Promoting Your Book: How to Publicize Your Book

Most authors prefer writing to marketing, but learning how to sell your book is a necessary skill in today’s publishing world.

“Publishers want to know what tools you’re bringing to the table,” said Molly Woolbright, Publicity Manager of the University of Washington Press, who spoke to my spring Seattle Narrative Writing class, The Nature of Narrative. “It’s never too early to start doing this. You want to build these networks out.”

Overview of Book Publicity

An in-house publicist at a traditional publisher works on a variety of books at a time, striving to secure a mix of trade reviews and regional and national media for each. From the general public’s perspective, a book campaign is typically about 3 months long; from an author and publisher’s perspective, the work begins at least 6 months before a book is published.

Long-Lead Media

About 6-8 months out from publication

Advance reader copies (otherwise known as ARCs or galleys) sent to media outlets that work far in advance, including: Print magazines, Trade journals (Publishers WeeklyLibrary JournalBooklist, etc.), Podcasts.

Short-Lead Media

About 1-2 months out from publication

Finished copies sent to media outlets that work on a shorter timeframe, including: Newspapers, radio, TV, blogs.

Local/Regional Media

Often overlooked in favor of bigger or more prestigious national media outlets, your local newspaper, magazines, blogs, radio, and TV stations are a great starting point to build buzz (while still striving for national hits). The Amazon algorithm is fed by any and all publicity, and local media is more likely to take notice.

Optimizing Your Author Platform for Media

Book promotion, regardless of genre, is often more about the author than the book—it’s about you and the expertise you can provide or discussions you can spark. Whether you’re working with an in-house publicist or you’ve hired a freelancer, one of the most helpful steps you can take to assist her efforts in securing media is to boost your online presence.

Website

From a publicity perspective, a website is the most useful asset you can have as an author. Whereas social media is ephemeral, a website offers a consistent representation of you and your work. Think of it like a toolbox where journalists/reviewers/editors can go to find more info.

For more on book promotion and writing technique, please consider signing up for my next Seattle writing class, online writing class or travel writing class through www.thewritersworkshop.net.

How to Get Happily Published: The Writer’s Workshop

            Go to the library or bookstores or magazine shop and begin reading publications. Some writers wouldn’t deign to do this, but it makes all the difference. What kinds of places publish profiles of political figures? Should you send your piece about airport security to an airline magazine or a travel magazine? How do you choose which outdoor magazine to contact about a mountain biking story? Reading the publications will help you answer these questions. Magazines and newspapers have distinct personalities, almost like people. Writers need to get to know them and then the questions of where to send a story soon becomes clear.

Our online writing classes teach the art and craft of writing.
Our online writing classes teach the art and craft of writing.

            If you don’t take time to do this, you’ll be wasting time and money. Every newspaper or magazine occupies a certain market niche, serves a particular audience and is looking for a specific kind of story. For example, don’t bother pitching a story on a national political issue to your hometown newspaper unless there is a local angle.

            Get to know the publication. Visit the publication’s website for writer’s guidelines; most publications will furnish these free of charge. Then read the magazine thoroughly, look at the ads, the letters to the editor. What kind of audience are they aiming at? Socially conscious? Upwardly mobile? Cigar Aficionado will not want your story on the evils of second-hand smoke but Mother Jones might pick it up.

            What’s the style of the magazine? Straight reporting? Satire? Political commentary? Are the stories long or short? Are they mostly staff-written or written by freelancers?

            What part of the magazine is easiest to break into? Many magazines include a front section of short profiles, often written by freelancers. Newspapers often publish reviews of books, restaurant s, concerts that are written by freelancers. Scope out the publication to figure out which department you’ll target for your query. We’ll discuss all this in more detail in my fall Narrative Writing Class, Tell Your Story, for The Writer’s Workshop.

A View from Two Sides: Review of Apeirogon by Colum McCann

Review of Apeirogon by Colum McCann in The Writer’s Workshop Book Review.

By Kate Jackson

 

Two fathers, two daughters, Israeli and Palestinian, woven together by two tragedies: this is the substance of Colum McCann’s latest novel.  Published in February 2020, the characters and events are based on actual people and events.  The word, apeirogon, means “a shape with a countably infinite number of sides.”

The novel begins with Rami, an Israeli man on a motorbike, entering Palestinian territory.  His yellow license plate signals his nationality to the border guards.  The reader is immediately brought into the divided world where Palestinians and Israelis live separated by walls, barbed wire, barricades and checkpoints.  Only the many species of birds, occasional characters in the book, have freedom of movement.

