (for baroque reasons of her own) has been sent to train the junior league. Here is what INTERN learned about book promotion during that very intense hour:
1. "Every day you're not on Facebook, I die a little inside."
Not a direct quote from the Book Promoter, but close enough. Everyone knows Facebook is essential for establishing an online presence...but did you know that not using Facebook causes physical pain to your book publicist? Every day?
2. "If you don't add 20-30 friends a day on Facebook, this puppy will die."
Direct quote, accompanied by telepathic burst of ailing-puppy images.
3. "Stick to your game plan."
Apparently, lots of authors make a marketing plan, then freak out after two months and want to try a new strategy. This is a no-no. How can all those little marketing seedlings you planted grow up and bear bananas if you keep uprooting them to plant tomatoes? However, INTERN can see how it would tempting to try new strategies if the first plan doesn't seem to be working. Book Promoter might have a hard time reining INTERN in on this one.
4. "Your book ain't worth shizzle! You are your real product!"
Apparently, book promoters have cottoned on to the fact that for writers (at least for unknown, small-time writers like INTERN who, let's face it, are not going to sell a million copies of their first book), selling an extra hundred copies of their book here and there is only going to translate to an extra couple hundred bucks of royalty money. Selling books is (in *most* cases) not a viable way of making a living. Therefore, when it comes to $$, INTERN's book promoter encourages writers to think of increased book sales as a side-benefit of publicity—the real financial gain is in increased business to a writer's other business ventures, whatever they may be.
Selling lots of books is (obviously) good for many things besides money: it raises your chances of getting a better offer on your next book, it makes you feel good because your love-child is getting out into the world, and, yes, it raises your stock as a consultant/public speaker/freelance goat herder/writer-in-residence/whatever.
5. "Give something away for free. But not too much."
It's generally worth it to post free articles about your subject on your author website and guest post on relevant blogs, as long as you don't give away so much that readers don't feel like they need to buy your book anymore. Prize pack giveaways are also A Good Thing, as long as your prize pack doesn't only consist of your book (a book by itself is not considered exciting enough a prize to stimulate a contest—you need to throw in something classy like a mug or some razor blades. Yeah! That'll get those readers riled up!)
6. "Bribe Ethically."
Here's a new term (new to INTERN, at least): Ethical Bribe. That's the term for when you lure people into signing up for your e-newsletter by promising a tasty reward: "If you sign up for my Celtic Fairytales newsletter, a leprechaun will give you a hot stone massage." That sort of thing. INTERN is not sure where the "ethical" part comes in, but she is working on it.
INTERN is getting too jittery from the coffee she just drank to continue this list, so the rest will have to wait for another post. Oh, but one more thing: some good news! After a series of interviews (like, six), most of them confusing and surrealist, INTERN is set to intern at this venerable publisher starting in February. She will be dividing her time between the editorial and publicity/marketing departments, so she will (conveniently enough!) learn lots more about book promotion in the months before her book comes out. Sneaky, no?