A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to interview someone who knew something about PR. Now, I have my own PR and I figured if I interviewed him it would just look like selfless promotion…. So, who could I interview? Well… I decided to interview Honey Hutson- the master of promotion over at Black Rose Publishing…
Q: OK, Joe Author spends years working diligently on a novel. Finally his work is complete. He finds a publisher or self-publishes. Now the book is “out” and there it sits, known only to some of his friends and family – sitting on some web page somewhere amongst hundreds of other books.
Joe Author has dreams of being successful as a writer so he can quit his job at the gas station. He wants to spend his days writing and earn a decent living doing so.
Suddenly he realizes that it’s one thing to write a book, and quite another thing to SELL it.
What is going to determine whether he can quit his job at the gas station?
A couple of things. One – if you want to write for a living it’s not as simple as writing a book in most cases. You have to be prolific, you have to put out several books a year until you do land that big contract and someone else determines how many you put out. We all want to be like Charlene Harris, or JK Rowling, but if you look at their careers you will find they wrote many books, produced regularly and consistently. Ms. Harris had an entire series before Sookie took the world by storm.
Two – You want the books to sell, to fly out into the world and make something of themselves (and profit would be nice too). You have to be writing other things as well. Blogs, interviews, promotions of your book, the next book and just as importantly – promoting yourself! Many writers ignore self-promotion. They use their book to hide behind. The day of a writer sitting at their desk and just writing and then handing it off to someone else for the rest is OVER. Understand this, embrace the reality. Readers today latch onto writers they like because there is so much material out there that does not meet its potential or even bad that when they find a good one, they remember you and look for you. This creates a personal interest and investment on their part, which translates into a personal relationship of sorts with the writers.
Three – you have to eat, you like having a roof overhead. If you want to write for a living in today’s environment it’s also important to understand that you have to do more than write books. For someone who has no other income, no other safety net, you generally have to have no less than three to four different avenues from which you are generating money. The reason for this? As everyone has seen the publishing landscape is a quickly changing one, it shifts and morphs and what is big one day is on life support the next. Incomes fluctuate and the economy does the same, which creates a whole other issue. Everything in this industry ebbs and flows. You can’t depend on one thing, unless you are Steven King or one of the lucky few like him and I’d wager even their jobs have changed drastically in the past decade. Plan on working hard.
Q: There are good writers, incredible writers and lousy writers. How much of a factor is that to their success?
(i.e., is it all just marketing or can you make it on skill?)
It is nearly impossible to make it on skill alone. There is always that one exception – but what are the chances you will be the one in one billion? And that is a real number by the way.
I have seen people with not a lot of skill make it on good marketing, we all have. We have seen books, products, all sorts of things that either aren’t good or are marginal hit it big. Think of a movie you’ve seen recently that stunk but sold millions at the box office. Yeah, like that one.
Here is the breakdown: Talent, skill, being personable and available to your readers, marketing, promotions of your book, but also yourself, an understanding of business (and understanding this isn’t just your dream, it’s a business). These are all the basic building blocks. You build a foundation for yourself as a writer, that is the hard part. Once you have that foundation the rest is easier.
Q: Do you know of anyone who has made it on writing excellence alone – without spending much time promoting themselves?
No. Even big writers, like Jayne Ann Krentz promote. In fact I had an email from her last week, promoting the new book “The Mystery Woman.” And a Thank You email to all her followers this week for making that debut rocket in the ratings and Best Seller lists. Her site is a great example of building that personal relationship with her readers: http://www.jayneannkrentz.com/. What I’m talking about here is really well illustrated by her promotions and interactions. And she has three lines that run in different genres, her form of more than one thing going on at a time.
Writers are the ultimate multitaskers. It is not an easy life! But it can be a lot of fun and excitement.
Q: You can spend a lot of time on promotion – my god there’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, Web Pages, Goodreads, etc. etc. (that alone can be a full time job) – if you have only a finite amount of time and you can only pick one or two of these avenues – which one would you choose? Why?
Facebook you should have a presence in as an Author (Author page), just don’t get lost in it. It’s very easy to do! Twitter is quick, easy and easy to manage on a minimum amount of time for both you and your followers and has the most boost for the time spent. Web pages are a must, because your fans will follow and keep up with what you are doing there, interviewers and others interested in you (you’d be surprised how many authors are found these days as opposed to finding publishers, agents, Movie people) will Google you looking for a direct way to contact you. Goodreads and it’s now stepsister Amazon Central are for now the last ones I’d say are a must. Goodreads for your readers and Amazon Central more for your own uses to keep up with trends that may help you market. Time management is a must and I think the hardest part of what we do.