Soon we are introduced to Bassam.  He has a distinctive limp as a result of childhood polio.  He has a broken heart as a result of the untimely death of his ten-year-old daughter, Abir.  She was near her school when she was shot in the back of her head with a rubber bullet.

Midway into the novel, Rami and Bassam meet. They join a Parents Circle.  By then, we know their respective stories and the anguish both experienced when their children were taken from them.  Rami’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Smadar, died in an explosion set off by Palestinian suicide bombers near a café ten years before Abir died at the hands of an Israeli soldier.

Both fathers have ample reason for bitterness and enmity but over the course of the narrative, form a strong bond of friendship and support.  Together and separately, they travel outside their borders to tell their daughters’ stories and confront the futility of violence while demonstrating a way towards healing deep wounds.

As the title suggests, this is a multifaceted tale.  It explores the depth of human pain and loss that transcends nationality and time.  It reveals the results of policies set by the rulers over the ruled who have no political voice.  It is a story of ancient cultures so close in proximity and history and so far apart in attitude.  It is the story of two men who found voices to spread messages of peace and hope born out of tragedy.

The book is written with 1,001 sections, some only a sentence or two long and others with many paragraphs.  The narrative travels back and forth in time, place and character.  It seems repetitious at times.  But it is a powerful and unconventional story of and for our times.

The Writer’s Workshop Book Review is published by The Writer’s Workshop. Let us know what you think and if you’d like to contribute a review. We review books of narrative fiction and nonfiction. Please be in touch!

The Perfect Pitch: Story Ideas in Writing Classes

THE PERFECT PITCH: STORY IDEAS  IN WRITING CLASSES

 

Narrative writers organize their books and shorter pieces in terms of a story or chronology, probably the oldest and most compelling way of relating information. In Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster speculates that the earliest storytelling took place around a campfire after tired bands of Neanderthal hunters had killed a woolly mammoth. Natural selection favored hunters who told a well-crafted, suspenseful story; those who rambled endlessly or droned on about their personal exploits were hit over the head with a club.

Good story ideas for narrative writing meet the following criteria:

E.M. Forster
E.M. Forster, story ideas for writing classes.

1) BASED ON SCENE – Organized around one or more scenes. Unlike a feature story, these pieces should be composed almost entirely of scenes. There can be passages of narrative summary that provide background information, but these should be incorporated into or around the scene.

2) EMPHASIZE CHARACTER – Elucidation of character lies at heart of these stories. They can convey information, but this should be done through the personalities central to the story.

3) ENCOURAGE CURIOSITY – Writers should appeal to readers’ curiosity, pulling them along with suspenseful storytelling, not letting them go until the end.

4) CONFLICT AND RESOLUTION FORMAT – The story has to be organized around a conflict, whether an external one like climbing a mountain, or an internal one of overcoming stuttering. Most of the best stories have a conflict that embraces both the internal and the external. Example: John has to overcome his fear to climb the mountain. Melissa meets a supportive speech therapist who helps her speak normally.

5) TIMELY – Any trend or event that’s coming up can serve as a timely tie to the story. A timely angle puts your story idea to the top of the editor’s pile.

6) PERSONALLY INTERESTING – Writers usually do their best work on subjects that matter to them. Try to find topics that you are passionate about, as Gerard emphasizes in Creative Nonfiction.

7) PUBLISHABLE – Not every idea that appeals to the writer will gain favor with editors, however. Find ideas that interest you and the editor.

For more on story ideas, please consider signing up for my writing classes.

How to Submit Stories to Literary Magazines

Lava, The Writer's Workshop
“The Thin Crust” from The Writer’s Workshop Review.

Literary magazines occupy an important niche in the publishing world. They publish longer, more artistic stories that would make a tough sell in a commercial magazine. Many bestselling memoirs such as Kathleen Norris’ Dakota grew out of shorter stories published in literary magazines. They are one of the few markets that publish short fiction. They pay little or nothing other than extra copies but are prestigious and can serve as an important stepping stone in a literary career. As the publisher/ editor of The Writer’s Workshop Review, which just published its 14th edition, I read a lot of manuscripts and accept only a small percentage of them. Here’s some advice about how to win acceptance at a literary magazine.

FIND A THE RIGHT MAGAZINE:  Duotrope’s Digest is an excellent place to start. For a small monthly fee you get access to a searchable database of over 2000 different literary magazines. You can peruse the magazine rack at a good bookstore like Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company to find a home for your story. Googling the term, literary magazines, will also turn up a lot of potential target publications. As I emphasize in my Seattle writing classes, read the magazine to make sure it’s an appropriate fit for your story. Half of all stories are rejected simply because they are not the right fit for the magazine.

FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: The magazine will spell out when and how to submit manuscripts. Make sure to follow these guidelines. Your story may never reach the right editor if you don’t follow the guidelines.

FORMAT YOUR WORK: As recommended above, follow the magazine’s guidelines. Sometimes the magazine will want the story cut and pasted into an email message or attached to the email. Some of these magazines will want hard copies. As I say in my Seattle writing classes, make it easy for them.

COVER LETTER: A short cover letter accompanying the story or as part of the email message can help your cause. List previous publications, relevant degrees, etc. These shouldn’t make a difference to an editor but sometimes they do. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you have none of these, just send a strong story and it will find a home.

TRACK SUBMISSIONS: Keep a record of what stories are out and where you sent them. Celebrate acceptances. Don’t sweat the rejections; there are all kinds of reasons a magazine will reject a piece. It may be outstanding, but may not fit the publication. Pay attention if an editor takes the time to give you advice about how to improve your manuscript; the editor doesn’t do this casually and may be receptive to future stories from you.

If you want help with this, please consider signing up for one of my Seattle writing classes, online writing classes, or travel writing classes. I look forward to working with you!

The Art of the Pitch For Freelance Writers

Paulette Perhach speaks to The Writer's Workshop Seattle writing classes.
Paulette Perhach speaks to The Writer’s Workshop Seattle writing classes.

Pitching story ideas to magazines and newspapers is one of the essential skills I teach in my writing classes. Recently I had the pleasure of hosting Paulette Perhach, a Seattle-based freelance writer and author of Welcome to the Writer’s Life, who spoke about her approach to pitching everyone from The New York Times to Salon.

“If you’re in writing, you’re in sales,” she said. “You don’t take no for an answer; you keep the conversation going. I recently sent a letter to Salon and got a really nice rejection letter. I pitched them again and got an assignment.”

She emphasized that networking is key to getting assignments. She watches for editors calling for pitches on Twitter and regularly attends writing conferences such as AWP to meet with editors like those at the Sun.

“Be persistent with a publication,” she said. “I got a handful of assignments from the New York Times, then didn’t get any assignments for two years. I connected with the special sections editor of the New York Times and then got assignments.”

She argues that newspapers and magazines need writers, but writers need to understand the publication and be professional to get steady assignments, an approach I also emphasize in my writing classes for The Writer’s Workshop.

“Editors are you customers,” she said. “Editors need writers to fill their publication, but they want writers who are easy to work with. Read the writers guidelines. Make a list of the requirements for the publication. Be organized. Break up a story into stages: research, interview, and writing. Don’t miss your deadline. Very people do it right, and if you do it, it shows you’re a professional.”

For more on pitching publications and narrative writing, check out her book, Welcome to the Writer’s Life, or consider signing up for my winter class, The Arc of the Story.

How to Write a Dramatic Scene

Dramatic Scenes in Seattle Writing Classes.
Driving makes great material for dramatic scenes in Seattle Writing Classes.

In my Seattle writing classes, I teach how to write a dramatic scene, an especially effective way of organizing stories. In my Seattle writing classes, I explain how to use dramatic scenes to give life and movement to stories, whether fiction on nonfiction. It’s a technique that also helps you as a writer organize the story. You don’t need to go into detail about everything, but rather just the key moments that made the trip memorable.

On a recent trip to England, I used dramatic scene to highlight some of the adventures of the trip. Although travel stories tend to highlight the pleasures of a trip, I also like to write about the challenges and inconveniences. One of the biggest challenges was driving on the LEFT side of the road, with a clutch in my left hand. The whole operation was widely counter intuitive, with lots of honking drivers, speeding motorcyclists and phone-distracted pedestrians thrown into the mix.

As I tell students in my Seattle writing classes, it’s a good idea to always take a notebook with you to record your adventures. I took a reporter’s notebook and filled it with impressions of the trip, especially those involving driving. The hardest part was rewiring my brain to go left, not right, at key moments. This wasn’t so hard on a straightaway, but devilishly difficult on a roundabout. I followed the car in front of me, said a prayer, and plunged through it, occasionally earning a honk or other gesture.

It was a great pleasure to return the rental car to Heathrow airport and have someone else drive into London. Once there, we took the Tube and buses around, very convenient, but not the great material I found through driving on the wrong side of the road.

For more on writing with dramatic scenes, please sign up for my winter Seattle Writing class, The Arc of the Story.

Five Best Openings in Seattle Writing Classes

Seattle writing classes discuss story openings.
Seattle writing classes discuss best story openings.

