Friday, November 8, 2013

Countdown to a Book 14: Pre-sales

You only have one opportunity to create “buzz” about your book, and you don’t want to squander it. The hope is to create enough excitement about your release so that it explodes from the gate. My gate opens—hopefully with a bang—less than three months from now, on January 28.

As you can see by the number “14” applied to this monthly post, I’ve already been creating buzz for The Art of Falling for some time now. So much so that every now and then—when people say, “Didn’t that already come out?”—I have to remind them that the bees haven’t already fled the hive!

Once you get fully invested readers to pre-order, however, you can stop worrying about that.

Now that pre-orders are live and the final copyedits complete, my evolving author website devotes two pages to my novel. 
  • The first shows the cover, a brief synopsis, trade review praise and blurbs, and—for the first time—debuts the opening chapter. If the reader is favorably impressed, she need do no more than click the link to her favorite pre-order site and complete the purchase to send my publisher (and by extension, brick-and-mortar bookstores) the message that excitement for this book is indeed growing.
  • The second is for book clubs so they know I'm hoping to speak directly to their needs with this book. 

Sourcebooks does not give away huge numbers of free Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) to end consumers, as they have not found that this drives sales. [To balance this argument from the indie side, we’ve recently had authors express the opposite opinion at BRP here and here.] Instead, they hope that each ARC will influence numerous readers by giving them to librarians, booksellers, trade reviewers, etc.  That said, Goodreads is one place where a giveaway can build buzz, as numerous avid readers learn about your book, enter a giveaway for one of five free books, then add it to their “to read” shelves (which means they’ll be automatically reminded of their interest on release day). For The Art of Falling, that effort ran August through October.

I’m going to explore this topic more in next month’s Countdown to a Book post, but for now, suffice to say that early positive reviews can slide your book into many an avid reader’s “to-be-read” list. Readers with NetGalley accounts can access the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review, and those have already started showing up on Goodreads.

For a long time my release date was January 7. It drove me nuts to not be able to take advantage of holiday sales! Then I had an idea. Why not reward those who pre-order my novel as a holiday gift by sending them cards that they can use as “placeholders” for the gift, which will arrive just a few short weeks after Christmas? I ordered them and they’re beautiful. They feature my stunning book cover on the front and are blank on the inside so that the giver can add his/her own message.

After making this investment my release date was moved. Publishers will sometimes do this when they learn of big books coming out so that their debut authors don’t get washed out to sea. But now, instead of a few short weeks after Christmas, the book will arrive several long weeks after.

But I still have the cards, so: If you pre-order my book for holiday giving, go to my my website contact form, send me your snail-mail and the number of copies ordered, and I’ll mail off to you the commensurate number of cards. You will also earn my undying gratitude. While you’re there, sign up for my author newsletter for updates.

Network • Network • Network
Did you know that one way you can help your author friends is to carry their books around in public—even if you don’t suspect you’ll have time to read it while you're out? Years ago women at hairdressers everywhere were reading Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones; more recently I saw patients at doctors' offices with Leif Enger’s So Brave, Young and Handsome. Well, that can work with your own ARC, too!

The waitress sees it on the table, she remarks on that dramatic cover, you tell her you wrote it and when it’s coming out, then slip her a business card that has your book cover on the back, mentioning it’s available now for pre-order. People have asked me about it while sitting beside me in the theater and while walking down the street—and in each case they whipped out their smart phones and wrote down the title! My husband is also a deputized card distributor, as are key enthusiasts in different geographic areas who love the book. While you're at it, ask people to like your Facebook Author Page so you can stay in touch. Some people won’t care, but they’re polite about it. Others will think you’re the most generous rock star they ever met.

Next: Countdown to a Book 15: Author Quotes

Just catching up? Search results for this series can be found here:
Countdown to a Book

Okay, what am I missing? Let’s do a group brainstorm and help Kathryn fill in the missing promo pieces so she can drive pre-sales. Meanwhile, we'll all learn in the process!

Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her women's fiction and memoir are represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her monthly series, "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks in January 2014. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.


  1. Publicity and promotion are my weak spots. I'll be copying down the wisdom in this series of posts for my next book. Thanks for sharing your process.

  2. Kathryn, I'd love to have you do a guest post on my blog after the first of the year. If you don't already have my email address, you can get it on my blog's profile at or message me at Facebook

    1. Thanks, Pat, what a lovely invitation! Will be in touch.

  3. Fantastic info here, Kathryn!

    Have you considered marketing your book through dance schools and ballet companies? Many such entities must exist throughout the country. How about schools such as St. Paul's, Interlochen, and similar academies of the arts? What about organizations that work with those who suffer from eating disorders? And Boys and Girls Clubs all over the nation, where young people learn to respect and value themselves and their own uniqueness?

    1. Linda, I had thought along those lines exactly. Luckily I stopped just short of paying for the list of college dance companies from across the country and instead tried it out on four college dance company directors first, who accepted an ARC to review but I never heard back, despite the fact that I know one loved it, and the others were eager to read it. One even blurbed it but stopped short of making plans for me to come speak. And the dance director at our local charter school for the performing arts isn't getting back to me.

      Maybe the "leap" from dance to literature is more easily seen from the literary side? Or they're just too busy? Hard to say.

      While I haven't given up yet, I am starting to think that "outside the box" marketing may not work as well as I'd hoped. Maybe in marketing, the box exists because of known methods of book distribution.

  4. This has been such a helpful series, Kathryn. I have picked up some tips for things to do differently the next time I have a new book coming out. It's important to keep the buzz going, too, so that is when I think blog tours and guest blogging can be of benefit. I, too, will be happy to host you on my blog.

    1. Thanks, Maryann! This is turning out to be a Friday of opportunity. I'll be in touch with you as well!

  5. I think I've bookmarked every part of this series! I intend to plunder its riches once I set a publishing date for my debut novel - unless I get an agent first!

    1. Oh good, Elspeth, I'm glad you're finding it useful! May it be a springboard to your own great ideas.

  6. Thanks Diana! I actually got so distracted by it I had to buckle down today and turn off the Internet to get my writing done. It's a tough balance!

  7. You on on TOP of things, Kathryn! Good job! I will have to use your tips when my new book comes out May 6.

  8. Heidi—Coming from someone with your experience, I'm so glad you think so! There's always something more you could be doing, so it's hard to let the brain rest.

  9. What a shame about the delay, but you can use it to your advantage to create more hype!

    Morgan Mandel


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