Publish and market your book the right way with author and entrepreneur Aalia Lanius guiding you through best practices to get your book on its feet and into the hands of eager readers. Get a detailed checklist of what to do before you publish, learn achievable marketing goals, and much more!
The only way to know what publishing path and marketing style is right for you is to learn from fellow authors, and then try it out for yourself.
We'd love to know, after reading this interview, what best practices do you live by?
We're happy to have you join the Author Blog Series! This series is aimed at providing impactful content to help aspiring writers and authors. You can follow the rest of the series to here from other inspiring authors on character development, outlining your story, general topics, editing, and more. Click here to follow the series.
Let's Meet Our Author
Aalia Lanius, California native and convert to Islam around 1999, hails from a multi-cultural background, both German and Mediterranean, giving her first-hand knowledge of the topics addressed in her public speaking and creative works. Tough Love, her biographical fiction novel, has sold in countries around the world
Author Interview Questions
1. Do you have a favorite quote you've written?
"Until we learn to care for each other as a species, as human beings first; wars will be waged that needn't be, children will die that shouldn't, and people will suffer that never had to—I want to address that."
2. What challenges do you face as an author, especially when completing final steps of writing and entering the publishing realm?
How do you overcome?
With my first novel, I initially struggled on some degree, to feel competent in some of the areas I was unfamiliar with like typesetting and formalities that go into making a book.
Of course, I wanted to measure up to the books that you find on the table at the local bookstore. I remember perusing the local Barnes & Noble store to take pictures of the books on display. I noted details on everything from the cover to the, copyright page, the barcode preferences, and assessed the market value of each book in connection to the price displayed.
By doing those things, it reinforced my confidence that I was on the right track and that all I could do is what I know best to do: whatever it is as best as I can.
Another challenge is marketing, especially if you aren't familiar with the concepts and how to make use of a limited budget, assuming you are self-publishing.
Again, I revert to following what other books we admire or have been successful. It can be as simple as looking at the banners or marketing campaigns they've employed, noting the hashtags they use in promoting awareness, and the way they use "call to action" in order to push consumers to buy. Even if you are emulating a Big 5 publisher, that is okay, because in order to sell your book you have to become the head of your marketing department.
Years ago, I worked in the music industry as an A & R Rep for an independent record label in the Bay Area and I also managed domestic promotional campaigns for some of the hottest names in music at that time. This was when we had Wherehouse' and Sam Goody's' and the release of a successful album was contingent on people going into the stores and buying whatever you were releasing before you could download it from the internet.
I used to coach my artists and remind them that part of marketing is connecting with the audience, because that one hand shake or autographed pic makes them feel connected to you and those will be the ones that call into the stores and find out when they can buy your next album, thereby keeping you employed as an artist.
So, when it came my turn to promote my works, I had to be comfortable with promoting myself, unafraid to connect with people all over the world.
I used hashtags, and I took advantage of my own desire to authentically connect with others so that they could know more about me, my books, and whatever else I do that deserves their support. It's reaching out and cultivating your network, because when your friends support you, they share their network and that opens up the realms of people that can become aware of you and your books. For me, it resulted in my first novel being sold within a matter of a days in 7 countries around the world.
3. How do you find editors for your book? How do you get the most out of those editors?
There are definitely different ways to find editors; searching for them, LinkedIn, which is be my preferred platform, now that I've come to understand how powerful and resourceful LinkedIn is.
Personally, for my first two novels that I've released so far, I found them on Craigslist and interviewed them. I was happy that I could do test runs with them. For the ones that made the second round, they allowed me to see their style of editing by doing a certain amount of pages for free. This allowed me to truly see if it was a good fit in the sense of someone who might change my voice in the story.
I was merely looking for a polish and not a rewrite, so that was important to me. I didn't send either of them the entire book at once, rather a chapters at a time, and this helped me stay on schedule.
I also suggest that the editor agree to go over once more the final draft if they've only done one pass. Things are always missed and it helps reduce the number of potential errors before submitting for publication.
As I've been told by both editors, and have since learned, even J.K. Rowling's first book had her name spelled wrong!
4. One of the biggest questions an author will have for themselves: Do you prefer traditional or self-publishing?
What advice do you have for authors regarding that path?
Traditional publishing has its challenges and I am fortunate enough to have a husband that could act as my submitting agent, had I wanted to really go that route. Aside from that, traditional publishing is going to be the best bet for someone who really doesn't know how to, or want to deal with the amount of work that goes into marketing their product(s).
Traditional is more difficult to secure, and requires more patience and isn't always the right option. For example, if you have a work of art that is specific to a current event or is timely, waiting around might not be the best way to go for someone, and I feel the best thing to reinforce is that: that is just fine to self-publish.
My advice is on that issue is to not assume that self-publishing means that you aren't viewed as a legitimate author, or that it takes a massive budget.
