It was a perfect June night to launch a novel. Full guest list – check. Plenty of books – check. Fancy pen – check Flowers, music, opera cakes and BUZZZZ. After months of planning, my baby was ready to be delivered into the hands of her new parents and they were waiting at the window. After it was over, the bookstore owner told us it was one of their best launch parties, ever. ..then July came.
The publisher recommended a New York PR firm which could get the reviews and make the needed connections to help propel the book to a larger audience. Publishers have their own marketing plans, but today, authors are also expected to do a significant amount of leg work, i.e invest time and money. With my first book, I coordinated almost all of the marketing and since it was a Christmas book this only killed me for two months. With this novel, I determined it would be different. The publisher and the PR firm would do the work and I’d kick back and watch the reviews roll in, all the while praying they would be 5 star-studded spectacular. According to the PR firm, the book trailer was in production and the radio engagements were booked. Emails were flying through cyberspace until an undisclosed calamity befell the head of the pr firm. After weeks of now unanswered emails, I heard she was either diagnosed with cancer, moving to another country, or closing down entirely due to legal issues. Critical launch weeks were ticking by and I also learned from the book trailer production company that the PR folks lied to me. The papers for the book trailer were neither signed nor mailed to them. My hopeful experience with the cool New York PR firm with the impressive client list was officially declared a disaster area. What to do?
I’d like to say that the remedy began with prayer and fasting. Instead, I found myself screaming and crying over the kitchen table at my lawyer husband, demanding that we sue them. How could they do this to me? I believed in these pr people. I interviewed them over the phone myself. They even read my book and loved it. As the sweaty July nights crept by because I hate to turn on the air conditioning, I remembered. God can help me do this. I don’t need these people. Finally the prayer part kicked in and my energy for the project renewed.
Combing through the old emails, I began putting the pieces together. The book trailer did get done, the radio interviews happened and the 5 star reviews came in. We did not sue the pr firm. What can I tell you dear, aspiring writer to help you avoid these future pitfalls?
1. Don’t have expectations for the perfect book launch. All big projects have problems. Prayerfully deal with them as they arise.
2. Remain calm – Keep Calm, Carry On, is the current vernacular.
3. If you hire people, meet them in person. The publisher bought my book, so I didn’t meet them in person and I still love them. I consider myself fortunate in this regard, but the PR firm was a different story.
4. Plan to do a ton of work for your book even if you aren’t qualified, are too shy to speak in front of people, and have not perfected your “elevator speech.” No one else is going to do for your book what you can do.
5. Be thankful. My novel is not a best seller, but it is touching people’s lives and planting seeds in hearts. As you read the emails from readers, remind yourself that it isn’t all about the numbers. If your words are making a positive impact in one life, then it’s worth the pain.
As we say in Redbud, write on.
Margaret, you wrote a terrific book and I am so sorry you ran into this kind of PR trouble. Perhaps you can go after particular target markets with email advertising: departments of music at colleges and universities; music groups such as orchestras; Alzheimer’s associations. I also hope you are contemplating your next literary work. Sometimes the second work also sells the first.