Writing Isn't the Only Hard Part, There's Publicity, Too

The sigh of relief you let loose after the last page of your book is finally done might be a bit premature. Once the writing is finished, much work remains to sell what you have spent so much time and energy on.

While publishers do promote books, new media like blogs and podcasts, however, make publicity more varied and accessible to the authors themselves, said a panel at the NASW conference in Baltimore. Authors are also changing their strategies to promote their books themselves and even discuss what they are writing before they finish the book. "It used to be writers wouldn't talk about their book until they could unveil it," said Carl Zimmer, the author of five books, who blogs at The Loom.

In the past, books were often publicized through tours and book-signings. But these engagements are increasingly harder to come by, said Denise Graveline, president of the communications company Don't Get Caught. Authors can, though, work with their busy publishers by suggesting publicity strategies. Still, she said, there is only so much the publisher can do for a particular author. "There are more of you than there are of them," Graveline said.

So, authors can take the helm and take advantage of blogs and podcasts. And this publicity machine can start grinding even before the book is finished, said Zimmer, who discusses his upcoming book on his blog. "I'm trying to build a buzz about my book," Zimmer explained.

After the book is finished, copies can be sent to established bloggers for review, who Graveline suggested are keen for the opportunity. These blogs can link to a site that sells the book — even before the publication date. Or, like Zimmer, authors can put a blurb about the new book on their own Web site or establish a blog or Web site solely to hawk the book.

And authors need not stop there. Audio or video can complement blogs and Web sites. Podcasts can be uploaded to these sites for visitors to listen to or even download. In these sound bites or video clips, the authors can discuss their work. "You don't need a lot of technology to do this," said Susan Matthews Apgood, president of News Generation, Inc., a public relations firm specializing in radio.

Some other new approaches to publicity are only accessible to publishers. They can decide if a book is going to be searchable through Google Books or Amazon. But book signings, appearances and those traditional public relations tactics still work. "Keep the conventional stuff but look for new opportunities," advised Zimmer.

Currently a student in New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program, Ciara Curtin is a self-proclaimed science dork — especially if it's biology. When she is not at her internship at Scientific American or chasing after people to interview for class, Ciara can most often be found at a small venue listening to music or curled up watching a movie. She lives in Brooklyn.

Oct. 29, 2006