Lee Wind, author, blogger, and director of marketing and programming for IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association), is the keynote speaker for Writer’s World, BAIPA’s September 8 conference for authors and publishers. I caught up with Lee last week and asked him for a preview of his upcoming talk.
Q: Tell me about yourself.
I’m a book blogger, originally. I’ve been blogging for almost 11 years. My site is called I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I Read?
It’s about books and empowerment, and my audience is about a third teens, a third librarians and other adult allies, and a third adults who are reading for their inner teens.
Q: I imagine the availability of resources like yours has really increased since you started.
First off, yes, there’s been a proliferation of sources about niche markets, but not necessarily a sense of curatorial safety. Too often, you see hate speech disguised as a reader review. That’s not dealt with well by large online sites. In contrast, nothing gets on my site that isn’t moderated. So there’s no nastiness. It’s a safe space.
The other thing that’s really changed over the past decade is that access to the marketplace has never been easier. The opportunity for anyone to have their book on the selling platforms that everyone uses. The challenge? While accessing the marketplace has never been easier, the marketplace has never been bigger.
Meaning, if you’re an author, it’s harder and harder to get noticed.
Q: I’m all too familiar with that concept. So without giving away your whole presentation, can you tell us what you’re going to be talking about on September 8?
There’s so much that leads up to publishing a book. It’s such a herculean task. But then, you finish writing and publishing the book, and you think you’re done, but you’re not. Your book needs an audience.
It’s like a seed that’s growing. Everything that goes into getting a book published is the root system growing deep, and the moment that book is published, you have that little bit of green breaking through the ground. It’s a seedling. Then a sapling. You have to keep watering to get it to become a tree…
How do you do that? First, it’s important to understand that your audience is never “everyone.”
You have to identify the book’s theme and where the conversations about those ideas are happening. It’s like being at a dinner party. You want to join in a conversation about something you’re interested in. And then, after you’ve been listening, someone might say, tell us about you. That’s when you can say, I published a book about this very theme…
Then you’re not selling, you’re contributing.
Q: I get that, and I very much aspire to do that, but I’m a writer of fiction, of entertainment, so it’s a challenge for me to identify my audience. I have a friend, a therapist who’s written a book on PTSD. He’s done very well, but he’s providing a solution to a problem. He has a clear audience. That’s very different from writing entertainment.
Every work of fiction has themes that are important and a passion that drives the story. What’s the non-fiction story behind your fictional story?
Q: The book I’m writing is a family thriller about end-of-life, euthanasia, death.
There are enormous conversations happening in that space. Find those communities where people are talking about those ideas. What are our responsibilities? Who should have control? Sometimes fiction is a better way of approaching issues like that. You’re sharing your emotional truth even if the story is made up.
Q: Can you tell us more about IBPA?
We are a nonprofit advocacy group for indie and author publishers. We aim to level the playing field so that the the publishing universe judges your book by its quality, not by who published it or what was the business model behind it being published.
We also focus on education, on raising the quality of everything that gets published. A rising tide will lift all boats.
And we run cooperative marketing programs that give our publisher members a chance to get their books noticed, putting their books in front of industry folks like librarians, booksellers, and foreign rights agents. One of our programs is getting your book on the cover of Publishers’ Weekly. That’s something most publishers couldn’t afford to do on their own. By spreading the cost across many members we can bring prices down.
Our more than 3,000 members are about 35 percent self-published, 50 percent indie, and the rest a mix of future publishers and publisher partners—companies that work with publishers.
We like to say that “Publishing is a Team Sport, and IBPA is your coach.”
Q: In your experience, what has worked best to market a book?
The key is for the publisher to have a strong sense of who the audience is for your book. Who do you want to read the book? You can’t target your audience until you identify it. Do you feel like it’s going to be strong in libraries? Book clubs? Find your niche audience. Take it down as niche as you can.
At the BAIPA talk, I’m going to make you work. You’re going to identify your book’s themes, passions, potential audiences. I’ll also focus on defining goals. Why are you publishing the book? To go on a book tour? To change the world? Because you want to sit and read your book with your grandchild? Each of those goals will have different approaches to marketing.
Q: Can you think of an example of something that really worked for you?
This is not me, but it’s a great story. I recently returned from the American Library Association conference, and one of our member author/publishers was there — he’d signed up for a time slot to give away copies of his book from our IBPA booth. He had a large poster of the cover of his dystopian novel on an easel, and he was explaining the story to a couple of librarians. Another librarian walking by saw his book cover poster and gasped, “I loved that book!” Mark turned around, surprised. “How have you read my book?” he asked.
She responded that she’d just read it on NetGalley last week. She got so excited. Other librarians started to gather round, to hear about Mark’s book, and then momentum started to build…
It’s a great example of how book marketing is a lot about synergy. It’s doing more than one thing. If Mark hadn’t posted it on NetGalley (another IBPA member benefit program), if he hadn’t sent his book to ALA, been there for an author signing, and had that poster behind him… he wouldn’t have had that reaction.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to fill us in, Lee. See you in September.
Thank you! I really love talking about this stuff. My goal is to empower writers and publishers. I very much look forward to meeting everyone at Writer’s World.