I’ve worked in the publishing industry for a bit over five years now, and much has changed, even in this short period of time. The rise of e-books and social media, the fall of Borders and shuttering of major print publication, and a fair amount in between. With all of that said, there are a few certainties that have remained, no matter how vastly the industry’s infrastructure—and even its scaffolding—may have transformed, and I urge authors to keep these truths in mind as they begin the process of promotion that comes “after the manuscript.”
First, stay true to yourself. That might sound funny coming from a book publicist (as opposed to a therapist), but if you look at your book as an extension of yourself, it’s not all that strange. Many authors want to do everything in their power to get media attention for their books, and that’s commendable; at the same time, it’s important to remember that not all media is going to be helpful in terms of book sales and furthermore, once something is published or posted or broadcasted, it can’t be taken back. For example, if you don’t really care to use Twitter or you simply don’t have the time to use it, don’t start just for book promotion purposes. Not only can Twitter followers sense when something’s being done strictly for marketing purposes, you probably won’t enjoy the process either.
Second, don’t be afraid to try something new! Though this may seem to contradict the idea of staying true to yourself, this second principle is more about testing your comfort zone. Whether you’re a debut author or a seasoned writer, it’s important to explore all of your options when it comes to book publicity. To return to our Twitter example, if the reason you don’t use Twitter is because it seems scary and difficult, this might be the perfect time to try it out and learn! Or let’s say you’re publishing your second novel; if you only did the media your publicist sent your way the way first time (traditional interviews, etc.), maybe this time you want to try pitching an original essay—that somehow connects to the content or themes of your book or your role as an author—to one of the magazines.
And finally, always ask questions. You’re not expected to know the answer to every publicity question or conundrum you encounter. (For example: Would it be helpful to place an op-ed in the New York Times? Is there proper attire for appearing on tv? What kind of content should be included on an author website?) That’s one of the many reasons you have a publicist. Even if your publicist doesn’t know the answer to your question (and trust me, we don’t always!), s/he will know whom to ask. The publishing process is an extensive and intricate one; isn’t it better to find out the answers to your questions from a seasoned veteran as opposed to stumbling about blindly?
Christina Mamangakis is a publicity manager at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Prior to that, she worked for Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and W. W. Norton & Company.