Books, Publishing

Neil Gaiman’s tools of marketing

Manuscript update: Wrote a first draft of my query letter in the wee hours of this morning before I dragged myself to bed. It’s not great, but a good start. A better version and the synopsis will be written next week.

I just finished reading through a New Yorker feature about Neil Gaiman and was struck by how adept he is at marketing.

As an as yet unpublished novelist, I’ve read numerous times about how the industry has changed in recent years and the author must take on the promotion of a book if it is to succeed. My author friend Gwen Cooper knew that when both of her two books were published, and her efforts helped her second book, Homer’s Odyssey, debut on the New York Times bestseller list. Not that the publishing houses don’t also promote the books, but nowadays, an author’s promotional work is what will propel a book above and beyond.

But, I must admit that I figured that established writers, such as Neil Gaiman — who, the New Yorker article says, got more attention than Angelina Jolie at Worldcon when they were both there promoting the movie Beowulf — didn’t need to do too much in the way of self-promotion. He’s such a prolific writer in novels, picture books, graphic novels and even screenplays, with two of his printed works adapted into movies (Coraline and Stardust) and five movies listed on IMDb as in development, including an adaptation of his Newbery Medal winning The Graveyard Book from last year. He has such a following that fans wear buttons saying “squeeee,” meaning the scream they give when they see him, according to the New Yorker article. And yet, Gaiman is still actively promoting his books beyond the usual book signing tours and readings the publishing house sets up.

For example:

  • Gaiman was one of the first writers to have a blog, which now counts about 1.4 million readers.
  • He has a Twitter feed, which he posts to a dozen times a day. And, apparently, even people in his employment, including his handy man and his assistant, tweet.
  • For The Graveyard Book, Gaiman read each of the book’s eight chapters at eight different book readings, videotaped them and posted them to his blog. According to the New Yorker, whenever sales of the book began to slide, Gaiman would tweet that the videos were available on his blog and sales of the book would quickly rise back up.

This is what the already established writers do to maintain their success. When our debut novels are published, we’ll have to do much more. So, watch what the big cats are doing, soak it in, and get ready. One day, you’ll be doing all this and more, much more.

Write On!

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