Marketing and Publicity

for People Along the Sand

Hello! I hope you’re well. There was a delay on the interview, so today, I’m going to write about marketing and publicity for my forthcoming novel People Along the Sand.

I’ve spent most of my publishing career in editorial production—copyediting, layout, and production—and a brief time in acquisitions editorial, where I picked or approved manuscripts for publications. Marketing/publicity is new terrain for me, but something I need to learn for my own novel, and something I want to learn for my potential future small press.

The difference between marketing and publicity confuses me. I read somewhere that marketing is promoting the book, whereas publicity is promoting the author, and there’s some truth to that—but there’s also overlap.

The hybrid publisher I’m working with contracts out a publicist. For $500 dollars she is reaching out to a couple dozen Pacific Northwest outlets, such as the Oregonian, Oregon Public Broadcasting, etc., to ask them to cover me and my novel. She also placed a galley (a complete/almost complete, prepublication copy of the novel) with three established and well-known book review outlets: Publishers Weekly, Foreword Reviews, and Shelf Awareness. I don’t know whether any regional outlets will cover me or my novel, or whether anyone at these three large outlets will review the novel—but if either happens, I’ll probably sell many more books.

Marketing is expensive! When I discovered it costs $300 to place one very tiny ad in a venue like Poets & Writers magazine, I wondered what the marketing budget is for titles at large publishing companies. I decided to use my limited resources not on ads, but on a focused marketing campaign toward Pacific Northwest independent bookstores. I grew up going to Powell’s in Portland, and I worked at the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore, so I know the value of independent bookstores as a literary community and a fuck-you to Amazon, as well as just a good place to buy books.

As a side note, any bookstore can order my novel for any customer, but ideally, I’d like browsing customers to see the novel on the shelves/on the floor too, which, because I don’t have access to a sales rep, can be tricky.

I’m approaching PNW bookstores from three angles:

  1. I snail-mailed sell sheets—a 8.5 x 11 sheet with the relevant publication info—to about one hundred PNW bookstores (cost: about $100), then followed up by email. I received a few responses from stores who said they’d order it. With the independent bookstores in the Portland area, I went in the store to say hello and give the book info in-person. I also plan to drop by bookstores on the Oregon Coast in-person—since my novel is set on the coast, that’s an especially good area to target, I think.

  2. I found a galley giveaway through the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA): for $150, PNBA will tell their member bookstores later this month that I have galleys available for booksellers to read before the novel’s release date, and if a store says they want a copy, I’ll send them one (I’ve purchased forty-five hard-copy galleys, a total of $327 with my author discount). Since I knew, from being a bookseller, that some customers who trust a bookseller will buy whatever that bookseller recommends, I loved this promotional idea.

  3. So far, I have three in-person events in the planning stages—at Roundabout Books in Bend, Oregon; at Annie Bloom’s in Portland, Oregon; and at Toad Hall in Yachats, Oregon. I’m aiming for five to ten.

Three other marketing/publicity angles: 1) I approached a few acquaintances and asked them to write unbiased, prepublication Goodreads reviews of the novel in exchange for a galley. 2) I wrote a very short personal essay that relates to my novel that I’m trying to place somewhere online. 3) The literary magazine One Story gave me the overflow stock from my story I published with them, and I stapled a book business card for People Along the Sand into a hundred of those stories (cost for five hundred book business cards: $75). In late October, right before the novel’s release date, I’ll place the stories/promotional cards in Little Free Libraries around Oregon. Maybe people will find my One Story, read it, then want to buy and read my promoted novel, and maybe they won’t. We’ll see what happens with all of these ventures—marketing and publicity, I’ve heard, is always gamble.

This newsletter has been around a year now! As always, I appreciate you reading.