PR-Tips for Debut Novelists
2010 has been a great year for my sister and Dutch author Yolande Schyns. One and a half-year, night after night she worked on her debut novel and after searching for a publisher for months, on 25 September her big day had arrived. Yolande has realised her dream, her debut novel Opening Night has been published and her first book presentation has happened. In Amsterdam, Cécile Narinx, Editor-in-Chief of Dutch ELLE received the first copy and good interviews followed, such as in the regional Dutch paper Het Limburgs Dagblad/Dagblad de Limburger. Elle.nl organised an online book promotion and the author received many positive reviews, such as via Leestafel and via several well-known beauty blogs for young women in their twenties. Her fan-page, Opening Night on Facebook, continues to grow in the meantime. PR has played an important role following the publication of her debut novel. “A dream came true”, says Yolande in one of her interviews. I asked her a few more questions.
“Un amazing moment was when the publisher (Uitgeverij Leonon Media) decided to publish my novel. I already had received a few hopeful reactions from publishers, but no commitment”. The novelist gave special attention to the cover photo, which was taken by her partner, Mathi Vijgen. The young model is Julia Reichert, an acquaintance of the writer. The novel is set amongst others in Maastricht, the capital of Zuid-Limburg, the most Southern province of the Netherlands. The writer was born in this part. “One day we went to Maastricht to take some 200 photos of Julia at several beautiful locations, such as the Kruisherenhotel. In the end we decided together with the publisher for the photograph where Julia was standing on the Hoge Brug, one of the famous city bridges, looking over the river Maas. When you then are at the printer to check the right colour red for the cover, you are absolutely sure that your book will be published soon and you feel really proud”.
The novelist talks with enthusiasm about another peak, the signing of Opening Night on 4 December at Selexyz Dominicanen, the well-known bookstore in the centre of Maastricht. “It has been a fantastic experience to be in the spotlight of the most beautiful bookstore of The Netherlands”. Following the signing, Selexyz decided to give Opening Night a prime position in the store.
It’s not easy to get publicity for a debut novel, especially when a novel already has been published. The author still realises that it’s very important to have the right contacts and showing perseverance. She builds new relations on a daily basis and maintains them. From existing relations new contacts with regional print media have arisen who have published interviews, such as Gooi en Eemlander (the writer currently lives in the area where this newspaper is distributed) and online media such as Maastricht Aktueel. She now also has experienced an interview on the regional radio (L1). She says about the interviews: “the difference between a good and an average interview is largely about how much time one spends on preparation. What do you want to talk about? Off course it’s a benefit if you have any experience, but if you don’t have or hardly have any experience, you need any self-confidence. After a solid media training, your self-confidence has grown and this will benefit the dialogue with a journalist”.
Social media and bloggers are also included in the PR strategy. The idea to create a fan-page on Facebook arises mid October. The social network site is the ideal place for sharing experiences about the novel by readers. The author shares interviews on Facebook, but also reviews and photos of events such as book presentations. It’s stimulating to read the feedback about the novel from readers. People just tend to quicker purchase a book if others appreciate it. It’s also interesting for the author to learn about who purchases and where. Yolande updates the fan page herself and gives answers to questions and comments.
Since the principal character in Opening Night is in her mid twenties, the writer is very pleased that influential blogs for this age recommend her novel. Many young women visit blogs such as Beauty Lab where already positive reviews and reader comments have been published. The Beauty Bakery is an example of a web shop where Opening Night has been granted a prominent position between beauty products including the possibility to purchase the novel online.
It goes without saying that I will continue to help my sister with PR advice and experiment with social media such as using video on Facebook and intensifying the use of Twitter and LinkedIn.
I hope these tips help you with the PR for your debut novel. Should you have better ideas, I’d like to hear them.