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Debut Author’s Survival Guide

Posted by Sherrie Wilkolaski on Wed, Sep 04, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

by D.L Wilson

As a debut author I found the promotion of my novel to be as daunting as the actual writing process.  If debut authors want to win readers and influence those other than friends and family to buy their book, they have to step up to the plate and become marketing gurus.  That means utilizing as many standard media promotional approaches and Web based promotional approaches they can afford from a time and money standpoint.  This requires establishing a strategic plan many months in advance of the publishing date for their novel.

Once that all important contract for a debut novel has been signed, sealed, and delivered, debut authors should schedule important meetings with their agent and editor to discuss the steps they recommend be included in an effective strategic marketing plan.  Create detailed plans the author 5 980545 mrelating to standard media and Web based promotional approaches.

For standard media promotion a publicist is key.  Today, publishers focus their publicity campaigns on their top producing authors.  This has changed the role of new authors.  Debut authors must take an active role in promoting their work.  This involves being your own publicist or hiring a private publicist.  Cost for a private publicist can range from $1,000 to $4,000 per month for a 3-4 month campaign.  The Key word in making a decision to hire a private publicist is Research.  Do not invest your hard earned dollars on a private publicist unless you are able to measure their results in previous publicity campaigns.  This is not easy.  The measure is not positive versus negative, but rather the percent of responses the publicist was able to achieve in key areas in which they are promising to deliver.  These include media (print, radio, TV, and Internet) interviews or reviews as well as book signings.

Key areas in standard media promotion that need to be addressed are:

  • Create press materials: Book release announcement press release; bio/author background; book cover photo; author photo; sample questions; feature story release (Rising literary star’s novel explores void between fact and fiction in widely-heralded religious thriller.); and blurbs from bestselling authors.
  • Create print media lists: Magazines and newspapers focusing on general news/features, book reviewers, and feature editors on local, regional, and national levels.
  • TV and radio opportunities.  These are very difficult for debut authors and require unique approaches to attract these high profile media.  Develop special interest/book-related and possible non-book-related points of interest for attracting TV and radio shows.  An author’s career and life experience may provide the basis for such non-book-related points.  Richard Gere provided just such a non-book-related opportunity for me when he publicly tried to hug and kiss an Indian actress during a benefit in India.  The next day he was burned in effigy.  Gere’s faux pas generated numerous radio discussions relating to world travel tips.  Since I had been a consultant in 33 countries where I made my share of faux pas, my publicists were able to schedule regional and national radio interviews.  During each interview I was introduced as the author of my religious thriller: great publicity for my novel.
  • Distribution of galleys (Advance Review Copies, ARCs or Advance Reader Editions, AREs) to reviewers and to book stores.  When your ARCs/AREs are available it’s a good policy to get into your car and go to as many bookstores as you can.  Introduce yourself, push your ARCs/AREs, especially regionally.  Pick the influential independents and send a personal note along with the book to the book buyer of all those stores you can’t reach.
  • Distribution of press releases to solicit requests for reviews, stories, and listings.
  • Solicitation and planning for book signings, discussions, and readings.  Contact community relations managers at book stores.  If you are published by a large publisher, major chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders may require corporate approval.  Signings can be beneficial in promoting you and your book, but will not generate hundreds of book sales at the events unless you are a Paris Hilton and have written a book about your experiences in jail.  For a few months after publication, you should try to set up as many signings as possible.  Unfortunately in today’s market a debut author’s book has a limited lifespan in book stores.  The value of signings is EXPOSURE and VISIBILITY.
  • To achieve the best results, book signings require effective techniques.  Offer giveaways such as free book marks to customers entering the book store.  Offer to answer questions concerning your book.  Don’t just sit there and wait for customers to approach you.  Be ASSERTIVE!  During book signings it is important to take off the writing hat and put on the marketing hat.  This requires what one author calls, “Blatant Self-Promotion.”  A good display at the signing table, which should be positioned right at the entrance to the store is the best way to get good exposure.  A banner stand or tripod with an eye catching poster is critical.  Caps and shirts embroidered with your novel logo and title are effective means of attracting attention to you and your book.  At the end of the book signing, offer to sign any remaining books so the store can put stickers on them indicating they are AUTOGRAPHED COPIES.
  • Author events are another means of gaining additional exposure and visibility.  Join writing groups where you can discuss your book.  Offer your expertise as a published author to give presentations at local libraries, universities, community colleges, senior centers, civic groups, and writing associations.  Always bring handouts; book marks, tip sheets with mention of your book and Website.

