Book Marketing from a Traditional Publishing Perspective

Book Marketing from a Traditional Publishing Perspective

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I recently took a class at the Hugo House on book marketing. While I’ve immersed myself in the world of social media marketing and “author platform building,” I had zero idea about traditional book marketing before I took Alice Acheson‘s class.

I’ve heard that as a new author, even if you are luckily enough to get a traditional publishing deal, the publisher won’t help you with marketing. Now, maybe this is true in the sense that they are not going to be spending thousands of dollars on a cross-U.S. book tour, but they will do a few things for you. You know, the basics. If you self-publish, you have to do all of that yourself, so even if you self-publish, it’s worth understanding what the marketing basics are for traditional publishers.

Alice explained that an average print run for a new author is 5,000 books. You can expect that your publisher will budget about a “buck a book,” for marketing, publicity, and advertising. That’s not a huge budget, but if it’s used wisely, it can do some real good.

So what does a traditional publisher do to market and promote your book? The information I gained from can be best communicated in a timeline.


Let’s say you sign your book deal June 1. Yay! Celebrate, do your happy dance. And prepare to work. The publisher should send you an Author Questionnaire for you to complete and return. Fill it out completely, and return it quickly. All phases of the publishing team will use your questionnaire. It will ask you things about you personally: prior work, education, affiliations, alma mater, social media presence, anything the publisher could use to get you into niche markets or publicity outlets. It will ask about your book: the blurb, special markets, unique features, questions an interviewer could ask you that would elicit elements you want to talk about. Now, I’m sure every publisher has a bit of a different format, but the message was clear. Take time on this questionnaire. Give your publisher every tidbit and morsel about you or your book that could ever make it marketable. And give it to them in a timely fashion. Take a look at a sample questionnaire here, to get some ideas. It would be great for self-published authors to fill this out too, so you can give yourself some ideas about special markets for your book.

While you fill out your questionnaire, the publisher is going to start positioning your book. Using the information you have given them, they will evaluate where to focus publicity efforts (radio, print, tv); hometown possibilities for you; put your work in their catalog; and develop promotional items like bookmarks, posters, and those little fliers that the bookstores put on their shelf under your book so it stands out. The catalogs come out twice a year for most publishers, and you want your book to be front and center in that catalog! Don’t be afraid to ask to see the catalog copy to make sure that there are no errors. Check out an online catalogue for Tor here, to see what type of info goes in these.

By October, the publisher will send the materials on your book to book clubs, and be exploring subsidiary rights options. Subsidiary rights are all the other rights that come along with your book that aren’t hardback print. It could be movie rights, digital, audiobook, running a relevant chapter in a magazine, foreign language versions…there are lots of options. If you sell any of these additional bundles of rights, you get more money. Yay!

In December (for our example–this also happens in May), the publisher goes to the twice a year publisher sales conference. Check out a great explanation of what happens at the sales conference here. By this time, the sales representatives for your publisher will have jackets, flap copy, catalogue description, promotional plans, etc. Ask to see these things, to make sure they are accurate. Your editor will likely be the person to present about your work at the sales conference, because sadly, they might be the only person who has actually read your book yet. If there are elements of your work you want them to focus on, tell them! Give them the talking points to ensure they don’t miss them.

Also by this time, the publicity department has begun preparing lists of appropriate reviewers, special mailing lists, or pitch letters for interviewers. If you have ideas for these that you haven’t included in your Author Questionnaire, share them with the publisher’s publicity department. If you know someone who you think would endorse your book, send them your manuscript pages to him or her well in advance, so you can get the endorsement in time to add it to your galley copies.

By February (or four months prior to publication), your publisher will send galley copies to Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, etc., i.e. everywhere that will review your book. Galley copies (also known as Advanced Review Copies (ARCs)) are semi-final copies of your book—the contents should be relatively set, but the cover is usually in a draft format. Your galley copy should have a paragraph about the book and a paragraph about the author on the back. You definitely want to know how many galley copies your publisher is planning on printing, and where they will be going. Make sure as many copies go out to relevant reviewers as possible. Alice recommended at least 50 galley copies go out, and if your publisher doesn’t want to pay for that many, it might be worth returning a portion of your advance to pay for the extras.

