Author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, etc.

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Home page for FAQ about the Writing Business

1. How can I find a publisher?
2. Do I need an agent?
3. Any tips about book promotion?

May I humbly suggest that you not overestimate my experience and ability in this endeavor
; I have no training or professional experience in marketing or PR. That said, I have done several book tours, more events and interviews than I can count, and I've attended a gazillion writers conferences over the years, all of which invariably feature a panel on book promotion (and which invariably feature a eager-beaver first or second-time genre author, a black-clad Irony Maven of Editorial Wisdom, and someone retailing their services, nowadays usually something to do with "social media.") I have tried to glean what I can and do my best for my books, but my priority has always been, well, writing my books.

It seems to me that once you've written a good book, you can do a few common-sense things to ensure that it is made visible to potential readers, and should they decide to purchase it, that this be as straightforward a process as possible. So yes, send around review copies, maintain a website and blog with easy-to-see links to buy your book on amazon, Barnes & Noble and whatever other bookstores offer it. (Do these steps sound blazingly obvious? You might be surprised how few first time authors take the trouble.)

And yes, blurbs help. How to get them? Write a good book, send out wheelbarrowfuls of review copies, and for individual blurbs (I mean, not lifted from a print or on-line review), ask nicely.

I have found novelist
Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life especially helpful. With her wise words, you may well save yourself a heap of time, hassle, and if not heartbreak, then at least needless heartbreak.

As for an Internet presence, yes, of course it behooves you to have a
webpage and, if you're up to it, a blog, and if you can stand it (I cannot), a facebook page as well and to have all of these started up in a thoughtful manner at least six months to a year before your book comes out.

That said, "better late than never."

Finally, why be shy? My mantra is, book promotion is not self-
promotion, it's book promotion.

(It has not escaped my notice that those writers who turn their noses up at "self-promoters" are precisely the ones suffering from writer's block, and if they do happen to have a published book, are stark-terrified of criticism. If you're living in a village full of such denizens, all I can say is, move
unless you too are satisfied to spend your time and attention in such ways that you arrive at your last days of earth to look back on a stunted life with a heart rotted through with regret and resentment.)

Bottom line: Once you have a book, it's not all about you; it's about your agent, your publisher, their hard-working team, booksellers, and ultimately, obviously, and most importantly, readers. They cannot read your book if they don't know about it.

UPDATE: Should you hire a publicist? The answer to that depends on your budget, your expectations vis-a-vis reality, and the nature of your book. I don't know about you, your budget, or the nature of your book, so I have nothing to say other than that I wish you very well and if you do aim to hire someone, do your research firstcheck out their portfolio of clients and ask for references.

UPDATE: When marketing guru Seth Godin suggests beginning your promotional efforts three years in advance and building a permission list, I think he is spot-on. (I've taken his advice, as you can see here.) What's a permission list? Just a mailing list people who actually want to hear about your new book (not just get spammed). Many authors now send out a regular newsletter. Having subscribed to a few good ones and, alas, scads of not-so-good ones, I offer Writers' Newsletters Dos and Don'ts.

UPDATE: Getting Started with Websites and Blogs: My Experience and Some Tips

UPDATE: In 2014, everything is changing so fast, my eyes are crossed. Now the newfangled thing is to list one's book, or urge one's publisher to list one's book, with Netgalley.com. I hardly know what to say except, hang on to your hat. Oh, and dagnabbit, answer your email.

UPDATE: See Novelist Leslie Pietrzyk's notes from her 2016 AWP panel on book PR. An excellent resource.

UPDATE: "Willard Spiegelman's Senior Moments, Guilt Management, and the 6-Point Magic Wand of an Email" Madam Mayo blog, December 5, 2016.

Home page for FAQ about the Writing Business
1. How can I find a publisher?
2. Do I need an agent?
3. Any tips about book promotion?