Sunday, June 16, 2013

An Open Letter to new Authors


Two thing have occurred recently, which encourage me to write this open letter to new authors.
It is a letter that I hope some publishing houses might also find useful.
For my Twitter followers, and for others who follow this blog, I would love to hear from you what your publishing house does, that is amazing for you as one of their authors.
The more information we all share, the more we will know as we venture into this new career.

Firstly, I recently made friends with a newly-published author and encouraged her to get onto Twitter to promote her book.
Her response was this: "I am wary of Twitter and the issues of privacy, but mainly it is a matter of time.... I do appreciate, though, that it would be a great promotion."
Well, yes -- and I know what my Twitter followers are saying right now....

I next advised this new author to set up Author pages, and I gave her a list of sites to do this on. I know from her silence that she did not know to do this.
Why did her publisher's marketing department NOT advise her to do this.
Well, in my experience: they don't.

In every letter the owner of my publishing house sends out with the cheques, he exhorts his authors to do two things:
Firstly: to "adapt t online marketing techniques," and
Secondly: "to work with our promotions and public relations staff."
I presume the owner of the company feels that many of his authors are not taking part in social media to help sell their books, and if so, that would be the truth.
I find very few of my publisher's authors on Twitter, though I have looked for them.

So why are my publisher's authors not on Twitter, and why have they not set up their Author pages?
It is important for the authors to know that it is much harder to play catch-up on your social marketing, than do it right in the first place.
I will admit, too, that I am one of the authors who no longer communicates with the marketing department.
I know why I have not communicated with the marketer since that time: but why did the marketer not talk to me in the six months since mid-January?

This post will address both of these issues, and I have plenty to say.
I come from a small-business and marketing/sales background, from a competitive food-service business that had to market itself to get and hold its customers.
But this business existed before the internet was an important part of promotion, so while I am familiar with what they then called "guerilla marketing," I had no awareness of any sort of new marketing on the internet.
I also trusted that my publishing house would act in my interest and give me the information I needed to have.
It did not.

Those of you who read my book know that I obtained information from some pretty obscure sources, so I am able to research. In fact, my ability to research is one of my strengths.
But when it came to marketing my book, I did not know what questions to ask.
And if the author does not know the question to ask, then he cannot do the research required to find the answers.
I am an expert in my field -- the mid-fur trade in British Columbia -- and my publisher is the expert in his field: publishing and marketing of books.
He does not know what I know, and I do not know what he knows.
Therefore, the relationship between the publisher and the author should be symbiotic, with information shared both ways.
It was not.

So I will combine what I know of old fashioned marketing learned in my small business years, with what I have learned in the year and a half since my book was published in November, 2011.

This is what I suggest that every publisher's Marketing Department should do, 
to inform their authors what is expected of them:

As soon as every new author is signed and has submitted their marketing information, have the marketer read it through:
Do not depend on new authors to already "know" what they need to know, or you will be disappointed.
Ensure that the marketers notice, and address, any deficiencies: make it part of their job description.
Have the marketing department research and collect any information they can find about various book prizes,  blog sites and social media, and ensure that the marketer shares that information with their authors, new and old.

As a publisher, why are you doing this:
Because the more your author knows, the better the publishing house will do.

As soon as every new author is signedsend the author a marketing package that tells them what they need to do immediately:

Tell them exactly what the marketing department will do for them.
Advise your authors to do the following:

If not already on Twitter or Google+, get on these social media sites and start talking to people.
Explain to your new author clearly that this is an important part of marketing the book, and that you expect them to be on Twitter, Google+, or some other media marketing site that will work for them.
Explain to them why it is an important part of the marketing plan, and ensure they understand how important it is.
Explain to them that they should get on these sites months before the book is published, so they can create some excitement and encourage sales.
Be ready to explain a simple way for your author to get started on these sites, and you can do that by setting an example, see below:
Connect your own Twitter site to each of your authors Twitter feed: support your authors by following them, and have them follow you.
On a Twitter feed like this, all of your authors could advise others published by your house of things they have found that worked for them, and everyone (authors and publishers) are working together and constantly communicating with each other.

