This post is an interview with Hayley Zelda on marketing your book. Hayley Zelda is a writer and marketer at heart. She's written on all the major writing platforms and worked with a number of self-published authors on marketing books to the YA (young adult) audience. To contact Hayley, email her at hayleyzelda2 AT gmail DOT com.
|Hayley Zelda, book marketing expert
ZR: What kind of foundation should a writer build for marketing a book, even before sending a proposal to editors?
Hayley Zelda: It’s really helpful to have a website up and an email capture set up on the website as early as you can. Personal websites can take some time before they rank on Google, and you can be sure that with any good marketing, people will be looking you up. Start with a website, social profiles, and an email capture. If you have time, you can begin building your audience, but you don’t have to. It’s important just to get the pages active.
Q. How can a writer use personal networks to enhance the marketing of a book?
HZ: I advise everybody I work with to promote to their personal networks. Ping all of your friends, family, followers. You don’t even need to tell them to buy your book, just announce that you just wrote a book. Write about yourself and people will want to support you.
The easiest thing you can do if you don’t have your book out yet is to start building an audience and network around yourself and your story. Building an audience takes time.
You can start with social networks like Twitter and Instagram. Study other authors who write for your audience to see what their fans like them to share. Figure out how to do that, but in your own style and voice. Target hashtags in your genre to attract more readers. The other trick to building your audience is to reply to people who already have an audience. Engage a lot with others and you’ll start seeing your own audience grow.
You can also build an audience on writing sites (like Wattpad or Commaful if you’re writing fiction). These sites are more targeted towards specific types of audiences, so if you’re writing for a YA audience, for example, sharing a few side stories featuring your characters can go a long way and help you build your audience.
When your book is out, share it everywhere! Harness all that potential energy you’ve built up over time.
Q. Is it essential to have a publicist to reach a wider audience?
HZ: Absolutely not! Publicists can be very helpful in the process, given experience and connections in the space. Where you are probably new to the world of marketing a book, a publicist promotes new books all the time.
That said, publicists are expensive and very few will offer a guarantee of any kind. For most self-published writers or writers who don’t get a large advance on a book deal, publicists are out of budget range anyway.
For most writers, thinking more about their book marketing strategy themselves is a good start. There are many cheap/free ways to begin promoting your book. They can take some time to learn, but once you learn them, you can make a lot of progress with generating sales. Some of these strategies include:
Email list building
Social media sharing
Q. How do you find a good publicist, and what should you expect to pay?
HZ: Referrals are by far the best way to find a good publicist. Talk to other authors, see who actually liked their publicist and who actually got results. Many publicists can talk a good game, but don’t end up driving good results.
If you don’t know many other authors, you can join public writers chats and author chats and ask. You can also reach out to publicists you find online and just go deep in reference checks.
Prices for publicists really vary. Most will be at least a couple thousand dollars a month, some $10k+
Personally, I like working with very savvy, younger, and very hungry publicists. They tend to be a little cheaper but also willing to work a lot harder to get books out there.
Q. How can an author get press without having a publicist or PR rep?
HZ: Many publicists and PR reps have existing connections with journalists and blogs, allowing them to feature their clients quickly and easily.
It is entirely possible to get press without existing relationships, though! The key is to start small. Unless you’re already famous, don’t go straight to the New York Times. Start with the most local publication you can find. Local publications tend to be the easiest to get into. Find a writer at that publication you think could potentially write about you. Find their email or find them on Twitter and kindly ping them about who you are and what you’ve done. It’s a numbers game. You may not get a reply on your first several, but keep going and you’ll get some small bites.
Then you can leverage those small bites into larger ones. In your next pitches, include your previous press features and how well they did.
You can use the same strategy for blogs. Don’t go after the big blogs first. Start with small and active blogs. For example, if you’re writing nonfiction, Wired For Youth is clearly still just starting out, but has an initial audience already. It’ll be much easier to score a book review or interview on a site like that before moving onto the bigger ones.
Zack’s most recent book of poems, Irreverent Litanies
Zack’s most recent translation, Bérénice 1934–44: An Actress in Occupied Paris by Isabelle Stibbe
Other posts on writing topics:
How to Get Published
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry?
Poetic Forms: Introduction; The Sonnet, The Sestina, The Ghazal, The Tanka, The Villanelle
Praise and Lament
How to Be an American Writer
Writers and Collaboration
Types of Closure in Poetry