Friday, July 07, 2006

Marshaling Publicity

Ha, I'm back from overseas. Honestly, I don't like travelling so much, but what can I do? :(

How does one get press for one's book? Well, usually the publisher gives the press each a copy of your book and hope they review it/give it publicity. But more often that not, unless your publisher knows someone in there, the press won't pick it up. Sad but true. But you are competing with hundreds of other books out there? Why should they pick you above all others?

That's when you, dear author, have to come in.

It does help if you write for the very press who are going to be the ones to give your book publicity. At the very least you are guaranteed a review. But what if you don't know them?

This is where having a 'really thick skin' comes in.

I write for a newspaper and a couple of magazines. And even then, asking them to give me publicity is difficult. First, you can't control what they write. Next, you can't control when it comes out. You can't keep calling them either, because they'd get tired of you :) So you just give them what they need and hope for the best.

And what about the newsies and mags you have no affiliation with? If your publisher doesn't either, then it's up to you to march up to their offices and ask them very nicely if they'd do a feature on you. And yes, that is exactly what I did. Never mind if I don't know them - I went up to introduce myself. And in the process, I have made new friends.

A process goes like this:
ME: Hi, I'm the author of Dark City.
PRESS (aghast): No, you can't be.
ME: I am. Really.
PRESS: Uck! I can't believe you wrote that book.

My main problem on doing publicity for my book is that I'm a pseudonym, and I refuse when they want a picture of me. For them, no picture = no interview. And so I strain myself coming up with angles on how they can feature me. For the press, it's all about the angle of the story, otherwise you'd have to contend with a book review.

Note that all my publicity so far has been book reviews and an article I wrote myself in The Star.

I'm still trying to come up with the other angles they can feature me on without having to photograph me. Ideas, anyone?


Yvonne Lee said...

Hi! Must put on my thinking cap to deal with this topic of how to get publicity when one is using a pseudonym. The closest I can think of is Mr Midnight.

The last time he was in town, the fans went crazy over him because he appeared in a black hooded garb. That's enhanced sense of mystery.

Perhaps Xeus can appear in the Arabian garb? Hehehe....only can see your fluttering eyelashes?

Anyway, this topic about how to solicit interviews is very interesting and please allow me to share my experience.

I was called Book PR Queen by Lydia for garnering more than 2 dozens interviews here, in S'pore and HK in just 3 months after my book came out. But believe me, they didn't just fall from the sky but through hard work too.

Believe me, some publications had also refused to give me coverage for the reason, I'm the 'over-exposure' kind of subject, since I've been featured by rival publications, they did't want to 'recycle' my story.

To over come this, I've to use some ingenuity to repackage my pitch and give them a fresh angle from their rivals.
Know the columns in the publication you're pitching by the back of hand, find out from previous issues where they can possibly feature you before pitching them.

The first most important thing when soliciting for interview is to create a good press kit on your book and yourself ( most writers normally have the ingenuity to package it as interesting and catchy as possible to entice the publications), perhaps a good photo, lots of politeness and luck in your emails to them.

I was told by one editor friend that one's email heading is the most vital in determining whether a pitch goes to the thrash or being opened at all. If you know how to coin it well, bearing in mind the nature of the publication, your chances in getting a respond are better. For e.g. you don't send your " Cook the best Beef Dishes in Town" to a vegetarism publication.

Besides soliciting through email, of course it helps too that you know the editorial team. Or say you ask someone who knows them well to help canvas for you, which is how I'm also helping some new authors, whenever I can.

Another way is to offer free books as contest prizes in exchange for radio or TV interviews. I did that for Red fm and Traxx fm.

One more, I learnt from Lydia Teh, is where I try to write related articles for magazines and newspaper and got the editor to put footnote that I'm the author of TSIC.

Another tip is to be helpful when asked by magazines to participate in 'real people' cum product advertorial kind of interviews (that's very popular in women magazines). I was recently asked to road test a beauty product and the editor agreed to mention my book.

Lastly, amidst our eagerness, never ever hound the editors for a reply. Always be polite. I only enquire after three months if there's no respond. By then, sometimes, I'm lucky, a new editor takes over and she takes on my idea.

There are many ways to sell a book and one must take them as a hobby. Some people felt that there's too much work involved but if one enjoys meeting people, talking about your passion in book writing, it's no sweat. I've learnt so much from all the people I met in the course of promoting my books. I'm sure other authors are as passionate too.

Good Luck, Xeus!


Xeus said...

Brilliant post, Yvonne!! Actually, the one who dresses up all in black is Russell Lee (who is actually a gwei lo disguising himself as a local author). You can see his black garbed pics on his books.

One newspaper actually suggested one of my friends draw an illustration of one of my stories in place of my photo. Let's see how that works out. You'll know it when it appears!

Lydia Teh said...

Yvonne, you should have a blog too :) Actually, Russell Lee with his black mask popped into my mind too when I read Xeus's entry.

Xeus, Don't tell me that Russell Lee is also James Lee of the Mr. Midnight series?!

With regards to the angle, why not do one on Horror writers with pseudonyms? There's Russell Lee, James Lee who's not exactly a pseudonym but it isn't his real name either, its Aitchison. How about the local horror writers angle : Tunku Halim vs Xeus. There's also a series by Marshall Cavendish, written by locals. How about if you ask Starmag (they have column called Encounters or something like that which deals with spooky stories) if they want an extract of one of your stories. Your story is prob too long for one issue, so you prob need to serialize it. Yvonne, when your article came out in Weekender, did they pay you for that extract from TSIC?

Yvoone Lee said...

I think Lydia's idea is brilliant. Spooky stuff got lots of fans here. Read about Muzium Negara ( I think) and the latest spooky exhibits?

(To Lydia: yes, extract from my book was paid, but I didn't take the whole chapter completely, I re-wrote it but some gists were from one of the chapters, don't know if still can call this an extract.)

Xeus said...

Thanks for the wonderful ideas, guys. I think Russell Lee is Jim Aitchison, but James Lee is a different guy. His picture is on his books.

I have given a lot of angles to Star, and they have yet to sit and discuss on one. But thanks, guys, got more angles for them to write on now! I even suggested writing it myself :)

Lydia Teh said...

Xeus, Believe me, Jim Aitchison and James Lee is one and the same. I've read about him in the media and this is from Wikipedia :

Mr. Midnight is a teenager's horror-fiction series written by Jim Aitchison under the pseudonym of James Lee. The series is published by Angsana Books. There are currently 29 "episodes" of this book being distributed with more being written and released around every two months.
James Lee (Aitchison) resides in Singapore and is also the author of The Seriously Funny Anti-Stress Book, Sarong Party Girl, and the national songs such as "One People, One Nation, One Singapore" and "My Singapore Story" and even a teenagers mystery-fiction series called Mr. Mystery.
Now you're telling me Russell Lee is Jim Aitchison aka James Lee. Wah, that fella is very prolific and a very smart cookie.

Xeus said...

Lydia, then he is already a millionaire! An actual author millionaire. Actually, it was picking up his Mr Midnight that made me decide to write a children's book.

Yvonne Lee said...

I read in The Star that he's sold millions of copies of his series and is dubbed the Asian JK Rowling. His book is a best-seller in countries like S'pore, Thailand, Philipines etc.