Q: What is your opinion about hiring someone to promote for you (e.g. design your web pages, keep you blog updated, handle the tech side of it) I know this costs money, but if it gets you sales….
Web pages, I think it depends on your level of expertise. If you need help don’t go to a big firm, pick small business people who can give you personal attention. Someone like Way 2 Kool Designs, (http://www.way2kooldesigns.com/),who take the time to get to know you and will even promote their work with your site! Bonuses are good! Take all you can get. And the little guys are the ones who will give you this.
As for other things, Blog Tours, Book Tours are the most bang for your buck. I have never yet seen one author who hired a high end, expensive firm and benefited from it. I have seen many who have spent thousands on PR firms and marketing campaigns that accomplished 0 return or a few hundred sales, which is nowhere near a return worth your money. This only works for celebrity writers, do that after you get there, but in the meantime the reality is a large number of small efforts are what will get you seen. If it’s over a hundred dollars buyer beware! A good example is Charisma Media (http://charismamedianetwork.com/tour-packages/tour-packages/). You’ll notice all of her packages but one is under $100, many under $50. And very effective because she’s very personal. She concentrates on getting you in front of the reader and making introductions.
Any time you make an investment in anything your main reasoning should be is the return going to be in balance with the investment? Research what you’re looking into, go see what they are doing and Google some of their writers, email some of them (not just one or two) and ask them what they thought, how it went.
Q: What are some of the successful actions you’ve seen with new writers?
Blog tours are a very effective tool, so are book tours and book giveaways either on your Facebook page to build up your audience (two for one here) or on Goodreads.com for the same reason. Both are effective. Get out there, have a reading to help promote a library, do a reading at a festival or bookstore. Participate in a fundraiser for something where your book will fit in (Children’s Hospital for a children’s book, etc.). Join affordable Writer’s associations. Networking with others gives you great ideas and support.
Q: What have been your successful actions in your book sales?
Blogs certainly. Book giveaways on Goodreads, my website has generated a lot of interviews and media articles. Always, always make sure you have contact information on the web page! I cannot stress this enough. Most of the time you can add a contact box that will allow you to do this without giving out information if you feel uneasy about just anyone having your contact information.
Q: (Here’s a plug for you!) What have you written? Where can we find your books?
I have two books out and at least two, maybe three coming out this year.
Strange Relations Upcoming release with Mithra Publishing out of the UK
The third book in the Inheritance series will be out later this year, the final book in the series. And there is one more waiting in the wings that I hope will be out before the end of the year.
Q: Self-Publishing: Pro’s and Con’s?
Pros – you have a lot of control over your material, in face all of the control. You have to do it all from writing all the way through to marketing. If you are a control freak, it’s probably a good thing. If you want guidance through the process maybe not. You get 70% of your sales. Take from that your cover if you have it done for you, your editing if you have it done for you, and so on and you have your actual profits. This is where balancing what you put out with return will come in handy.
Con’s – like it or not there is still a stigma to this. There are no guidelines that must be followed which can often lead to loss of quality. Even if you are meticulous and one of the growing number who are very careful with your material and make the most professional and well-done pieces anyone has ever seen, you still live with the perceived notion of lack of quality. People assume you couldn’t get a publisher to touch it. It stinks, it’s not fair, but it’s there. There are many places from Bloggers to Reviewers to media that will not touch your promotion with a ten-foot pole. They want an actual publisher title on the book. Never mind that some of these are little more than buying their name to put on your book by signing with them.
Q: You have a small publisher who will publish your book now. You are also querying the big Publishers in New York. Should you go with the little guy or keep soliciting the big dudes?
Go with the little guy to get yourself out there. The harsh reality these days is that unless you win the international lottery that is winning the JK Rowling type of contract, publishers want you to prove to them that you are a viable writer. The very first thing they will do is Google you. Do you have a web site? A following? Fan page? Can you get out there and do PR and publicity to suit their needs. Writers cannot hide behind a desk anymore. There are requirements that you get out there and do these things. Writing is work and it doesn’t stop when the book is done. That was the easy part.
Q: Aside from writing excellence. What do you think is the biggest factor in any author’s success?
Their ability to make themselves seen. Your own uniqueness will get you far, not only in your books, but in your personality and interactions. Beyond that, persistence. Don’t give up, keep trying and working and improving, take the obstacles one at a time, plot out what you need to do and do it and don’t let anyone tell you can’t. You can. You will and before you know it you’ll be able to say you did!
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