Approximately six weeks before “publication date,” (in our scenario, late April) we come to Bound Book date. This is the date when the book physically arrives in the publisher’s warehouse. The books will ship out and be available for sale in another two to three weeks.

June 1 is  considered the official publication date. Congrats! Now is when you’ll do your author appearances, phone interviews, etc.  Plus, all your great social media marketing that you’ve been planning on the side. The books will already be in the stores and available online by this date, but the publishers like to give a little cushion to make sure that the book is actually for sale when any publicity events occur.

Certainly, some publishers are going to do more than others, and each author’s experience will be different. But the greatest takeaway I gained from the class was that the author, even if publishing through a traditional publisher, can help move the process along. Educate yourself on what “should” be happening at each stage, and then advocate for yourself at critical stages in the process and make sure your book is getting the attention it deserves. The squeaky wheel gets the grease!

Also, help your publisher through marketing and advertising efforts you undertake yourself, whether social media campaigns, applying for awards, seeking endorsements, or searching for the right groups and publications to review your book. You can have a real positive impact over the process.

If you self-publish, the reality is that you’ll be doing these things yourself. But by knowing what efforts traditional publishers take, and how far in advance, you’ll have a better chance of getting some of the same exposure.

Photo by CraigFinley, cc license

2015 Blog-o-lutions


2015 has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. I took a good two weeks off from everything—my day job, writing, blogging, cleaning the house, generally being a responsible adult. It felt great, and was much needed, but I have found it a bit hard to get back into uber-productive mode. Netflix is a seductive siren. Yesterday, I finally started editing my first draft. I had been putting it off, but it felt really good once I got into it. I actually like my book! Bonus.

As part of getting back on track, I have come up with a few new year’s resolutions for my budding writing career.

1. Edit, finish, and submit Moonburner to agents and/or publishers. 

I have thought a lot about whether I will plan to self-publish or try to go the traditional publishing route. I have decided to give traditional publishing a try, partly out of curiosity about the process, and partly due to the vanity of the never-rejected…maybe, possibly, I could actually get picked up by a real publisher?

I fully expect that after 4-6 months of banging my head against that literary brick wall, I will turn to self-publishing. But I have decided I want to at least try.

2. Migrate this blog to and set up an email list.

Blogging is a big part of an author’s platform and I want to spend some time making this blog more professional. General consensus seems to be that moving out of the site gives you a lot more options, and building an email list is a great way of marketing once you finally have products coming out. So, together with prettying up the new site, those will be the first orders of business in the new year. This will likely also include thinking about branding and renaming the site (as much as I’d love to keep the site named after my dogs forever!).

3. Traffic!

I haven’t spent any time or effort trying to increase traffic to my blog. Mostly this was a forum for me to share my process, and blogging was really secondary to writing in terms of priorities. That is still the case, but I realize that blogging to a small audience is akin to lecturing in an empty classroom. I am looking forward to spending some time trying to grow my audience—guest blogging, bringing in guest bloggers, maybe even a give-away or two.

4. Purpose

Lastly, I want to develop a blogging schedule. Last year was a bit of a crap-shoot, and while I always had something to write about, there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to my blogging. I’d really like to develop an organized blogging schedule. I think it will revolve around what I want to learn as an author (self-editing will be high on the list) because I still have a lot to learn, and why not kill two birds with one stone!

That’s it! No need to over-commit myself, I’m sure these goals will keep me plenty busy. I’ve been honored to get to know some of you out there in the blog-o-sphere last year, and I can’t wait to see what the new year brings for all of us. Thanks for following!

Why YA? Some musings about categorizing my novel

Why YA? Some musings about categorizing my novel

Young adult “YA” fiction seems to be the current darling of the publishing world. The number of YA titles has grown more than 120% from 2002 to 2012. Yowza!

As I get closer to publication (not close…but certainly closer) I have been thinking about whether I want to categorize my book as fantasy or YA fantasy. My protagonist is 17 1/2 years old when the book starts, and having a teenage protagonist seems to be one of the qualifiers for a YA book. But my book also has swearing, and baby killing, and torture, and an attempted rape…these concepts seem a bit more mature. So I’m not quite sure which route to take.

