This is an excerpt of Kim Wright’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about her adventures in publishing, from a Big Five house to self-publishing, from nonfiction to fiction. For more book promo information, and to read Kim’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.
Kim Wright has been writing about travel, food, and wine for more than twenty-five years and is a two-time recipient of the Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Writing. She is the author of Love in Mid Air and the City of Mystery series. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Q: What are the biggest differences between promoting a book published by a big publisher versus promoting a self-published book?
A: At the time that my novel Love in Mid Air came out in 2010, I had a reasonable amount of support from my publicity team at Grand Central. Especially the online publicist, who helped to arrange a blog tour that was quite successful.
But things have changed significantly at the Big Five houses since then. Budgets are shrinking and heads are rolling and any staff left is criminally overworked. What I understand from my friends who’ve more recently gone with a Big Five house is that you just can’t count on getting anything in terms of publicity, especially if you’re a midlist or new writer. That’s one thing that’s always been a bit mystifying about the big houses.
They spend the majority of their promotional efforts on authors who are already established—’cause yeah, Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult really need those ads—and debut writers struggle along on their own.
Of course, the one advantage the Big Five can still give their authors is distribution to bookstores, so if you go with a big house you might have readings, signings, a launch party, etc. There might be efforts made to get you reviewed in newspapers and magazines.
But the key word in both of those sentences is “might” because, once again, these things don’t happen as much as they used to. I don’t know anyone who’s done a book tour during the last two years, no matter how they’ve published.
So … bottom line, there’s not as big a difference as there used to be. Most of the promotional work falls to the writer whether you’ve gone Big Five, small press, or self-pub.
Q: How is marketing fiction different from marketing nonfiction?
A: The biggest difference is that it’s easier to zero in on the target reader and market for nonfiction. For example, each year for thirty years I’ve updated my travel guide for Fodor’s, titled Walt Disney World With Kids. Based on the title alone, it’s not hard to figure out who’s going to buy this book. You’re either going to Disney World or you’re not. You either have kids or you don’t. And a lot of nonfiction is like that. It’s very easy to target a book precisely to its intended market and very easy to build an author platform.
Fiction is trickier. Look at the title of Love in Mid Air— what the heck does that mean? Or the first book in my self-published mystery series, City of Darkness. The titles are evocative but vague. You need explanation before you could guess who would want to buy the book.
So I think fiction requires a little more finesse to market. You have to explain the book in a way that pulls people in and convinces them that even though they don’t need to read this book, they might want to.
To read Kim’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.