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Starting Over, But Not From Scratch: Book Marketing Insights From a Third-Career Debut Novelist

Starting Over, But Not From Scratch: Book Marketing Insights From a Third-Career Debut Novelist

Former public relations government and profession marketing consultant Rita Dragonette outlines the guide advertising methods she employed together with her debut novel, from creating her on-line presence to organizing ebook occasions and artistic publicity campaigns.

Once I used to counsel shoppers in profession transitions, I’d inform them, “You’re starting over, but not from scratch.” That’s the identical lesson I’ve discovered from the launch of my first novel, The Fourteenth of September (She Writes Press, September 2018). After almost 30 years telling the tales of others in my careers as a public relations government and profession marketing consultant, it’s additionally the recommendation I’d give to anybody with their first novel able to introduce to the world.

No matter your background, take acute stock of the talents you might have—talking, gross sales, reviewing, persuading, educating—and use it to speed up your success within the guide business. That’s what I did once I determined to formally start the change of my love of writing from avocation to vocation 13 lengthy years in the past once I began my first novel and my final enterprise concurrently. I don’t advocate that mixture, by the best way, as a result of neither endeavor stayed of their meant part-time field, however it did present me how one can faucet into the talents I needed to make tracks. I knew I couldn’t spend the identical period of time studying and perfecting this new profession as I did the earlier ventures. I merely wouldn’t reside that lengthy.

As an alternative, I used to be pressured to make use of the strategic expertise I’d discovered within the enterprise world and determined from the onset that relatively than flay round on my own, I’d go straight to the specialists for recommendation.

Whereas nonetheless working, I enrolled within the Author’s Studio program at College of Chicago Graham Faculty (U of C) for critical craft education, incomes a certificates in artistic writing with a focus in novel, the closest I’d get to an MFA on my delayed time-frame, however needed critical coaching and credentialing. Through the two-year program I additionally attended conferences to familiarize myself with the business, notably the advertising/agent periods at AWP, Juniper, and Chicago Author’s Affiliation. I thought-about this, analysis.

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When the U of C program concluded, I used to be accepted for a number of residencies at Ragdale, artist’s retreat to make sure output, refine my writing course of, and meet revealed writers, completely satisfied to share their experiences. I additionally volunteered to assist writers I met who had new books via a common collection of Literary Salons in my residence, introducing them to my avid reader pals. You might name what I did, literary networking.

As my manuscript superior towards conclusion, I had extra advertising than writing expertise and I used them assess what I needed to accomplish to efficiently achieve consideration for my novel, as if I have been my very own shopper.

My first step was to develop a State of affairs Evaluation of what I had working for and towards me. Right here it’s:


  • Like anybody else beginning out, I used to be a debut writer amongst hundreds, a horse in a maiden race.
  • Although I’d been telling the tales of others for years, I had no monitor report of publication, nor social media profile underneath my very own identify.
  • The time-frame of my material, the Vietnam Warfare, had been an unpopular and seemingly irrelevant matter for a lot of the years I’d been writing my manuscript.
  • This was a third profession for me; brokers wouldn’t readily see me as somebody to work with to construct a substantial multi-book writing profession.

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  • I had the teachings of almost 30 years of high-level, skilled advertising experience at a time when the publishing business has shifted a lot of that duty to the author and put a excessive worth on their potential to promote their very own books.
  • I had developed a basis of a community of different writers and influencers inside the group that might be constructed upon.
  • I had a strong, unique story and (after years of enterprise shows) the power to “talk it” properly.
  • Abruptly, the topic of Vietnam was very a lot within the zeitgeist (thanks, Ken Burns, Stephen Spielberg and the writers of That is Us).

The Backside Line

I needed to reap the benefits of this unanticipated window of alternative for my topic whereas concurrently translating my competence as each a author and marketer into relevance within the publishing business. It was a tall order! My general technique can be to make use of my enterprise and advertising expertise to create phantasm till actuality took over—and to market the hell out of this primary e-book to boost my profile as a author and ease the method for the subsequent.


The Plan

My preliminary goal was, in fact, to hunt agent illustration and acquire a writer, and I used to be able to spring to comply with typical knowledge by asking my community of different writers to introduce me to their brokers.

Nevertheless, Deborah Siegal of Woman Meets Voice, a author and advisor I’d met at Ragdale, satisfied me that I first wanted a presence—a website that potential brokers might click on on the minute they heard my identify—and maybe a weblog to exhibit each my means to put in writing, in addition to to construct a community of people that’d be interested by my ebook.

Given my technique, this made good sense. I created a website online that bridged writing and enterprise to speak professionalism and advertising experience, earlier than there was a “real” guide in existence. I needed it to command consideration with a stylish and distinctive look that represented me as a author and teased out my story. I requested writers who’d learn earlier variations of the manuscripts for “blurbs,” videotaped an prolonged interview by Siegal as if she have been media, and crammed the location with fascinating details about the time-frame of the e-book, my historical past, photographs, literary influences, a playlist of songs from the ebook, a record of communities I used to be a member of, three different books I’ve within the hopper…every thing I might consider to show that when it got here to promoting the e-book, I knew what I used to be speaking about.

