Sunday, December 9, 2018

Marketing as you Write

When I sit down to write a novel my mind is on plot structure, character development, pacing and dialog. Still, it would be smart to consider marketing even as we create our stories. It can help a lot after we finish a manuscript. 

For example, most stories can have a seasonal setting. For example, suppose your story is set in the Christmas season. Die Hard isn’t a holiday movie by any means, but because of the seasonal setting it gets a viewing boost every year about this time. The same could happen to your novel’s sales. That one might be obvious, but the same applies to a story set on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Valentine’s or even if the action is specifically set in mid-summer. 

What if your significant character is handicapped in some way? Or maybe he or she is dealing with a significant illness like epilepsy or autism? Real life reader dealing with those situations are one specific audience you can target and, if you got it right, they will probably be happy to help you promote your book. Or maybe your heroine is dealing with spousal abuse. You probably had to do a lot of research to get those situations right. It’s reasonable to push your book in April (Sexual Abuse Awareness Month.)  What if you’re writing about a military family. You can tie in to Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day and depending on your characters, perhaps Military Spouse Appreciation Day (its May 10th.)

And there are any number of minor holidays that you’ve never heard of. Google what you need and you’ll probably find something that relates to your characters. My own private eye protagonist, Hannibal Jones, is a fanatical coffee aficionado. Next year I’m planning a big push connected to International Coffee Day (September 29).  

While you’re at it, think of other ways you could bring your characters to life. There are ideas that aren’t tied to a particular time or date. Is there a wedding in your book? Maybe wedding boards on Pinterest will get some attention. Is there a birth? You could have fun with a gender reveal. Maybe you’d enjoy interviewing some of your characters. Again, Hannibal Jones maintained a blog for a year, and I think that posts written  by him got people involved with the character.  

So stretch your imagination while you’re writing. In the back of your mind, consider what you can set up in the novel that will make promotion easier when the book comes out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Little Big Press

Aside from being an author, I’m the editorial director of Intrigue Publishing, a small press in Maryland. Unlike bars, restaurants and car dealerships, people in our business make a clear distinction between “large” and “small” presses. It’s an uncomfortable but unavoidable label.

But what do we mean by small press anyway? To some people in the industry, it’s everyone except the “Big Six” publishers.  Actually, they’re the big five now since Penguin Books merged with Random House. Their peers are Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster.

But is that a fair place to draw the line? Kensington Publishing is a family run company, but they put out more than 500 titles a year and have a healthy handful of NY Times bestsellers in their stable. They have 85 employees and are the last remaining independent U.S. publisher of hardcover, trade AND mass market paperback books. Are they a small press?  

By contrast, Intrigue Publishing is a four-person team that subcontracts some of the work of publishing. We have 21 talented authors working with us and are happy to release 6 titles each year. We are proud of the awards our authors have won, but we haven’t published a NY Times Bestseller yet. We aspire to do what the big guys do in order to be a legitimate publishing company, yet we strive to maintain a personal relationship with our writers and be an author friendly house like a small business.

So, running a small press is a one-way path to an identity crisis.

For example, when one of our authors gets ambitious and schedules a few events on their own without telling me, I’m happy for his or her success but I’m also thinking, “Wish I had known so I could set up a social media push. And don’t they know I need to coordinate with my distributor to make sure there are enough books in the right places in time?” In other words, I wish they treated us like partners.

On the other hand, when one of our authors asks for data on where his books have been sent, who has them in stock, and which stores have returned them, I think, “Would he be asking his editors this stuff if he was published by Random House?” In other words, I with they would treat me like a big publisher.

So, yes, an identity crisis, because we really want to be both things: a publisher that acts, and gets treated like, the big boys, while embracing our authors and treating them like individual who can talk to us anytime about anything. And in my heart, I hope I never stop reaching for both ends of that spectrum. Random House/Penguin is not who I want to be.

Although it wouldn’t bother me to be Kensington someday.