...make your own path!
At least twice in the past week, I have received a couple of emails from authors which read something like this:
"I'm really concerned because we have sent out all of these press releases to my local newspapers, and nobody has printed anything about my book. What's going on? Why aren't they helping me promote my book?"
"I have called my local bookstores several times, and they keep telling me they can't schedule a signing with me because ________. What's going on? Why aren't they helping me promote my book?"
I have received emails like this before, and in fact some authors have copied me on emails they have sent to their local newspapers and bookstores which basically browbeat them, asking why they aren't doing more to help a local author promote their book. Yikes.
Let's take a closer look at these two comments, and then discuss them in greater depth:
"I'm really concerned because we have sent out all of these press releases to my local newspapers and nobody has printed anything about my book. What's going on?"
The answer is: I don't know. The decision to run a press release is strictly up to the newspaper or media outlet you (or I) sent it to. They are under no obligation to use it just because you sent it to them. I used to work as a reporter, and I received dozens of press releases every single day. Some made the cut, but many others did not.
Here is a dirty little secret about book publicity: the simple act of releasing a book is not as much of a newsworthy event as it used to be. There were more than 560,000 books released in the U.S. last year, or more than 1,500 titles per day. Newspapers are not going to necessarily trip over themselves printing an article about the release of a title, unless they consider something about the book to be newsworthy. If you can somehow convince a media outlet that YOUR book is newsworthy, and give them a good reason why their readers would be interested in it, they may very well interview you and run a story. Media outlets are in the business of attracting readers, viewers or listeners, and if they think a story about you or your book will do that, they will contact you. You have to have a newsworthy angle, or something unique about you or your book that would warrant a story. Having an upcoming book signing event in the area does help.
"I have called my local bookstores several times, and they keep telling me they can't schedule a signing with me because ________."
Here is another dirty little secret about book publicity: bookstores don't like to say "no" to authors requesting book signing events, so they will sometimes come up with other reasons why they "can't" host an event for you: the book isn't in their ordering system, they are booked solid for the next six months, they have temporarily stopped doing events or the publisher hasn't done "something" that would allow the author to have a signing. Perhaps these are valid and honest reasons, but often it's just a "no." They may not want to be seen as the "bad guy" who turned down an author for an event, but basically that's what they are doing.
Repeatedly contacting a store after they have declined to host an event for you will not only not work, but it might actually affect your ability to get an event at other stores in the area. Bookstore employees and mangers do talk to each other, especially to other stores in their chain, so becoming known as a "difficult" author is not something you want to do. Not every bookstore is going to agree to host you for an event. Bookstore managers will agree to host an event if they think they can sell your book. Some bookstore managers dislike doing book signing events. Rejection is part of the business. I hear "no" from bookstores and other venues every day. It's not personal. If the answer is "no" just move on to another venue until you find one that says "yes." If you happen to have an article or story about your book coming out in the local media soon, that can very quickly change the mind of a bookstore manager. They want to get in on some of that free publicity. However, continuing to hound them for an event will not work, and will actually hurt you in the long run.
Remember, it's not the job of a media outlet or a bookstore to help you promote your book. They will do so if there is something in it for them, but not because they owe you anything, because really...they don't. They are doing you and your publisher a favor when they agree to run an article about your book, or when they agree to host you for a book signing event. This is why I always thank both profusely when they agree to do something for one of my authors.
Take rejection in stride and continue to reach out to your book's niche audience, and great things can happen, with or without the help of your local papers or bookstores.