I’ve been threatening to create this checklist for a while, but there’s no time like the present, so here goes.
I’m amazed at how often I have to remind authors and publishers (well ok I don’t have to remind them all but when it’s a book I’m involved in promoting or even just one I want to see do well, I can’t help myself) to cover off the basics.
The online book buying and recommendation process is not the same as the in-store buying experience, and while it’s got some advantages (instant gratification when you’re buying an ebook, for instance; no trek to the store or waiting for a special order to come in the case of pbooks), it’s also got some disadvantages. The inability to browse the entire book tops the list for me – while I’m a fairly conventional in-store browser easily hooked or turned off by the first page and I certainly never look at the last page of a book when considering buying it, I do flip through the book and my eye is often caught by a phrase or a paragraph that influences my decision to buy. Cover, paper colour, quality and show-through as well as typography influence me. I rarely buy books I think are ugly. When buying online though, I’ll let content override style if content’s available. If not, you’ve probably lost the sale.
Far too often though I notice publishers (whether traditional or self publishers) haven’t taken advantage of the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon’s various sites. Borders offers a Google preview feature. At Barnes and Noble it’s ‘see inside.’ Chapters Indigo and Waterstones don’t offer this feature, and I can only hope they’ve got something in the works. And then there’s the matter of coverless books on Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing. So – here’s the pre-release checklist. If anyone can think of anything I’ve forgotten, please chime in in the comment section and I’ll update the list.
Authors: even though it may not seem like your job, you need to be engaged with your own product. If you notice your book is listed but the listing isn’t complete, get on the phone to your publisher, sic your agent on your publisher – just make it happen.
Pre-release checklist for authors and publishers
- As soon as the book you’re about to release is finalized, get the cover up on online booksellers’ sites.
- Apply immediately to activate the ‘look inside’ (or whatever it’s called) feature everywhere you possibly can. People need to be able to browse online and without this feature, they’re dependent on reviews and on previous experiences with the author. If it’s a first novel they haven’t got the latter. And not all reviews are good. It can take a few days for this feature to ‘propagate’ – or whatever the heck it’s called in the online tech world. Don’t delay – and don’t start publicizing the release until it’s up and running. Some people may find it anyway, but you don’t have to make matters worse by promoting a book people can’t begin to judge for themselves.
- Get the book listed on the three major book social networking sites, Goodreads, LibraryThing and Shelfari. Make sure a cover image is uploaded for each edition (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback) and for each geographic region (people may not recognize the book if only the UK or only the US or only the Australian cover is posted).
- Make sure you add both 10-digit and 13-digit ISBN numbers (having a copy of the book in front of you is helpful for this).
- If you’ve invested in a trailer for the book you’re releasing, create a YouTube channel either for your publishing company or for the book and get content up there. You may want to put comment moderation on YouTube – it’s not your grandma’s social networking playground and it’s better to never let comments appear than it is let them get up there and then delete them.
- Organize giveways on the book social networking sites for at least some of your titles. Don’t be stingy, especially with first books by unknown authors. In order for word of mouth to work, you’ve got to get mouths moving.
- ASK people to add reviews to online book selling and book networking sites. They may do it if you don’t ask but they’re more likely to do it if you remind them to. This is one area in which the online book selling sites have an amazing advantage over bricks and mortar stores – take advantage of it, because it’s the one real advantages you’ve got over the three dimensional in store buying experience.
- Get a decent photo of yourself taken and experiment with converting it to black and white if it’s a colour photo. Choose one you can live with for a while. While it would be nice to have an official photo shoot done, you may not be able to afford this. If you can take a decent self portrait, do it (you’d be amazed how much more interest self portraits generate on flickr than portraits do – presentation of self is fascinating to many). Make a deal with a decent photographer – amateur or pro – to ensure you don’t show up as an egg on Twitter or a big blank on Amazon and Goodreads. It matters. I know Julian Barnes is never going to propose to me. But I buy or read all his books and it isn’t just because he’s an amazing author. It’s also because, based on his photo, he’s someone I’d love to have a conversation with.
- While your book’s being edited, make sure you’ve created author profiles on every online site that will be selling your book. That means multiple Amazon profiles – you’ll have to create them for .co, .com, .ca, .au. Don’t reinvent the wheel: use the same profile. This may make the process seem less onerous.
- Repeat step 2 for Goodreads, LibraryThing and Shelfari.
- Claim your books on the book social networking sites listed in step 3.
- If you’ve got a blog or a web site, add the blog feed to the book social networking sites listed in step 3 and push your blog content to these sites.
- Add your blog feed to your Facebook page as well and do status updates with new posts as well.
- Get someone to take photos of the launch if you’re having one. The photos shouldn’t all be of you – get photos taken of people enjoying themselves at your reading/launch. Video works here too. Then post the photos to your Facebook page, tweet a few of them, blog about the experience (Were you terrified? Did you have fun? Were you artfully keeping your legs crossed so no one would see the run in your pantyhose? How many times did you check to see if your fly was open? Did someone ask a question that startled you, or made you think about the book you wrote or a character you created in a different light?)
- Post news about your book – dates it will be available, translation rights sold, foreign rights sold, upcoming interviews, great reviews, interviews that have appeared or that you’re about to do, readings, signings, festivals you’re attending on Facebook and Twitter and the book social networking sites.
- Create events when you’re making appearances on Goodreads and LibraryThing – or nag your publisher or publicist or your spouse if s/he’s willing to help – to do so.
What have I missed? Let me know in the comments and I’ll update the post.