Guest Post by Lilianne Milgrom –
I spent ten years researching and writing my award-winning historical fiction L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece. The book was inspired by a personal encounter with one of the world’s most controversial works of art, a painting so scandalous it was kept hidden for a century and a half. My driving passion throughout the writing journey was to introduce readers outside of the art world to this iconic painting’s remarkable odyssey across centuries and continents.
What is so wonderful about historical fiction is that the stories we tell often go beyond just that particular chapter in history—in L’Origine’s case, the painting’s journey lays bare society’s ambiguous relationship with female nudity.
I began my quest for publication with the typical search for a literary agent. It wasn’t pretty. I was soon marking up my agent spreadsheet with rejections. After months of honing my query letter and checking my inbox every two hours, I finally landed an agent. A few months into the relationship, I found myself disenchanted and disappointed with this well-trodden path toward publication and opted for self-publishing. I wanted more control over the outcome, a quicker turnaround, and a healthier royalty slice.
Several published authors had warned me that if I thought writing the book was hard, I was in for a rude awakening when it came to promotion. Getting people to sit up and pay attention to your book takes as much effort and creativity as writing the actual book!
Here are three promotional tools that worked for me.
ENTER BOOK AWARD COMPETITIONS
As a general rule, we writers are a sensitive bunch. We labor over our keyboards in solitude, alternating between thinking that our words will change the world and being convinced that those very same words have no business ever seeing the light of day. That’s why book awards are a critical litmus test in the writing journey. Any writer who has put his or her blood, sweat, and tears into their literary baby understands the powerful emotions that come with that sort of validation.
Book awards provide an impartial, objective barometer of where your book stands relative to other books and, more importantly, whether your book connects with seasoned judges who wade through hundreds of submissions.
Of course, there are no guarantees, but if you do win awards or medals, they go a long way in getting your book noticed, and that translates into sales. There are a lot of book award competitions out there. I did my research into which ones most closely corresponded to my genre while also keeping my eye on the application cost. I gave myself a budget and entered eight competitions. I’m thrilled to say that L’Origine won first place in two awards, a silver medal for historical fiction, and two indie medals. Having one’s book recognized by people in the industry makes a huge personal and professional impact.
GET ON THE PODCAST CIRCUIT
Being a guest on a podcast can generate interest from readers one would not otherwise have had access to. Getting a podcast host to consider you as a guest works in the same way as landing a literary agent—you need to have an irresistible hook. That’s step number one. Step number two is do your research! Listen to past podcasts, read about the podcast’s goals, and know the audience. Ask yourself why you would make a great guest on that podcast. Your pitch should begin with a hook that will intrigue the podcast host enough to read further. Make the case for why you are the person to talk about the subject and why your historical fiction novel may be relevant to our times. Then suggest three to five topics you would cover during the podcast that are relatable to the podcast audience. Click here for links to some of the podcasts I have been a guest on.
I stumbled into a book tour by accident, but I found the experience worthwhile without requiring a large financial outlay. Book tours usually engage a number of book bloggers to review your book so that it makes the rounds over a finite number of weeks. The book bloggers have their own following, and that’s what you want to tap into. Again, no guarantees, but it’s nice to have someone else organize a dozen or so book bloggers committed to reviewing your book and hopefully posting their positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
BONUS TIP FOR AUTHORS
You have probably seen a number of book trailers and might be considering creating your own. I created a book trailer that has been an invaluable addition to my marketing toolbox. If you don’t know how to start or are worried about cost, you can read my article How to Produce a Kick-ass Book Trailer for under $20.
Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an internationally acclaimed artist and author residing in Washington, DC. Her artworks can be found in private and institutional collections around the world. She is a freelance contributor to publications such as The Huffington Post, France Magazine, Bonjour Paris, Ceramics Monthly, Ceramics Art and Perception, and Daily Art Magazine. Milgrom was a guest speaker at the 2022 Women in Publishing Summit.