October 22nd, 2008

ozarque figure

Writing nonfiction; launching the new GAVSD edition; part one...

Yesterday I told you that the new edition of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense [hereafter GAVSD II, for all our sakes] is coming out on March 30, 2009, and asked -- shamelessly -- for your suggestions about getting it launched properly. And bbe commented:

"When I see books mentioned on blogs and think, 'Gee, I think I'll buy that,' it's frustrating to search for it at B&N or Amazon and find out it's not available for ___ months. When that happens I lose my impulse, maybe add it to a wishlist, but more frequently I just forget it and never think of it again. I'd say make a big push to get it mentioned by other blogs, but only once it's available to order."

bbe is absolutely right. The trickiest thing about doing a nonfiction book launch, even when the book is part of a series, is that you need to start doing all the launch-work at least six months before the publication date -- but almost nothing you do is anything you can put out there in the real world until it's actually possible for people to order the book or go buy it in a bookstore. It's different with fiction; a successful fiction series builds a community of fans who are interested in that fictional world, and you can have conversations with them about the book well in advance. If you're a brilliant marketer you can do that for a nonfiction book -- I've seen it done, and have marveled at it -- but you have to be a really brilliant marketer. You have to have such great ideas that you can not only create interest in the book months ahead of time, you can also keep that interest alive and thriving.

And then there's the fact that GAVSD II is coming out as a Barnes & Noble "exclusive." That means it won't be available from amazon.com, only at barnesandnoble.com, which makes all the resources amazon.com offers an author off limits for this book. It means that some of the usual options a nonfiction author has with commercial publishers -- for example, turning in a list of twenty-five or thirty people for the publisher to send review copies to, at the publisher's expense -- won't be available. However, these two negatives are abundantly offset by the fact that the book will be on the shelves in every Barnes & Noble store -- which is a lot of stores -- and will be online at barnesandnoble.com, and can be special-ordered at any other bookstore.

cbpotts sent a list of suggestions, including:

1. Write an e-mail press release "announcing the new book, why there's a new edition of it, and what it means for readers right now. I'd send this press release to specific media outlets highly likely to be interested in your work: off the top of my head this would include NPR, the Booknotes program on CSPAN, and just about any language oriented or women centered TV/radio show." [cbpotts followed this up with the contact info for NPR's "Fresh Air," and metasilk posted some additional suggestions.]

2. Compile a list of online social networks/listservs/groups/etc. that would be interested in GAVSD II and approach them with the offer of an interview; send all the takers a list of suggested questions and talking points for the interviewers to use. [And catrambo, who does freelance interviews, offered to do some of the pitching for this one.]

3. Try for coverage in commercial magazines -- by partnering with a freelancer who would use me as the article's source.

crossfire and eclectic338 suggested:

4. Set up a website specifically for the book, with all sorts of articles and resources and information to make it sticky. [Note: I'd be on my own for this one; Barnes & Noble wouldn't see any need for a website. But there is a great deal of existing material for a website, already written over the course of the past thirty years, including a complete ten-lesson course that would only need to be updated to go with the new edition.]

lyonesse suggested:

5. "contact libraries, ymca's, adult-ed groups, book groups, see if anyone is interested in trying a 'gentle art of verbal self-defense' reading group/workshop for themselves? (heck, i could see if the local adult-ed schools were willing to offer one here. i may be utterly unqualified really, but i'm a linguist, so maybe they'd let me get away with offering one :)" [And a number of you responded that you'd be interested in a group like that.]

This post is getting way too long; I have to wind it up. Right now, what needs to be said is that all of the excellent suggestions above -- and the others you've sent, that I'll be posting about in part two -- are things that can't be put in place in the real world until the book is available for order, but for which all the work -- writing press releases, compiling lists of potential contacts, writing website content, writing a book club/workshop pitch, working on articles with a freelancer, and more -- has to be done now, so that it will all be finished and ready to go the instant the book is available. All of it. All at the same time.

Thank you, one and all, for your help...