Heather Beck, both a screenwriter and published author of What Legends are Made Of and the Fable Farm series, was kind enough to share her marketing insights with me on marketing anthologies and series, marketing books versus her screenwriting, and the marketing effects of being published at a young age (Heather, now twenty two, was first published at nineteen).
Do you predominantly work through publishers, self-publishing, or a mix of the two?
I have always gone the traditional route with publishing. When I first started researching the publishing business I was appalled to learn that some authors actually spend hundreds (sometimes even thousands) to have their manuscript published. My opinions on self-publishing have since improved with the emergence of such companies as Lulu and CafePress.
What can you tell us about your current books? Do you have any additional projects in the works?
My latest book is What Legends Are Made Of. It was released in July of 2007 by Rain Publishing. What Legends Are Made Of is an anthology consisting of four paranormal romances. I have a few more books forthcoming, all which fall into the light horror or coming-of-age drama genres. I am currently focusing on screenwriting and have three TV shows, two movies and several shorts in various stages. Some of these projects are being pitched by my representative and I, while others have been optioned and are seeking financing. Although writing novels and screenplays may seem like similar activities, the process of having them become a reality is very different. From my experience, getting a book published is a less daunting task. I would recommend aspiring novelists and screenwriters to get their prose published before seeking Hollywood screenwriting agents. A large writing CV is always impressive to agents and producers.
Do you feel that you face any particular challenges (or advantages) in marketing a book of short stories as opposed to a full-length work of fiction? What about marketing a series as opposed to single titles? Do you find that subsequent volumes are easier to promote?
It is not a hidden secret among writers that children’s books as well as anthologies are the hardest types of writing to sell. It was perhaps foolish of me to combine those two elements and write scary story anthologies for kids. However, that is the type of work I am passionate about and it has paid off. I wrote the first and second volumes of the Fable Farm series published by Sparklesoup Studios. I cannot deny the fact that finding a publisher for and promoting anthologies are hard; it’s actually extremely difficult. Ultimately though, a work will succeed regardless of genre and/or format if you believe wholeheartedly in it. The success of a second volume in a series depends wholly on its forerunner. If book # 1 in a series is well received then book # 2 will most likely be rewarded with the same enthusiasm. So yes, subsequent volumes are far easier to promote and sell as long as they live up to the series’ original quality.
You became a published author at just nineteen years old. Did that ever hinder your marketing efforts for your first book, or did you find it to rather be a strong selling point?
In the initial point of marketing, my age is my strongest selling point. People’s interests seem to be piqued when they learn that the author is only a nineteen, or more currently, a twenty-two year old. However, you can’t hide behind your age forever. An author has to produce a quality piece of work to gain positive recognition. Nevertheless, I have yet to work with a publisher who did not include my age in my promotional biography.
What have you found to be some of the more successful book marketing tactics in your case? Have you tried anything that simply didn't work for your style or niche?
A personal website is a key tool in marketing. Although I would prefer a “.com” domain I find Tripod to be useful enough. Blogs are big right now. I’ve been asked as well as recommended to get one several times, however they seem too intrusive and time-consuming for my liking. Seeking out interviews and reviewers is also important. Responding to fan letters and questions posed by fellow authors is not only polite but it is also a good way to encourage others to purchase your book/s. This is probably the easiest and most enjoyable mode of marketing. Preparing a sell sheet for your book/s is crucial. A sell sheet includes pertinent information about you and your book and can be submitted to bookstores and libraries. The bookstores and libraries, in turn, use your sell sheet to decide whether to stock and/or buy your book.
If you had to give one word of advice to young authors about the book marketing process, what would it be?
Capitalize. I know that sounds manipulative but its true! People are not only interested in your prose but also the story behind the story. The majority of the reading public wants inspiration so if you have a motivational tale about how you wrote a book while juggling school and a part-time job, tell it!