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Getting Publicity For Your Novel

Writing a novel is easy compared to selling one. And this is not some dash-it-off-in-three-months, Fifty-Shades-Of-Grey writer telling you this; I spent six years writing Scar. But for all the heartache and hard work that was, trying to get people to buy it is ten times worse.

How do you sell your book, once it’s written? There’s ten thousand articles and blogs out there, giving you helpful tips. But every novel’s unique; what works for one will not work for another.

Personally, I hired a publicist. Right around the time I was promoting Scar, I was also starting a business and moving to a new province, so I simply didn’t have the time to do everything myself. Also, I don’t know a thing about selling books. It’s still a fairly closed-off, insular world, to which I have zero access. I don’t even have friends who read, let alone friends in the book industry. So I decided to pay someone to do it for me.

I worked with Sarah Miniaci (, and I’m thoroughly glad I did. Sarah’s hard work and enthusiasm for the project are admirable, and she got me coverage that I thought would be impossible. Not everything panned out as we had hoped, but that’s a subject for a later post, and in any case, it wasn’t for lack of effort on Sarah’s part.

Should you hire a publicist to promote your book? Depends. If you have a background in sales and marketing, and/or genuinely enjoy chasing reviewers and bloggers to try and get them to cover your book, you may want to do it yourself. A large part of a publicist’s job seems to consist of emailing and phoning people and basically hassling them to get some coverage. It takes a tremendous amount of persistence, and also a fair amount of charm. I have a great deal of the former but next to none of the latter, so I contracted out. You may not have to.

It also depends on the book you’ve written. Some books tap so well into the zeitgeist, or else mysteriously appeal to such a huge number of people, that they don’t take much selling. These are basically lottery winners, though. Very few authors are anything like that lucky.

And of course, it also depends on your budget. I’m not going to tell you what Sarah charges – email her and find out – but I will say that good publicity doesn’t come cheap. Expect to pay in the thousands for a six week campaign. And no legitimate publicist will promise you anything. They will try to get your book covered in various media outlets, but there are simply no guarantees. Anyone who promises you anything is not to be trusted.

How do you choose a publicist? It ain’t easy. When I went looking, I couldn’t find a hell of a lot of reviews of them. It’s a fairly big thing to give a complete stranger a few thousand dollars with no guarantees of them doing anything for you.

My advice would be to talk to a few; that’s what I did. Much as I hate talking on the phone, I phoned a handful of publicists I’d found online, talked to them about my novel and asked what they thought they could do for me. Be careful; a lot of so-called ‘publicists’ will do little more than create a press release that no one will ever read. A good publicist is well-connected in the industry, and will have a plan of how they will get coverage for your book. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their plan is. And be realistic. Publicists try to get you coverage in the media, but there’s no guarantees that it will happen, or that if it does happen, the coverage will be favourable (more on that later). And even if you do get great interviews and glowing reviews, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll sell books. No one can buy your book if they don’t know it exists, and a publicist works to make sure people do know it exists. What the public do with that knowledge, though, is anyone’s guess.

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