M.J. Rose is an author I’ve admired for a very long time in no fewer than three separate ways. First, through her eerie, intriguing stories of suspense. Next, because while I was struggling to break in, M.J. opened up a back door and came striding right through the front. To put it less metaphorically, she’s a pioneer of self-publishing, turning it during a time of stigma and limited options into something more glamorous than a 7 figure deal made at auction. And finally, M.J. turned her marketing genius into a package from which other authors can benefit, called AuthorBuzz. During this, the 6th anniversary year of AuthorBuzz, M.J. does the blog an honor by sharing some of her wisdom and perspective about how authors can succeed–and how she can help them.
1) In this changing world of books, with many authors independently published, e only, or published by new, small presses, does AuthorBuzz differ as a service depending on how someone’s book comes out?
Yes, every book is unique, so we work with authors to figure out what the book needs, what the author can afford, and the best way to work together.
For instance – a self-published book available mostly in e doesn’t need a push to booksellers. They won’t buy it because they can’t sell it in the store.
Conversely, a traditionally published book from an author who has been on a bestseller list or is close to being on one wants the push to be about getting velocity – selling as many books as possible in a concentrated period of time.
2) At what point in his or her career should an author consider signing up for AuthorBuzz?
As soon as you have your pub date. We sell out fast.
Also, if you are traditionally published and you are bringing us in, it can enthuse the publisher and the sales force to know the author is investing in his or her book.
Since no book ever dies anymore because of the internet, and a book is new to every reader who’s never heard of it, it’s also never too late to contact us.
This summer I self-published 3 of my backlist titles as ebooks. They were from 2005 and 2006 and I sold more copies in 8 weeks than my 2011 book sold in the same period.
3) Here’s something I hear from a lot of authors: “My book is coming out and my publisher isn’t doing much in the way of marketing.” How can AuthorBuzz compensate for that?
We have over a dozen ways to help authors buzz – including getting the word out to booksellers, librarians, readers, bookclubs, film agents, literary agents, ebook readers and special markets – like religious or spiritual.
There are many small publishers who don’t have full marketing departments who use us as their marketing departments.
We can do the same thing for authors. That’s how we started and that’s what our specialty is.
4) Here’s something I’ve heard a little less frequently. “My book is coming out and my publisher is really giving it a big push.” Will this author still benefit from using AuthorBuzz?
Yes, and here’s why. The more you do, the more you sell. I come from advertising and worked on McDonalds – we never stop advertising all year long. That’s building a brand. Never let the customer/reader forget you’re there. Never stop looking for a new customer/reader. But publishers seldom give a book – even a big book – much more than a month, maybe sometimes 6 weeks of push.
And as big as a push is – it’s rare that’s it’s really big enough, unless the author is a brand name like Nora Roberts or Stephen King.
But what a lot of authors don’t realize is those big names have always supplemented what their publishers have done in terms of marketing – they just haven’t always talked about it. Nora has though. She’s been quoted as saying every author -no matter how big or small – should take a % of their advance and spend it on their own book.
5) How did your own publication history–from self-publishing pioneer to bestselling, traditionally published author–influence your creation of AuthorBuzz?
When publishers wouldn’t buy my first novel because they loved it but didn’t know how to market it – I got a clue that there was a problem in publishing when it came to marketing.
So in 1998 I self-pubbed the book – really to give my agent ammunition to show the publishers – this is how you market her books. One thing led to another and Lip Service became the first self–published book to get picked up by a traditional NY publishing house.
And I thought me doing my own marketing was over.
But as I said – I was from advertising – I’d been the creative director at a 150 million dollar ad agency and I was surprised – to put it nicely – by the way publishers marked books and how much more could be done. I was also horrified at how little authors were told about the process.
With Doug Clegg, I wrote Buzz your Book and started teaching a class for authors so they could become educated and empowered and help their own books.
Along the way I realized that most authors wanted to write more than market and that there were marketing services I could provide so they didn’t have to do it themselves.
I started AuthorBuzz in 2005. So October marks our 6th anniversary. To date we’ve worked on more than 1200 books and buzzed millions and millions of readers.
6) What one thing do you feel an author on a very limited budget can do to help launch his book?
Give out as many free copies as you can to loud mouths who will read the book and talk about it and tweet and Facebook and blog and email about it. Ebook versions are fine. Get readers – early on, readers count more than sales because they lead to sales.
7) A lot of writers hear that they must do this or that (tweet, request likes, etc.) or else their book will founder in a sea of volumes. What is your take on having to do x or y?
Forgive the link – but I’ve tackled that at length and this article has proved really helpful, so I’ve been told.
8 ) If I work with you, do I also need an independent publicist?The difference between marketing and pr is that pr is a gamble that can pay off big whereas marketing is guaranteed. We buy the space – your marketing runs. A publicist can never be sure they will get what they pitch, whereas marketing is buying space and running ads/announcements/advertorials. If we buy, they show up.
They are different and both valuable so I tell people that if you have the right book and the right publicist – yes, hire that publicist. But for every dollar you spend with a publicist, spend two dollars with a marketing company so that at the end of the day if the publicist doesn’t get a lot you still will have gotten exposure via your marketing.If you can only buy one – then marketing first – since if you buy it will run.
9) What if I want my book to be a bestseller (and who wouldn’t)? Can you tell me what to do to ensure that?
Nope. If I could I’d be living in a palatial apartment in Paris half the year and a penthouse in NYC the other half with nice trips in-between.Seriously – if there was a formula all books would succeed.Even if you write the best book you can and have the finest publisher in the world there are no guarantees. It took Janet Evanovich 18 books to write a bestseller. It took Lee Child 1.And there are many writers who have very solid and fulfilling careers who are never bestsellers. I think what’s important – all that’s important – is to write because you love to write. Because if you didn’t write you’d be miserable. Focus on the process and the satisfaction you get from that process. The rest is too elusive and too often just quicksilver.
M.J. Rose is the international bestselling author of 11 novels.
She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com.
Getting published has been an adventure for Rose who self-published Lip Service late in 1998 after several traditional publishers turned it down. Editors loved it, but didn’t know how to position or market it since it didn’t fit into any one genre.
Frustrated, but curious and convinced that there was a readership for her work, she set up a web site where readers could download her book for $9.95 and began to seriously market the novel on the Internet.
After selling over 2500 copies (in both electronic and trade paper format) Lip Service became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as being the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.
Rose has been profiled in Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek and New York Magazine.
She has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USAToday, Stern, L’Official, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.
She lives in Connecticut with Doug Scofield, a composer, and their very spoiled dog, Winka.