Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How to Promote Your Book...Listen to the Experts!

I had the pleasure of meeting independent publicist Lauren Cerand on Monday night at a WNBA event about how to promote your book. There was a tremendous crowd, and she and fellow panelist Imal Wagner, patiently answered every last promotion-related question about literary fiction (Lauren) and non-fiction (Imal).

Since I write fiction, I was more interested in Lauren’s advice, though Imal’s presentation and expertise were also helpful. A few tidbits from the evening (paraphrased; I’m not a skilled enough note taker to get exact quotes!):

--Be aware of your “online presence” and take active steps to create the presence that makes sense for you. Basically, at a certain point, these days a writer MUST have a website. If you’re early in your career, a basic site is fine, but a web site gives you legitimacy and helps signal that you’re a professional. Many agents will google you if they’re interested in your query. If you have a book out, you really, really MUST have a website…and one that collects information from visitors (i.e. email addresses for future contact).

--Because the brave new world of social networking can be time-consuming (and overwhelming!) choose the site that makes the most sense for you and your audience and focus on that rather than trying to have a presence everywhere. Suggestions included GoodReads, Gather, and LibraryThing. Lauren noted that young adult writers should think about having a presence on Facebook or MySpace. (I linked to an excellent article about social networking for writers at the end of this previous post.)

--The goal of any publicity attempt is to try to make your message immediate and relevant. How can you make people pay attention NOW? This may be challenging when it comes to fiction, but both Lauren and Imal made it seem entirely possible!

I’ve never hired a professional publicist before, but in this day and age, when there is so much pressure for the writer to sell the books (along with writing them), and when poor sales may make it harder (or even impossible) to get a contract for the next book, I will seriously consider investing some money in a good publicist when my next novel comes out (fingers crossed!). In my humble opinion, both Lauren Cerand and Imal Wagner seemed like savvy publicists who know how to make things happen.

Maybe you’d like to see for yourself. I realize this class doesn’t take place for several months, but I thought I’d give you a heads-up. (No, that's not a typo on the cost...a bargain at $20!)Lauren Cerand offers the following:

TITLE: Innovative Publicity Basics for Authors (New and Hopeful!)

DATE: July 1 - 14, 2008

DESCRIPTION: New York-based independent publicist Lauren Cerand ( walks you through the fundamentals of literary publicity right up to the cutting-edge. This course consists of six instructor-led lectures, three open "Q & A" sessions dedicated to your topics, and three small but significant homework assignments. Content will be useful to authors in any genre and at any level of expertise.

COST: $20. Presented by Heart of Dixie, the North Alabama chapter of Romance Writers of America, which organizes online workshops as part of its educational programs. Open to all writers. For details and registration, visit

And here’s Lauren’s full bio:
Lauren Cerand ( is an independent public relations representative and consultant in New York. Her clients are a purposefully eclectic mix of creative professionals, and she specializes in generating initial buzz and building sustained attention for projects and individuals. She is often asked to share her innovative perspective on publicity and has spoken to audiences at Book Promotion 101, Mystery Writers of America, NYU's Center for Publishing, The (Downtown) Omaha Lit Fest, Penguin UK, Virginia Festival of the Book, Word of Mouth, Women's National Book Association, and the 20th Annual Independent and Small Press Book Fair (December 2007). In 2004, The Village Voice included her in its "Best of New York" issue.

She is the vice chair of the board of directors of Girls Write Now, "a nonprofit volunteer mentoring organization that has been matching bright, creative teenage girls from New York City's public high schools with professional women writers in the community since 1998." A Cornell University graduate, Lauren compiles "The Smart Set," a weekly round-up of cultural happenings for, and writes about art, politics and style at


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.