The Birth of a Novel
Part 8: Publicists, Brand, and Platform
The Golden Handcuffs: Once publishers (with or without literary agents) express interest in your manuscript for publication, it’s time to evaluate your legal rights, financial position, and the publicity needed to bring your work to the attention of the public. Regardless of the publication route you’ve chosen, you will need an author’s “platform” and a “brand” to launch your work, and help doing so.
While the largest traditional publishers1 assume the costs of production for books they buy, they also retain complete artistic control over the work, determine how much money to allot to its marketing and distribution, and make all the decisions about product placement and lifespan. The author has no input in any of these decisions. The publisher can use whatever title, cover and interior design it chooses, and decide when to terminate efforts to promote you. Gulp.
Moreover, a “Big Five” publisher will pay you the smallest royalty percentage of any of the publishing options, and if they offer you an advance, it will probably not be large. Furthermore, most books do not “earn out” their advances. It’s no wonder that more and more authors are abandoning the traditional model! Times have changed. It is essential that you consult with a lawyer who specializes in representing authors before signing a publishing contract and before slipping on the golden handcuffs.
What Publicists Do: If you’re self-publishing or contracting with an independent publisher (not one of the large, corporate publishing conglomerates), you will be responsible for marketing your book and your message to the world. You may also be intimately involved in the book’s distribution, in researching your target audience, writing all the copy that appears on the book’s cover, the synopsis which appears on all marketing materials, and working closely with the cover designers and proofreaders.
Under the non-traditional publishing models, the author retains artistic control, and benefits mightily from the expertise of the right publicist—one who has relationships with book review outlets, print media, bloggers, and organizations that hold contests and give book awards. The objective is to draw attention to your novel by advertising in social media and strategically chosen print media, by getting pieces you have written published in on-line publications, on blogs and in print media, and by employing social media to attract the public to read your work and write reviews.
Publicists can create and renovate an author’s website, create a professional Facebook page, and advise you on blogging, tweeting, and posting in ways that maximize your presence and your brand in to attract followers. Once your book begins to receive positive reviews, a publicist can help you maximize them: excerpt them for posting on line, use in advertising, press releases or posters, and on your website.
Publicists can help place an author’s articles with publishing outlets, arrange book store appearances, coverage in local media, podcasts, interviews, and can design graphics which employ the cover art of your book to use in advertising. Publicists can enter their clients’ books in contests and send them out to a myriad of reviewers.
Your Brand: Your message, your themes, your areas of specialty, and the art work of your cover, memes, and advertisements comprise your brand. They should capture the feel and nature of your work, and create an enticing emotional response in the viewer.
Your Platform: The author’s platform consists of your website, your followers, your body of work, your on-line presence, and your reputation. It will never be “done” until you are. The more robust your author’s platform, the greater your appeal will be to potential publishers and followers. Building a platform takes time and should be undertaken with care and consistency, reflecting your personal philosophy and values. Embrace the opportunity, and spend some time each day enriching your platform, interacting with people, reading and writing, researching the influencers in your field, the masters of your genre, and the experts in your areas of interest.
Next: After the Contract—Publishing Logistics & Distribution
1 (1) Hachette Book Group; (2) HarperCollins Publishers; (3) MacMillan; (4) Penguin Random House; and (5) Simon & Schuster. Valerie Peterson, http://publishing.about.com/od/BookPublishingGeneralInfo/a/The-Big-Five-Trade-Book-Publishers.htm, Feb. 29, 2016.
Jennifer Dwight has worked as a writer and paralegal in the San Francisco legal community for more than 30 years. Her three law practice-related textbooks were published by major legal industry publishers; her fiction serial, The Dissemblance of Marie Mirabeau, ran for 60 weeks in The San Francisco Daily Journal, while many of her short stories and articles have appeared in Legal Assistant Today, National Paralegal Reporter and various bar association and paralegal organization newsletters. She has been a guest speaker at paralegal schools and presented seminars in California.
Jennifer’s newest book, The Tolling of Mercedes Bell, is a suspense novel, literary fiction, and a legal/ psychological thriller. A finalist in the 2016 Indie Next Generation Book Awards in both Suspense and Thriller categories, it has been heralded by Suspense Magazine, Sunset Magazine, Coastal Living Magazine, Working Mother Magazine and numerous on-line venues such as Bustle, Brit + Co., Buzzfeed, and The Reading Room. The San Francisco Book Review has called it “an unforgettable page-turner—a must-read by all!”
When she is not making public appearances for her new novel, Jennifer currently writes a series for the Portland Book Review, a blog, articles for various periodicals and on-line venues, and is at work on her second novel. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Rob Duffey, and their little black dog, Jackie Beane. Please visit her website at www.authorjenniferdwight.com.