Friday, January 11, 2008

Book Promotion: Start Your Database Now

Promoting your book is no longer left solely up to your publisher. That’s so last century. Now, authors are expected, even required, to take on a lot of the responsibility. You may be lucky enough to have a publisher who will assign you to a publicist. You may even hire your own publicist. But a lot of first-time authors find they have to do it themselves.

Whether you have a publicist or not, it’s important that you start building your database. You absolutely can’t wait until your book comes out. You can’t even wait until six months out from publication. You shouldn’t wait until an editor buys it, a small press agrees to publish it, or you decide to self-publish.

Start building a database of contacts now. That “now” means when you’re thinking of writing a book. It means as you’re writing. As you’re editing. As you’re querying. As you’re doing the edits requested by your agent, by your editor. It means as that “now” becomes “forever” because the process of building a database never stops.

But it does have to begin. And that beginning point is now.

Make note of everyone you meet, everyone who emails you, everyone you encounter in your daily life. Collect those business cards and Christmas card return addresses. You meet someone at a party who mentions they like the kind of book you write, but all you got was their name – no address or email address? Google ‘em. See if they have a website. Belong to any organizations – professional, church, volunteer, social, parent, school, etc.? Add the membership list to your database and check for changes each year as the new list comes out.

Don’t let the business cards and slips of paper accumulate in a folder or envelope. Then the task becomes overwhelming. Do it a little each day or week, as needed. Maintain the list on your computer, preferably in a software program that will make it easy to sort and mail/email.

Now, you’ll need a way to differentiate how well you know your contacts. Some are friends, who know you’re a writer, are waiting for your book to get published and will be excited to get the news. Some will be acquaintances you meet in your daily lives. They might be surprised and happy for you. Some will have trouble dredging up how they know you, although your name sounds familiar. Some won’t “know” you at all. You’ll need to be able to refer to your database to know how to approach your contacts. No one gets spammed.

Don’t aim for 200 names on your list. Aim for a thousand, two thousand, or more. Once you reach that mark, increase the goal.


  1. Good advice Helen, gone are the days when an author can just hand over the manuscript and expect their publisher to do all the work.

    Even JK has to tread the publicity mill!

  2. She now has to tread more lightly than the rest of us, though! But you are right, Mike. If we want to succeed, we have to be prepared to promote.


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