Web based promotion is an area that is growing rapidly as a very effective means of attracting attention to your debut novel.  There are now almost unlimited resources via the Internet to promote you and your book.  There are publicists who specialize in Web based promotion.  It is important to RESEARCH the effectiveness of any Web based publicists.  Review testimonials and measure publicist’s results in previous publicity campaigns relative to what they are promising to deliver.

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Key areas in Web based promotion that need to be addressed are:

  • E-kits: create “ready-to-use” e-kits for a debut novel to be used for promotion on the Web.  The e-kit should include a jacket shot of the book, promotional copy, an excerpt from the book, and an author shot.
  • Book review Websites: pursue targeted Websites for on-line book reviews.  It is important to survey the literally hundreds of sites to determine the appropriateness for your book.  A few of the sites that my Web based promotional campaign focused on were:,,,, and
  • Another important Web consideration is PodCasts.  These are audio interviews to promote your book and you as an author.  A popular consumer site, is available through many Podcasting sites.  These PodCasts can be released through such sites as iTunes, Yahoo Podcast, Podcasting News, and Digital Podcast.  Podcasts can be done over the telephone from the comfort of your home or office.  It is very important to practice your skills as an interviewee before taping your Podcast.  A list of talking points can be very helpful in assuring you come across well during the Podcast.  Practice with a friend who takes the role of interviewer to hone your skills and develop your ability to weave your well-developed talking points into the interview.
  • Web Forums are another valuable promotional tool for authors.  They are electronic bulletin boards devoted to the discussion of a specific topic.  A posting to a book’s target audience can be very effective.  I created an article on “The Secrets to Getting Published,” which was picked up by seventeen Web Forums such as,,, and  A good list of Web forums for writers can be found at
  • Another important and growing tool for Web based promotion is the Blog, or Web log, which is a Web site that contains entries of commentary on a specific subject, descriptions of events, or graphics and videos.  Debut authors can create their own blogs using a growing number of commercial or free services such as Google’s www.blogger.comBlogging has been growing exponentially and one search engine is tracking more than 112 million blogs.
  • Social networking sites such as are very effective in locating potential readers and providing a link to your Website.  With Myspace you can hyper-target.  Pick a similar author and message everyone who lists him/her as among their favorite authors.  Use every “network” you can—business, college alumni publications, military journals; anything that relates to you or your novel.
  • For any Web based promotion it is VITAL to include your Website address.  In today’s market, every author MUST have a Website.  The recommendation is to have a site set up six to nine months before your book comes on the market.  If you are computer savvy, you can create your own site.  If not, there are hundreds of Website creators who will do it for you at a fee ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.  The cost to host a Website runs from $8.95 per month on up depending on your requirements.  You can check for ratings of some of the top Webhosts.
  • Website recommendations:
    • Keep it simple but make sure it has an attractive visual image.
    • The site should open within four seconds.
    • Have a short synopsis of your book, a book cover photo, your bio, author photo, news and events, and a contact page so readers can give you comments.
    • DO NOT include your personal e-mail address because there are some people who browse the Web who are strange kooks.  Have a SUBMIT button on the contact page that sends the message through your Webhost to your e-mail address.
    • Use promotional Websites to attract people to your Website.

Debut authors must focus on the P word: PROMOTION, PROMOTION, PROMOTION if they want to have a successful entrée into the fascinating, but very difficult publishing world.

D.L. Wilson was president, CEO, and managing director of U.S. and European corporations and consultant to industries and governments in thirty-two countries. His extensive international travel spawned a fascination with world cultures and exotic locales. His first book, The Kitchen Casanova—A Gentleman’s Guide to Gourmet Entertaining for Two, resulted in a national book tour with features on CNN, Evening Magazine, and Regis & Kathy Lee. Wilson’s first novel, Unholy Grail, a Berkley thriller became a national bestseller and has been translated into eight languages. His second novel, Sirocco, a Mont Clair Press thriller is receiving rave reviews. He and his wife, Miki, live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and Baltimore County, Maryland. Visit his website at

Image courtesy of svilen001

What is your advice for a debut author? Share your advice in the comments.

Tags: dl wilson, new author, book marketing, book promotion, book publicity

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