During the summer I posted a query on Linkedin asking for Q&A participants for this blog and I was incredibly lucky to hear from an amazing novelist who’s turned into a source of inspiration for me. Her name is Jennie Nash and you’re about to learn how this powerhouse fiction writer has been able to become the success that she is. Jennie is the author of three books. Her first novel is The Last Beach Bungalow (Berkley, 2008). And she’s written two memoirs: The Victoria’s Secret Catalog and Other Lessons I Learned From Breast Cancer (Scribner, 2001) and Raising a Reader: A Mother’s Tale of Desperation and Delight (St. Martin’s Press, 2004). Read them, but first please read part one of my interview with Jennie:
Leslie: You’ve worked hard to publicize your own books. Why not leave it up to the publishers?
Jennie: I publish one book every couple years. My publisher, on the other hand, releases several hundred books four times a year. They simply can’t lavish time and attention and dollars on every one of those books. They do the best that they can, but some books get more of those good things than others. Books by celebrities, for example, or best-selling authors, or authors who happened to write about a topic at precisely the moment when that topic becomes hot, will get the most publicity. This makes perfect sense from a business standpoint. Although many people in publishing are in it because they love books, publishers have to make money at the end of the day. It stands to reason that they will put the most resources behind the products that are likely to generate the most income. If a magic publicity-generating event happens to one of my books — i.e. Oprah calls, or Angelina Jolie is photographed on the beach with it — then you can bet my publisher will be there with time and attention and dollars to capitalize on that event. But until that day, the responsibility for generating publicity and sales falls to me. I could jump up and down and declare that this is totally unfair or I could rail against our mass-market, celebrity-centric society, but that takes a lot of energy. I’ve decided, instead, to shoulder the responsibility and give my books the best boost I can.
Leslie: Doesn’t publicity take a lot of money?
Jennie: It can. Professional publicists are expensive, and ad space is expensive, but there are many things author can do that don’t take a deep bank account. You can, for example, email independent bookstores about your book, offer to call into book clubs who are reading your book or write to bloggers who write about a similar topic. Every author wants to be on The Today Show, but most don’t start out there. You have to build an audience, and that can take time. It all starts with a few fans, a few believers. I make a point of responding personally to every single reader who emails me about my books. Granted, I don’t (yet!) have an overwhelming number of fans, but I cherish the ones I have — and that’s something that doesn’t take any money whatsoever.