UPDATE 10/22/09–Check out Booklifenow, which went live Monday, for content from the book and new material. The TOC below is slightly out of date, btw.
UPDATE 5/15: Added the full table of contents for the book to the end of this post, for those who are interested.
Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st-Century Writers will be released on October 15th, and is available for pre-order. It’s a lazy Tuesday, and I’ve got nothin’, so here’s an excerpt from one of the general sections on PR. Please keep in mind: half the book is devoted to your Public Booklife and half to your Private Booklife. Any quotes out of context lose the cross-pollination between career and creativity. Which is to say, I don’t advocate being a PR hound in the book—I advocate being a balanced person who puts creativity first, while acknowledging you have to do some public things if you want your books to reach an audience… – Jeff
“New media” allows for amazing interconnectivity and cross-pollination of ideas. Because the primary purpose isnâ€™t for PR, new media has also changed PR forever. However, some things will always be the same:
- Your sincerity and honesty make a huge difference. Try not to act like a telemarketer or a walking info-mercial. If you can have fun promoting your book or other creative project, all the better, because that means readers will probably have fun as well.
- The quality of your creative project must be high to gain leverage. A high-quality creative project could be anything from an esoteric experimental science fiction novel to a heartbreakingly tragic literary novella posted on a website, a book of poems about your neighborâ€™s talking chicken or a techno-thriller about zombies. The genre is irrelevant. All that matters is creating a great book. If you donâ€™t create a great book, most of the advice in Booklife wonâ€™t help you.
- The form of the creative project affects your ability to promote it. Currently, it is still easier to get leverage for a â€œbookâ€ that has a physical presence in the world. An electronic version of the book provides opportunities for leverage as well, but despite all of the ways in which the physical book has been put into competition with other forms of itself, it is still, as of this writing at least, the anchor and the goal sought by writers and given the most respect by the highest number of gatekeepers. Also remember that although I am defining â€œbookâ€ generally as a creative project, it will always be harder to create ongoing or â€œpermanentâ€ leverage for a short story or an article (and yet simpler because of the limited options) than for the bulwark that is a novel or story collection or nonfiction book.
- The integrity/quality of your brand across products affects your ability to gain leverage across your career. Inconsistency from creative project to creative project breeds indecision among readers. Variety between projects, so long as quality is high, may slow your progress but result in rewards that are just as great. But, again, for the long-term, your work must be high-quality. (Your â€œbrandâ€ across time also refers to your public image and other elements that may not always have much to do with your core creativity. However, these elements have impact because reader perceptions are so often driven not just by their opinion of your writing but of you.)
A writer usually has little direct effect on marketing or sales, but can have a huge impact on publicity. To be most effective, you must:
- Understand your audience and the commercial or noncommercial appeal of your creative project. Selling a thousand copies of a nonfiction collection might be an excellent result, while selling a thousand copies of a mystery novel might be seen as a huge failure.
- Understand the relationship between PR efforts and sales, PR and your reputation. The simple fact is, your PR efforts can greatly enhance your reputation without having as large an effect on your sales. Good PR is as much about setting you up for future opportunities and making sure you stay in the public eye as it is about readers making purchases. Studies show that readers may need to hear or read about a book as many as seven times before deciding to purchase it. Thus, a strong PR effort will influence sales over time, but the primary impact is to position you in other ways.
- Make sure to fit the scale of the PR to the scale of the project. You donâ€™t send copies of your saddle-stapled 42-page chapbook on armadillo farming to Publishers Weekly. Nor do you send a techno-thriller to the book reviewer at Armadillo Farming Quarterly. (Except, of course, in the remote eventuality that armadillos play an integral role in the plot.)
- Make sure to create quality, professional-looking materials for your PR effort. You would be better off not creating that website banner ad if it isnâ€™t up to professional standards. Similarly, you will do yourself more damage putting out a boring YouTube book trailer thatâ€™s four minutes too long than if you did no trailer at all.
- Test out new ideas through research and by finding other examples before implementing them. You can waste a lot of money putting an effort behind â€œbleeding edgeâ€ PR ideas that are in some way faulty in conception or execution. Make sure that someone, somewhere, has been successful with a similar approach. Be very careful to avoid doing anything that makes you look silly or amateurish.
