Friday, October 3, 2014

The Dog and Pony Show of Book Promotion... by Guest Author Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona Zeldis McDonough, author of TWO OF A KIND kindly came by the B&B today to share her good news. She has a new book coming out next week, October 7th! YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME. Isn't that just the cutest cover ever? 

Yona also left some great information for fellow authors in search of ways to promote and market their books. So, without further adieu, here is...

The Dog and Pony Show of Book Promotion 
by guest author Yona Zeldis McDonough

My new novel, You Were Meant for Me, is about to come out from New American Library on October 7, and as I countdown to pub date, I’m excited, happy and proud. I am also as busy as I can possibly be because now that the book is done and ready to make its debut, I can’t simply bask in the warm sun of pride and satisfaction—far from it.  Instead, I now have to help sell the novel with whatever means and methods are at my disposal.  In the dog-and-pony-show of book promotion, authors today are required to be both dog and pony, and so it is with a woof and whinny that I bravely set forth.

First off, I will tell you what I did not do: hire an outside publicist.  Not because I did not want to, but because I could not afford to.  I have a small budget set aside for promotion but it was not enough to cover the cost of a traditional PR campaign, which typically starts at $5000 and can quickly escalate from there.

But before I even considered how to use the money I did have earmarked for this purpose, I explored all the free options available to me, mostly in the form of social media.  I tried Twitter—twice—and could not seem to get into the swing of it, so I let it slide. Interestingly enough, the senior publicist at my publishing house, New American Library, told me that while she used to encourage authors to use all forms of social media, she now felt such an approach was overwhelming and instead advised them to select the platforms that really appealed to them and focus on those. So I took her advice and have focused on Facebook, creating an author page that I try to refresh often.  I also use Pinterest, creating boards for each new book I publish, and Goodreads, though I need to get up to speed on that.  I find each of these platforms different, engaging and fun.  I like the possibilities for connection they offer, and I like how wide a net they allow me to cast.  From my computer in Brooklyn, I can easily communicate with readers in California, South Carolina and Canada—what a privilege, and what an opportunity.  
What else have I done?  The money I did not spend on a publicist I used to sign on with Divalysscious Moms ( that is a site geared to mommies.  Because motherhood is a central them in my book—my protagonist, 35 and single, finds a newborn baby in a subway station and ends up trying to adopt said baby—I thought this targeted approach might work well for me.  I also arranged two readings in my home city—New York—and have approached libraries about their author reading program. Many libraries invite authors to give short talks/readings and these programs may actually be easier to arrange than bookstore signings.  I also assisted the in-house publicist with setting up a blog tour, because that is another way to reach new readers.  And I requested that the publisher make bookmarks showing the cover of the book to use as promotional pieces and giveaways; in fact, I will be happy to send a bookmark to any readers of this blog who would like one!

I know many writers who object to this form of self-promotion, finding it uncomfortable and unseemly, and I understand how they feel.  We writers are often solitary souls, and we spend a lot of time sitting alone in a room—or in a crowded café—furiously writing down the stuff that comes into our heads.  So getting out there to beat the drum may feel awkward. 

And yet if we don’t do it, our most precious creations are in danger of being unseen, unread, unloved.  I know this would make me deeply unhappy.  First and foremost, I write for myself, because I need this particular form of expression to organize my inner life and give meaning to my days.  But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t care about being published and read, because I do—very much.  Which brings me back to the dog-and-pony-show. Like it or not, we have to participate; to abstain puts us at a serious disadvantage.  Nor is this really a new phenomenon; Dickens went on reading and speaking tours, as did Dylan Thomas and many other respected and revered writers.  It’s just the conventions that have changed. Instead of book tours, there are more apt to be blog tours.  We reach our readers through electronic means, but they are just as passionate as readers of the past have been.   So it is our job, and even our mandate, to find and connect with them before we can truly touch their hearts.