The opening is the most important part of any story or book, one of the topics I’ll be discussing in my upcoming Seattle writing class, Tell Your Story, spend as much time as necessary finding a strong lead. Rewrite the lead until it sparkles, presenting a lively, exciting opening to the story.

In my fall Seattle writing class, I’ll discuss the five best ways of opening a story or book: summary, scenic, anecdote, inventory and beginning at the end. Each of these techniques pulls the reader into the story quickly. The type of lead you use in a given story depends on your material and the audience you want to reach. Scenic leads lend themselves to active stories; summary and anecdotal leads often work best with more reflective stories. But there’s no rule about it; go with what works best!

SUMMARY LEADS

These leads allow you to get to the point of your story quickly and easily, something I discuss in my Seattle writing classes. The trick is to make them appealing as well. Writers using summary leads often employ wordplay or humor to liven them up.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once famously observed that “Hell is other people.” And he worked from home. Imagine if he had been one of the millions of us who are forced to navigate the psychic minefields of the modern corporation.”

Summary leads are quite effective, though they are just one strategy for a lead. In my fall Seattle writing class, Tell Your Story, I’ll also discuss how to use scenic leads, anecdotal leads, inventory leads, and starting as the end as strategies for getting a reader interested in your story immediately, something I teach in all my Seattle writing classes, online writing classes and travel writing classes.

Fish Tales in Seattle Writing Classes

Fishing Lessons author speaks to Seattle writing classes.
Fishing Lessons author speaks to Seattle writing classes.

Kevin Bailey knows fish.  As founding director of the Man & Sea Institute and affiliate professor at the University of Washington, he developed a deep and profound knowledge of fisheries and love of the sea. Near the end of his academic career, he wanted to learn how to tell stories about fish and fishing so that he could reach a larger audience. He enrolled in my Seattle writing classes in 2011 and began turning his rich background into compelling stories. He has published three books since, the most recent, Fishing Lessons: Artisanal Fisheries and the Future of Our Oceans, which he spoke about in my summer Seattle writing class.

“I’d written many scientific papers, but nothing for people outside of that circle,” says Bailey. “In Nick’s classes I learned about nut graphs and learned about the importance of platform.”

His latest book follows artisanal fishermen and their relationship with the larger ocean. In a series of portraits, he tells the stories of these fishermen, their success at long lining, hand lining, weir fishing and other techniques that harvest fish sustainably, both in financial and ecological terms. His ability to integrate his storytelling and scientific background makes the book an outstanding read. He’s refined the techniques he learned in my Seattle writing classes.

“After a 40-year career in fisheries, I wanted to write about the Pollack fisheries, which boomed like a gold rush,” he says. “I wanted to tell the story but I needed to interview the old guys before they died. I took Nick’s class and wrote the first chapter and workshopped it. I decided to do a book proposal.”

That proposal turned into his first book, Billion Dollar Fish: The Untold Story of Alaska Pollock and launched his writing career. “It was such a joy to write these books,” he says. “Now I’m searching for my next book…”

If you’re looking to jump start your writing career, whether in nonfiction or fiction, please consider signing up for my Seattle writing classes or one of our online writing classes!

In Medias Res Openings in Seattle Writing Classes

In Medias Res Openings in Seattle Writing Classes.
In Medias Res Openings in Seattle Writing Classes.

In my summer Seattle writing class, we’ll discuss In Medias Res openings, one of the most effective ways of opening a story. To write in medias res, you’ll need a strong scene from the middle of your story. Pick the most vivid and dramatic moment in the story, for example, when you’re rappelling off a mountain, the canoe is about to go over the falls, or the killer is making his last stand, or the argument is reaching its climax. You’re looking, in other words, for a scene that has conflict and drama. These qualities are essential to any in medias res scene, because they will bring the readers quickly into the story.

After finding the scene, divide it in half. Use the first half of the scene in the in medias res lead and save the second half of it for right near the end of the story. By dividing it in half, you’ll create suspense within your story. The reader will get hooked on the first half of the in medias res scene and then read to the end of the story to see what happens. In the process, readers will finish the rest of story.

After putting first half of scene in lead, make transition to actual start of story. For example, tell how you came to make a rafting trip down the Salmon River. Readers will follow this discussion because it will reveal whether you survived going over the falls. From time to time, foreshadow the falls and give the reader hints about what is going to happen.

Once you’ve reached the point where the second half of the in medias res scene occurs, insert it without repeating the opening scene. Just use summary or a repeated detail to remind the reader of what happened at the start of the story. Then go through second half of scene. End with a conclusion that makes sense of the trip and gives the reader a sense of what you learned from it.