As a promotions manager, how would you describe your job?
Essentially, my job is to familiarize myself with the work, collaborate with the Editor and Business Manager on appropriate genre classifications, brainstorm ideas for whom to contact, where to go, what to do to make the book visible on a larger scale, and then pursue opportunities from the office and encourage authors to pursue others on their end.
Tell me about the role of Marketing & Promotions, specifically in the world of the small press.
If you didn’t want people to read your book, you wouldn’t bother to publish it, right? But simply publishing isn’t enough these days because the competition is too overwhelming. You’ve got to wave a flag to get some attention. Marketing & Promotions is a function that can make or break a small press and, potentially, its authors. Regardless of the quality and quantity of the books being published, if the public doesn’t know to look for them, they will grow dusty alongside the piles of pulp fiction. Marketing & Promotions is your little flag.
Promotions for books is a lot about appearances and book signings. Are there other ways that can help promote a book, or an author?
Promotions such as appearances and book signings are done on the author side of the equation. On the press side, you have more of the marketing track, like contacting genre periodicals to inquire about inclusion in their next issue, chatting up potential partners to arrange sharing links to each other’s web sites, and long, sometimes fruitless hours of online research into other avenues of promotion.
Do you find that when you consider how to promote a book, that demographics come into play?
Demographics — in general, “Who is your target audience?” — is a big component of activities such as partnering with local indie booksellers, and readings at local libraries and coffee houses. It also, subtly, comes into play in most other things, such as which associations to join for networking.
How do you decide where an author’s book fits best? Is it just by genre, or are there other factors that determine demographic fit?
I want to be clear that when I talk about demographics in this context, I mean to refer to groups of people who buy science fiction & fantasy novels versus historical romance novels versus nonfiction works; you know what I mean? I’m not referring to demographics in terms of age, race, religion, or ethnicity in a local community. So, where does a book fit? That’s really about subject matter, tone of voice, literary device, etc. Sometimes the easiest way to determine a basic genre fit is to ask the author!
When Paper Angel Press decides to promote a book, what are the steps that you need to go through to get ready for promotion and marketing?
First, I want to point out that it’s not really a decision to promote or not. We are your publisher, and marketing your book is just one of the services we provide. That being said, there really isn’t a manual for preparing to market a book; it’s more a matter of hashing out how, where, how much, degree of author participation, etc. Each book/author is unique.
Are there different challenges between promoting new authors and established authors with a dedicated following?
Are there differences in the way I would market your new book versus James Patterson’s new book? Sure! <laugh> But my experience is only with small, independent presses and, usually, new-ish authors. In that case, you start at ground zero and work your way up a crowded ladder waving your little flag.
Have you found that there are differences in approach with the different genres like fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, etc., when you look at marketing and promoting a book?
Yes and no. Some basics are pretty universal, but each crowd tends to respond to different stimuli. Word choice and graphics styles are as important in marketing, say, historical romance, as they are in writing it, in order to best communicate to the genre’s fans.
When you look at being in promotions, have you found any instances where what you thought you knew about promotions turned out to be the opposite of what you expected?
No, actually. <laughs> Not yet, anyway. I thought, going into it, that it was going to be an uphill battle, and nothing has yet altered that expectation.
From your perspective, what can first time novelists, and experienced writers, do to help you, as Marketing & Promotions Manager?
Work with me. I’m here to help you as much as the business of the press. Be clear — with yourself and with me — what your expectations are: of me and the press. What milestones define “success” for you? What are your strengths and weaknesses in promoting your own work? We all work within our own limited resources, so be realistic. If you have ideas for marketing or promoting your work, speak them! I’m open to investigating new avenues or supporting your efforts. To me, it’s all about getting the book some good exposure.
Why start a small press?
The answer to that question, as you might guess, is neither a short nor a simple one. The reasons are chiefly personal, but they were also borne from the desire to do the right thing for other aspiring authors.
Since I was seventeen, I have written stories with an eye toward eventual professional publication. Although I did get a technical non-fiction book published, I never managed to fully complete a novel. As time passed, and I continued to write . . . and not finish, I finally began to understand why. Revising and editing is hard, but that wasn’t it—or at least not all of it. The core of my hesitation in taking a novel to a state fit for submission for publication came down to, I realized, a very basic business decision: return on investment.
When you submit your book to a traditional publisher, you send it and wait . . . and wait for some kind of a response. If they decide to pass on your novel, you will probably never know why. It could be the quality of your writing or your plot—or it could be that the acquisitions editor was having a bad day and you shared the same last name as an elementary school teacher that she hated. Having your work rejected, something on which you’ve spent months and months—if not years and years—of effort on, is not exactly an ego-boosting experience.
Most writers, I believe, are willing to learn and value the constructive feedback that they receive so that they can continue to grow as a writer and establish their literary voice. The lack of any feedback can be deeply demoralizing to most authors—if not felt as an additional punch in the gut after receiving a form rejection letter. It just reinforces for you that the game is rigged, that somehow, despite all of the workshops and research that you’ve done, you have still failed to learn the secret handshake and code words that gain you entrance through the sacred gates of a mainstream publisher.
Many writers believe self-publishing is the answer. For some of them, this may be true. But I’ve seen too many writers give their work away for free (watch for a future post or two on that subject) in an attempt to gain an audience. I’ve also seen them give up because, after they’ve posted their book on Amazon, it sold only a handful of copies. Promoting and distributing your book is hard work. Some authors have the skills (and time!) to accomplish this effectively; many do not. And then there’s the day jobs and family and everything else in our lives that devour the time we want to spend on promoting our work. We understand that.
That’s where we come in.
We want to do it differently. We want to be better. We want to serve our authors with dignity and respect. Our job is to help you succeed. Because, if you succeed, we all do.