As a publisher, why are you doing this?
Because the better your author does, the better your publishing house does.

Have your author begin a blog or a professional Facebook page:
Explain the importance of this.
Be prepared to tell the author about the various blog sites: tell them which is better and be prepared to support your author by following.
Explain how the blog can be connected to other social media sites such as Twitter and Google+ -- it has in fact amazed me how being on Twitter has made some of the older posts in my blog relevant again.

As a publisher, why are you doing this?
Because the better your author does, the better your publishing house does.

More on blogs, from the publisher's point of view:
The publisher could even set up their own blog and so show, by example, what their author can do.
The marketing staff could experiment with all new social media sites that are coming online and could, in a simple blog post accessible to all of their authors, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of blog.
The publisher's blog can be private and password protected, and each author can be given access to the site as soon as their book is accepted for publication.
On this site you can also share information on getting on Twitter and learning how to use it; and setting up essential Author pages.
A password protected blog could easily serve as a marketing package if every author has access to it.
More experienced authors could even contribute to the blog, to help newer authors.

As a publisher, why are you doing this?
Because the better your author does, the better your publishing house does.

Have your author set up their Amazon author pages, and other author pages, about three months before the book is published:
The marketing arm of the publisher should be familiar with the more important sites and be able to advise their authors which will work best for this part of the world.
Don't presume that your new author knows about these authors pages. As I have said, if the author does not ask the question than they won't ever research the answer.
My feeling is that if the marketing department read the author's marketing information (a necessary part of the submission package), and he failed to notice that the author did not mention social media and author pages, then the publisher should not be surprised when the author's page is not set up.

I had a further issue: I asked my marketer for help, and he said he would find someone to help me.
No one ever contacted me to help, and the marketer himself never checked back with me.
I think I was forgotten. I know I was forgotten.

As a publisher, why are you changing this?
Because the better the author does, the better the publishing house does.

So, what other old-fashioned suggestions do I have for the publisher or its marketing department to keep in  touch with its authors?

Newsletters are very effective ways to disseminate information and to keep in touch with people with a common interest -- your authors.
I learned my entire family history through newsletters and sharing the information that the twelve people gave me, with the other eleven persons.
Do you think I went to London and researched in the India Office for very specific information on Alexander Caulfield Anderson's mother's Native of India background? No. My long-distance-cousin in England, who I have never met, did the research and willingly shared the information with all twelve of our family members.
She also visited Australian archives and downloaded all the information on Anderson's father.
Another family member obtained a newspaper article and Anderson's letter in response, written about 1850 or so -- from the Beinecke Room, Yale University Library, via his personal contacts.
All twelve or so people in my little group co-operated with me to dig up every piece of information that was available, and they did that because I shared whatever I learned from each of them, with all the others.
My book was written on the strength of that ten-year long odyssey of combined research shared with other family members, in internet newsletter sent around the world!
I can personally attest that simple newsletters are a powerful method of disseminating information to a group of people with shared interest.

As a publisher, why are you doing this?
Because the better your author does, the better your publishing house does.

The newsletter could inform authors of events they might attend where they could promote or sell their books.
The publisher's newsletter could share all book prize information and add to information the author submits in their marketing package. (For example, since I submitted information to my publisher, I have found two more local book prizes that I could easily have submitted my book to, that the marketer was apparently unaware of.)

As a publisher's marketer, why are you doing this?
Because the better your author does, the better your publishing house does.

So for new authors, here is a list of questions to ask the marketing department when your book is signed:
What should I do immediately, and will you help me with it?
What sites do you recommend I set up my author pages on (the marketer will actually have to know the sites), and when should I do that? If I need help in this, will you be able to help me?
I have given you a list of book prizes that I suggest submitting the book to: can you suggest any other organizations?
Do you have a marketing package, or a Twitter feed or Newsletter or Blog that will help me, as a new author, learn what I need to know?

As a publisher's marketer, why are you doing this?
Because the better your author does, the better your publishing house does.

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