This got me thinking. What other elements do “YA” books share? And is there a benefit to slotting your book into this genre? Is there a level of sex or violence where your book would really be better off categorized as adult fiction? These are questions I did not know the answer to. So I set off to find out.

What makes a book YA?

Looking into this subject revealed that there is not an authoritative answer. The lines are blurry. Certainly, the age of the protagonist has much, if not the most, to do with what category a novel fits in. Additionally, the target age of the audience plays a role. Although, we all know that plenty of YA books are read by adults; one source reported that on average, 55% of YA titles are bought by adults. I would read YA over adult fiction any day of the week…I deal with enough adult stuff in my own life, thank you very much.

In an article by The Guardian, the categories are laid out thusly:

Teen/Middle grade: Aimed at 12-14 year old readers (or protagonist)

YA: 14+ readers (or protagonist)

New Adult: College age readers (or protagonist)

Apparently, middle grade books can contain mild swearing and violence, while YA can definitely contain swearing, sex (though not too explicit), dark themes, and violence. The real sexy sex is more appropriate for the New Adult category.

Infographic by Graham Scott, visit for a larger version

Visit for a larger version

YA books are also known for certain themes. Young adolescent protagonists are charged with overcoming herculean challenges, finding themselves, and understanding their place in the world. They deal with feeling different or alone, discovering the opposite sex for the first time, and navigating friendships and relationships. These themes have to come across in an authentic voice, or it will ring false for the reader.

Additionally, the writing is usually simpler, and the plot is faster-paced. Often YA is written in first person/present tense, YA books are easily accessible to younger readers, and are enjoyable quicker reads for older readers. Not necessarily dumbed down, but just more straight-forward. YA books are not bogged down with unnecessary plot lines, verbose description and narrative, or flowery prose that distracts from the storyline.

YA books are also typically shorter: According to Writer’s Digest, an adult novel should be between 80,000 and 90,000 words, while YA books are more often 55,000 to 70,000. (Although note that certain adult genre fiction has different limits, for instance adult fantasy can be 100,000-115,000+).

Is there a benefit to categorizing your book as YA?

I didn’t find a conclusive answer to this question, but I think there is a benefit, at least at this point in time. The YA market has exploded. The Association of American Publishers reported that in May 2011 the industry sold $7 million in YA ebooks, which jumped to $27 million per month one year later–a 300% increase. The AAP announced that children’s and YA books accounted for most of the industry growth in the first part of 2014, with year-over-year gains for the first seven months.

Publisher’s Weekly also  noted that readers 18 and over accounted for 79% of Young Adult book purchases in late 2012 to through 2013. So certainly, you will not lose adult readers by categorizing your book as YA. In fact, you will arguably have a wider readership by categorizing as YA.

YA is definitely the direction I am leaning towards. I want a piece of that 300% increase pie! Plus, I think my novel naturally gravitates in that direction. Its not incredibly dark, violent, or erotic. I think it will top out at around 75,000 words, which more naturally fits in the YA category than traditional adult fantasy. Regardless of what I ultimately decide, it is exciting to watch the industry trends unfold, and to see authors having such success!

Featured infographic from NY Magazine,

A beginning

I am a bit nervous as I write this first post, as I am embarking on a new and unfamiliar path. I’ve decided to write a novel, or two, or perhaps three. What kind of book, you ask? A fantasy novel. I have been a devourer of this genre since a young age, and no matter how my adult self tries to argue that I should be reading the classics, or educational non-fiction, there is nothing else that satisfies. While I love to write, write quite a lot for work, and have written recreationally for various lawyerly publications, I know absolutely nothing about novel writing.

That’s why I decided to start this blog to document my journey. I hope to be able to use it to look back on how far I have come, when I may be frustrated or tired. I also hope that this memorialization of the process might encourage other aspiring authors, once I have joined the esteemed ranks of J.K. Rawling and George R.R. Martin (fingers crossed). So, here goes nothing!

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