For sure, shortly after the launch, I used to be happy to listen to from a well-known author, who expressed, “I don’t know how the book reads, but anyone who looks at this web site can sure tell that you can sell anything.” (Test it out at

I additionally labored with Siegal to develop a weblog “voice” and commenced a common collection of distinctive brief essays about topics that have been associated to my e-book, however not self-serving—from portraits of present radicals from again within the day to musings on key anniversaries of the Vietnam time-frame. My mailing record started to develop; curiosity started to construct.

I used to be now able to solicit brokers. Step certainly one of this was surprisingly profitable, with writers prepared to assist. The match, nevertheless, was not all the time one of the best. Early within the course of, Siegal prompt She Writes Press they usually accepted me instantly. Although my agent search was nonetheless younger, SWP was nimble and will get me into the market shortly to benefit from the subject window. I made a decision this was my precedence and signed up.

The Countdown

As a former PR skilled, I’d lengthy had my ear to the bottom about potential assets and didn’t hesitate to rent a literary publicity company I’d vetted whereas nonetheless writing my manuscript to amplify information of my ebook. I knew that my entrée into conventional media can be hampered by the unbiased classification of my writer and my debut standing, so we began small, and labored to get more and more extra mainstream.

I employed millennials versed in social media to arrange platforms, ship out messaging and leverage all placements, no matter how minor, till I might discover ways to do it myself. My profile grew quickly. As they proceeded, I additionally activated contacts with all my constituencies—from the College of Chicago and Ragdale, to my enterprise networks and alumni connections. As a result of I knew I used to be good at speaking the ebook in individual, I arrange an aggressive collection of occasions from giant events to smaller salons, in my hometown of Chicago in addition to in New York Metropolis and Southern California the place I had connections—over 20 in a two-month time-frame.

Within the course of, I made relationships with unbiased bookstores, reconnected with associates who’d heard about my guide over its lengthy gestation, acquired my alumni behind me as a profitable grad, and have become more and more concerned within the Chicago literary group.

By this level, the preliminary info in my site was being changed with information and movies of precise occasions, publicity and social media protection. Phantasm had grow to be actuality! Within the phrases of a veteran public relations skilled: “You’re doing more than most well established authors I know.”

The Impression of Giving Again

This feels like a lot of hard-edged belly-to-belly advertising, however there was extra to it. By turning into concerned within the bigger writing group I’ve been capable of help different authors and faucet into our familial tendency to need to assist one another—by way of supporting occasions, critiques, blurbs. Such involvement pays (and can proceed to pay) off, in spades, with rewards approach past e-book gross sales.

A part of the objective of any author is to make their books related and common. Probably the greatest methods to perform that’s by way of altruism. The subtitle of my e-book is “A Coming of Conscience Novel.” I needed to spotlight the journey of my important character in l969-1970, but in addition apply it to right now’s world. My protagonist is a feminine in school on a army scholarship who faces a determination as emotionally intense and fraught as that of any male draftee of the time. To tie this to the current, I developed a social giving marketing campaign that might “fund” a scholarship on the real-life college the fictional CIU is predicated upon in my novel. If readers share photographs of the duvet of their copies of The Fourteenth of September with the hashtag #comingofconscience throughout their social media platforms, and/or their very own private coming-of-conscience moments, I donate $1 to $5 per engagement. This system exchanges visibility for doing good, and has been very well-received.

At this level, simply over three months after launch, with occasions scheduled via the primary quarter of subsequent yr, I’m happy with the outcomes: 21 occasions with attendance of over 400, a second printing deliberate earlier than the top of the yr, strong evaluations and a large quantity of pleasure. The tempo has been daunting however the course of basic. I put a lot of irons within the hearth that appeared to make sense. Most of them got here out. As we are saying within the PR enterprise, most shoppers take between 60-75% of what you advise. As my very own shopper, I might take all of it, and guess what? It really works! I deliberate the method of launching my debut novel and executed as if I have been already an completed writer.

With correct planning and, I admit, extra assets than most, phantasm has develop into actuality.

What expertise do you will have in the present day that you could faucet and emphasize to compensate for being a novice within the subject. Who may help you? There’s no have to do it alone…or from scratch.

Rita Dragonette is a author who, after spending almost 30 years telling the tales of others as an award-winning public relations government, has returned to her unique artistic path. The Fourteenth of September, her debut novel, is predicated upon her private experiences on campus through the Vietnam Conflict. The novel, which got here out from She Writes Press in September has already gained the Ladies’s Fiction Class within the Beverly Hills Book Awards, been designated a finalist for 2 2018 American Fiction Awards by American Book Fest, and acquired an honorable point out within the Hollywood Book Pageant. She is presently at work on three different books: an homage to The Solar Additionally Rises about expats chasing their final dream in San Miguel de Allende, a World Warfare II novel based mostly upon her curiosity within the impression of warfare on and thru ladies, and a memoir in essays. She lives and writes in Chicago, the place she additionally hosts literary salons to showcase authors and their new books to avid readers.

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