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  • The Delicate Balance between Advance Publicity and Giving Away Too Much Too Early
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The Delicate Balance between Advance Publicity and Giving Away Too Much Too Early
Contributor
Written by
Brooke Warner
December 2012
Outlining
Contributor
Written by
Brooke Warner
December 2012
Outlining

Any aspiring author who has their sights set on getting published knows the value of an author platform. It’s practically drilled into you if you read writing blogs or attend a writers’ conference. Build your platform. Build your platform.

So you gear up and you get into it and you build, build, build. Eventually you get a book deal. Score! And then, lo and behold, your publisher tells you to hold back, to put the brakes on. After so much pushing, it feels a lot like a mandate to hurry up and wait. Or, more aptly, hurry up and stop.

Mixed message? Sort of.

Here’s the deal. Your platform is proof that you have a fan base. Publishers see your social media following and the fact that you’ve been published online and in magazines as a measure of the salability of your book.

Your platform is a gateway to traditional publishing. Once you’re in, however, the publisher calls the shots, and they base their decisions on very long windows of opportunity, otherwise known as advance publicity opportunities. Publishers covet advance publicity—things like national media or a guaranteed review or a secured op-ed opportunity—because it equals advanced orders from major accounts, like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. But guaranteed publicity translates to advanced orders, not guaranteed sales.

Book publishers are like gamblers, and the account reps for the major accounts are like dealers. If you think about a game of black jack, a sympathetic dealer will sometimes tell you when to stay or when to hit. They want you to win, but their job is to be dispassionate. To some extent it’s about the facts. If you extend this to books, account reps tell publishers whether the book has potential—if the cover is working; if they have a good title; if they think they can sell the book. They want books to succeed, but the publisher has to show a good hand, something worth getting excited about. The account rep is generally supportive, and the relationship is symbiotic, but only up to a point. Reps are looking for some sort of assurance, and the most concrete form of that is confirmed publicity. Just like dealers, account reps are pulling for the gambler to win. But the reality is that most books don’t sell that well, and publishers lose more than they win. Reps get tired of pitching and selling books that their buyers know no one is going to buy. So the push is for bigger and better platforms and for more confirmed publicity.

The hurry up and wait, by extension, has to do with the publicity window. Long-lead publicity starts six months before publication; short-lead is three months. A publisher will typically put the breaks on publicity leading up to publication because they’re working to secure publicity that will coincide with the release of your book. They don’t want too much buzz before the book is available. The worst thing that can happen to a book is for a major media opportunity to hit before there are books available for consumers to buy. So the publisher times these things, and they want their authors to be on board.

When your publisher tells you to pull on the reins, your focus needs to shift from telling your story to building community. This is how you continue to build without blowing your wad, so to speak. Keep focused on the specific issues that drive your book, but don’t give your story away. Spend some time with your publicist to consider what your major media pitches will be and then work angles that continue to bring readers to you without translating into direct publicity.

For those of you still chasing the book publishing deal, you don’t have to be too concerned about giving away too much too soon. Getting a book deal is tough. Keeping your story under wraps isn’t doing you any favors. Build your platform and take any media opportunity that comes your way. The long road to having a strong platform varies a lot depending on your genre. For most novelists, your platform comes with getting publishing credits under your belt. For memoirists, it stems from connecting your book to a specific issue. For prescriptive writers, it’s about becoming an expert in your field. You don’t have the luxury to say no to opportunities until you’re signed by a publisher. So keep doing what you’re doing and don’t say no just because you have a friend who’s getting published whose publisher told her to hold back. You don’t hold back until you’ve arrived.

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Comments
  • Donna Ashby Moore

    Good lessons for one uneducated in constructing her"platform" like me.  Thank you. 

     

  • Shannon Hutcheson

    An incredibly helpful post. Thank you so much!

  • Juliet Wilson

    Good advice!

  • Laurie Kahn

    Thanks Brooke. 

  • Julie Luek

    Good advice -- thanks.

  • Rose Marie Augustine

    This gold nugget of information is helpful.  Thank you for the post.

  • Daphne Q

    Good post. I hadn't thought of some of this stuff.