You might be surprised by the kinds of things writers have done to attract attention, only to find that the attention attracted wasnâ€™t what they wanted. One writer used to send nude photos to magazine editors along with stories. Another would review their own work online, using their real name, and describe its brilliance. The worst reading I ever saw—and a reading is a type of PR for your work—included one poor soul who stopped in mid-sentence to reminisce on the glorious day when inspiration came for a particular phrase, making things worse by also stopping to read reviews of the story. One writerâ€™s website used to include an image of himself in a stereotypical velvet-Elvis style, with a halo above his head. Doesnâ€™t sound as bad as the other examples? If youâ€™d seen it, youâ€™d put it at the top of the list.
Less heinous crimes include what I call useless PR—like sending readers buttons advertising a book that could be pinned on a shirt or blouse. This is the kind of PR effort that writers often want to focus on–a campaign that has little relation to reality. How often have you personally asked someone about a product based on a decorative button they were wearing? And how many times have you been handed a button and thought, â€œI really donâ€™t want to pin something to my clothing.â€
How did some of these people arrive at bad places? Horrible advice. Always keep in mind that advice, especially advice on promoting yourself, is often anecdotal or a Received Idea—received from a time machine from the Distant Past. Sincerely-given but idiotic career advice can be a shiv in the side, an icepick through the eye. Worse, it can result in a slow malarial fever from which you never recover, performing actions you later have no good rationale for doing. The worst career advice attempts to separate you from your work, you a shucked oyster wondering what happened, and why.
On the other hand, despite this warning, donâ€™t be afraid to test out new things on a limited basis (limited in terms of time and money spent). Iâ€™ve done all kinds of experiments with online media. Iâ€™ve even used talking greeting cards to send out announcements about my books, because nothing gets past a personâ€™s defenses like being addressed by an animated squirrel. Iâ€™ve also tried anti-publicity, surprising reviewers and bloggers with an anthology project that was top secret until the day of publication. Iâ€™m not saying you should emulate these admittedly risky approaches, but playing around with PR concepts and having some fun isnâ€™t always a bad thing. Just be mentally prepared to crash-and-burn if you experiment.
And here’s the full TOC for the book, since so many people are visiting this post…
Are You Ready to Embrace a Booklife?
How to Use this Book
Following the Structure
Re-imagining the Book
What This Book Is Not
Part 1: Building Your Booklife
The Pillars of Your Public Booklife
Creating and Managing Goals
The Discovery Process
Choosing Your Platforms
Public Platform Example: The Blog
Managing Your Involvement
Part 2: Communicating Your Booklife
Dealing with Editors and Publicists
Understanding Creative PR
Leveraging Your Ideas
Creating a PR Plan
Five Minimum Elements for Success
Part 3 Maintaining Your Booklife
The Importance of Persistence
Paying it Forward/Community
Positive Survival Strategies
>>> BOOKLIFE GUT-CHECK: TOWARD PEACE OF MIND
The Search for Balance
Avoiding the Negative
Multi-tasking and Fragmentation
White Noise and Dark
Part 1 – Living Your Booklife
The Pillars of Your Private Booklife
Reasons for Writing
Attitude and Creativity
Room to Think
Relinquishing All Fetishes
Writing and Revision: The Experience of Others
Habit versus Process
Permission to Fail
Part 2 – Protecting Your Booklife
Support from Your Partner
The Long View
Appendix A â€“ Additional Information on Relevant Roles
Booksellers (by James Crossley)
Marketing Versus Publicity (by Colleen Lindsay)
Publicists (by Colleen Lindsay)
Appendix B â€“ Content-Related
Marketing/PR Campaign Summary (Example)
PR Plan (High-Level Example)
Press Releases (Example)
Appendix C â€“ Additional Notes on New Media (by Matt Staggs)
Appendix D â€“ Nurturing Creativity
Chasing Experience (by Nathan Ballingrud)
Sacrifice (Matthew Cheney)
Luckâ€™s Child (by Marly Youmans)
Workshops (by Cat Rambo)
Writing a Novel in Two Months
Evil Monkey’s Guide to Creative Writing