I’ve been a published author for almost twenty-four years now. A lot has changed since I started out. I’m an old-school author. When a friend and fellow writer told me the freelance editor she’d hired had pitched her manuscript at a writers conference, I was amazed. I already had an agent and a publisher before I attended my first conference, but I knew from writers who had made the rounds that if they didn’t show up in person for the meetings, they were out of luck. It took me a while to figure out terms like beta readers and steampunk. These things didn’t exist when I was being groomed for literary stardom back in the mid-eighties.
Seriously. The words “We’re going to make you a star” were uttered. Many times. And they wondered why I developed such an insatiable ego.
We didn’t have Facebook or Google or Amazon back then. We didn’t have the luxury of promoting our books online via Skype. There was no such thing as social networking or blogging or e-mail. Authors didn’t have websites. There were no e-books and the only form of self-publishing–a vanity press–was for writers content to pay a lot of money for a few boxes of books that were usually only read by friends and family. Publishers had to type press releases on paper, of all things. They had to use Snail Mail to send out bound galleys to book reviewers and media people who might be interested in doing an interview with the author. Author tours always involved air travel and hotel rooms.
But some things never change. If you want to be reviewed by the major book reviewers, you have to get your ARCs (advanced reading copies) to them one to three months prior to publication. The mainstream media will not interview an author until they actually have a book to promote.
Berkley Books bought my first novel, Dance of the Gods, on April 26, 1985. It was published on May 1, 1988–three years later. The publicity department did not schedule me for a single interview prior to May 1, 1988. Why? It would have been pointless. Doing publicity too soon would have been counterproductive. I was a new author no one had ever heard of. Since I wasn’t yet a bestselling author or a celebrity and didn’t have a large following for some other achievement, had I done interviews months prior to publication, book buyers would likely have forgotten who I was by the time my novel was in the bookstores.
Today, an unpublished author can build a following–to an extent–through blogging and posting updates on Facebook. But don’t expect Today or Good Morning America to book you for an appearance until you have a book in print.