You’ve written a book. Great, now the real work begins! The moment I turned in my final manuscript—June 2017, to be precise, nearly 10 months before pub date—I immediately switched my focus to marketing. Writing this book was a dream come true—now I had to make sure that people would actually know about it. And that’s not easy. People are drowning in content, social media feeds are cluttered, and, sadly, many traditional media vehicles just don’t have the same impact on book sales that they once did. So what did I do? Everything I could. In retrospect, some things weren’t worth the effort, while others paid off in spades. I can’t believe I get to say this, but just two days after The Myth of the Nice Girl was released, we went back for a second printing! So, to pay it forward to my fellow authors and those who are thinking they might someday want to write a book of their own, here’s what I learned along the way.
1. Hire a support team.
Having a deal with a publisher will grant you access to a team of PR and Marketing professionals. And, for the record, mine at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, were amazing. But, they are also working on tons other books at the same time. And there are many areas that are outside their job descriptions, like speaking events and social media. Investing in extra resources like an outside publicist, social media and content experts, helped drive early and consistent exposure for The Myth of the Nice Girl. What I wish I had done: Hired a project manager…especially if you have a full-time job on top of the full-time job of promoting your book. There are a lot of pieces to manage, and having one point of contact to manage it all would have been tremendously helpful.
2. Tap into the kindness of friends.
Your friends and colleagues will offer to help. They will say, “What can I do?” You should respond with something very specific. Give them a job. It could be as simple as connecting you to the head of Events at a Major Fortune 500 company or it could be as laborious as managing a side project for you. Also, you’ll probably get offers from people willing to throw you a book party. And while dozens of celebrations sound amazing, you also want to conserve efforts and your energy. Figure out which hosts might have similar guest lists and ask them to team up on one great party instead of a bunch of little ones. The most important lesson I can share is to try to be as organized as possible. Start a tracker using Google Sheets that can help you organize your contacts and relationships. Include everyone who wants to throw a book party, a list of potential partners and the point of contact, media relations, you name it. If you have a team, give them access to this doc. Being strategic in your asks—and avoiding repeat asks—is the most time effective way to use your network.
3. Find solid brand partners.
Speaking of book parties, I wanted to be sure every attendee received a copy of the book and I didn’t want to put the financial burden on my already generous hosts. WelleCo, an Australian-based company cofounded by Elle Macpherson and Andrea Horwood, makes whole food elixirs that I’ve been a fan of for awhile. When we talked about how we could partner, they agreed to provide copies of my book for everyone who attends a book party if I spread the word about the brand at my events, in my newsletters and on social. It was a win-win. On the editorial side, I spoke with Refinery29 early in the process about contributing original content to their site. Our final idea: a career advice column, which I just love. It’s an incredible way to keep the message and stories about the book in front of a rapt audience.
…good press is important for the launch period, but reviews are perennial—they will be on that book page forever.
4. Rally potential reviewers.
I created a “street team” of 100 young women who became my mini brand ambassadors. My main goal was to encourage them to write early Goodreads reviews and then Amazon reviews on pub day. Reviews are everything. Yes, all your marketing and media efforts will create great buzz and awareness of the book, but when consumers search for the book and get to that Amazon page, they want to hear from real people if it’s worth their money. Your reviews close that deal. Also, good press is important for the launch period, but reviews are perennial—they will be on that book page forever.
5. Cultivate speaking events that include bulk orders.
Speaking at companies, women’s resource groups, universities, and other organizations and asking for a minimum buy pre-launch is a great tactic to increase book sales. Whatever the topic of your book, find companies with whom your message aligns. They may have the budget and the desire for “lunch and learns” or workshops that provide positive experiences for their workforce. Create a one-sheet document that summarizes your value proposition, potential speaking topics, and how many books they would need to purchase in lieu of a speaking fee. Think about offering two or three tiers of opportunities (the more books they buy, the more you customize what you’ll do). The benefit is putting a large volume of books into the hands of potential brand ambassadors versus trying to market to them one at a time. Use a company that specializes in bulk orders to help with fulfillment (I used 800CEOread). A speaking coordinator is also a must to handle all the logistics.
6. Update your village….a lot.
Someone on my team encouraged me to start a newsletter as a way to keep my (growing) village updated without having to send a personal email to each and every person. I was resistant at first, but this ended up being one of the best decisions we made. I received such positive feedback on my newsletter, which strikes a balance between personal info, news about the book, news about the startups I invest in, and other people’s great products and work. It’s been an authentic way to keep reminding people what I’m up to, and we saw a direct correlation between sending out the newsletter and book sales. It was a great non-pushy reminder to check out (and buy!) the book.
[My newsletter] has been an authentic way to keep reminding people what I’m up to, and we saw a direct correlation between sending out the newsletter and book sales.
7. Pick Your Social Battles.
I was already pretty active on Twitter, but only used Facebook and Instagram for sporadic photos of my cute kids. I launched a public Facebook and Instagram page to focus more on interesting articles and updates about the book. In the end, Facebook was a bit of a bust. Maybe it’s the culture, maybe it’s me, but Instagram has been the most effective at building engagement around our #nicegirlarmy. It also helped me pick up new followers by creating content for popular hashtags like #mondaymotivation and #womencrushwednesday. So, in the end, we focused our efforts there.
8. Update your wardrobe!
Book parties, speaking opportunities—all the work you’re going to do to promote the book is going to pay off with a packed calendar of events. Is your closet ready for this? Mine wasn’t. I signed up for Rent the Runway Unlimited so I would have access to new looks—and a few TV-appropriate, jewel-toned tops—for all my appearances.
9. Have fun.
Book publishing is like parenting, everyone tells you to enjoy every moment because before you know it, they’ll be grown and gone. How many times have you rolled your eyes at that? But it’s true for books, too. You can be so mired in the day to day that you can forget what the journey is all about. Yes, you need to have a plan and get organized, but you also have to let certain things go—especially ones that will require a lot of your time and the return is unclear. My friend Agapi said to me, “Darling, you have to let things happen instead of always making things happen—put good energy into the world and it will happen.”
I hope this helps focus your efforts—it’s what I wish I had known as a first-time author. And, keep in mind, this list is by no means exhaustive. It doesn’t include all the publicity, marketing, and behind-the-scenes efforts that went into spreading the word about The Myth of the Nice Girl. My best advice: Start early. Even if your book is coming out in a year (or you don’t even have a book deal), you can start to lay the groundwork for building your audience and teasing your book now.