Late Lights, a novella in stories that explores the intensely difficult and complicated realities of adolescent experience, has won two Indie Book Awards. Even with awards, authors face increasing challenges getting their books in front of audiences. We asked Kara Weiss, author of ‘Late Lights’, to share insights she gained through the process.
On the inspiration behind Late Lights:
There is so little realistic literature about adolescents for adults, and I think this is a huge problem. The rift between adolescents and adults (which often results in screaming matches) stems from a lack of understanding. Adolescents are commonly cast off as melodramatic. Not being taken seriously can be torturous for youths rushing with hormones. Their brains are changing and they’re trying to figure out their identity. Many teens are dealing with very adult problems, yet lack the resources to address them. I had my own challenges as an adolescent. When I was little my mom used to tell me: If you don’t like someone, just get to know them. Parents need to work harder to understand their children at this time.
On winning an award for her first book:
Winning the Indie for Late Lights has been one of the single most important events in my professional life. Writing is such an isolating experience, and it’s so easy to doubt yourself. Winning was validation that professionals in the industry valued my work. For a writer, that’s huge.
On promoting the book:
My publisher promised to help create a book I was proud of in content, layout, and cover art. Once the book was launched, however, most of the promotion was in my hands. They sent Late Lights out for reviews, but it was up to me to create buzz, and get the word out. Sales stalled after my book tour ended and the initial buzz died down. Everyone seemed ready to move on, except me. I knew enough about marketing to know I hadn’t done much of it.
I did know that I needed to get people talking about my book again and that reviews were important. I also knew that social media was an important tool, but I wasn’t sure how to do it all and knew I needed help.
On the challenges she faced:
Late Lights is a collection of linked short stories. That format puts off a lot of people. It’s also a book about adolescents, but for adults. It takes extra convincing to get adult readers interested in adolescents (a problem which was part of the inspiration behind Late Lights).
Also, marketing a book is challenging because a reader is never totally sure what they are going to get. They are taking a chance when they buy a book. So many other books are being marketed and you have to, somehow, get noticed.
On what Weiss learned writing and promoting her first book:
I knew my book would be characterized as literary and that it was challenging content, so I assumed my readers would be literary types. I was so wrong. As it turns out, Late Lights has much broader audience – especially among those who feel called out by the book. I’ve heard from parents who’ve read the book that they could have been much more empathetic to some of the kids their kids went to school with.
I’ve also learned that marketing your book can’t be entirely outsourced. Authors need to work with their PR reps as a team to authentically engage fans and potential readers. I was surprised to learn how much money publishing houses put behind their books and that they rent the display tables at the entrance Barnes & Noble.
Knowing what I know now and how hard it is to compete for attention I would have started much earlier.
You can follow Kara Weiss on Twitter @troubler
Note from AM:PM PR’s Mike Phillips:
Marketing a book is not easy. Authors tasked with self-promotion must solicit reviews from an ever-changing media landscape with fewer opportunities. New publishing platforms, editing technologies, and distribution from services like Amazon, Indiebound, Apple, and Barnes & Noble make it simple for anyone to self-publish a book and distribute it worldwide. The flood of new authors means more competition. A reviewer at a major daily newspaper once confided in me that he receives hundreds of books per week for potential review. How can anyone succeed in this environment?
Fortunately, where new challenges emerge there’s always new opportunities. Search engines are valuable tools to research and discover new avenues for authors to reach their target audiences. Talented authors like Weiss find that if they roll up their sleeves and get involved as content creators and thought leaders they can engage audiences more effectively . A dynamic website and and active social media presence will amplify all other efforts. The same foresight and planning applies to authors as to businesses. Kudos to Kara Weiss for her media savvy, creativity and dedication to sticking with it.
You can follow Kara Weiss on Twitter @troubler