If you're smart about it, you can be quite successful. It just takes creativity and resourcefulness. When it came to the point where writing my first book was a reality that I was going to create, I reached out to a longtime friend and fellow cancer-survivor, Tameka Felder. She graciously answered my questions, since she had just released her first nonfiction book. She advised me that once upon a time, independent authors were snubbed, but this stigma is changing.
I'm so glad that she told me that and shortly after, I wrote and released my first novel, Tough Love, in 2018. A year after, I released my second novel, Jugend, which has since won three international awards—the 2020 Book Excellence Award, 2019 Gold Medal in Global EBook Awards’, and 2019 Bronze Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Awards, all in the multicultural fiction category.
Every action is with the intent of potentially attracting the right publisher to come along and collaborate or assist me in taking my stories to even higher levels, which will be welcome, but I will still be able to show that I brought value and that will give me leverage when it comes to negotiating an opportunity like that.
My advice is to be open to the journey and at some point you could be self-published, with the reality that you could later become a published author by a coveted publishing house, or you could find you're savvy enough to just keep reaping the benefits on your own.
5. Many authors struggle reaching a wide audience.
What opportunities do authors have to better market themselves?
Authors now have the opportunity of marketing themselves through a number of channels and methods.
We didn't always have that.
I love that we can easily search for people that could become part of your audience. For example, when I'm going to a particular city, I employ my previous campaigning skills for any artist. I reach out to local bookstores, media outlets, organizations, and podcast hosts. I can simply use hashtags to find opportunities to promote or collaborate by simply searching a hashtag.
A couple of years ago, I was attending the Toronto Film Festival with my husband in support of him and his work in the film world. It was my first time to Toronto ever and I didn't have a network there.
By simply searching up #podcastsoftoronto, I was able to secure two podcast interviews and connected with an individual that I later collaborated with in launching an empowerment event, EmpowerCon at the Los Angeles Convention Center in August, 2019. By the way, now every year since when I've returned, I have a network and more opportunities to collaborate.
Also, an author misses an opportunity to promote themselves by not keeping collaterals on hand or nearby. I always have a business card and I even have a small postcards that I keep on hand to give to anyone I come into contact, even if that person is someone I meet in a line at the grocery store. By handing off a collateral, you've just increased your odds that they will check you and your work out later. It also gives you an opportunity to make an impression.
For example, I had an author signing as part of the New Title Showcase for "Jugend" at the May 2019 Book Expo at Javits Center in New York City. On the day of the signing, I arrived early with my publicist together we went out into the crowds and personally handed out hundreds of small post cards promoting my signing. The outcome was that I had the longest line than any other author signing for the New Title Showcase during the entire week! I only know this because the people with Book Expo were so shocked at the line that wrapped around the showcase.
It's incredible the opportunities to tap into any community that you are walking into and I think too often opportunities are missed in capitalizing.
6. "Is my book actually done?"
What's a final checklist for authors before sending their book off for publishing or querying?
The final checklist for every author probably varies and depend on model.
Currently my works are published under the nonprofit media social enterprise that I operate, Unsugarcoated Media. This organization's sole purpose is to produce media content and live events that aid survivors of trauma by building a community of people that speak honestly with compassion and a desire to facilitate talks that equal solutions about the critical issues facing humanity today. This organization is not only the publisher of my works, but works to produce and collaborate with other artists in a smaller publishing capacity.
Our publishing checklist now includes but is not limited to:
Making sure that the story is one with a message that empowers individuals, and we ask beta readers to assist in providing feedback that confirms this.
Assign ISBN numbers, metadata and barcodes ready
File documents with Library of Congress
Create a book cover that is appealing and marketable (it's as big as what is inside)
Formatting and editing is complete, including an appropriate copyright page. (I never knew how important the copyright page is until I spoke with a librarian who let me know it's one of the first ways they judge if they will carry the book.)
Create both eBook and print versions and get ready to set a release date for publishing.
Create a media kit, plan out a marketing strategy and publish!
7. What are some marketing and/or publishing mistakes you see authors make?
1. Marketing wise, I see them fail to have fun with it and put their own story out there in order to grow their audience.
People are very interested in the stories behind the story.
Being vulnerable and sharing why we are the best people to tell our stories is an effective way of growing an audience.
2. Another mistake I see is a lack of self-promoting. Walk into the bookstore and make a connection with the manager and never be afraid of the word "no".
3 . Another missed mistake I see is the lack of properly creating publicity. If you can't afford a publicist, you can at least create a website and when something happens that can be used to create intrigue or boost awareness, it should be done with a press release or write-up that makes it news worthy.
For example, each time I won an award, I had a press release drawn up so that our organization could promote it on the site. We approach news outlets initially, but even without it getting directly picked up, by putting it on the website, it creates awareness. I share it on my social media profile and then my friends share it. It's a win, win.
You're taking yourself seriously, and in turn, so will others.
Writing is a beautiful, yet intense craft. If you're nervous to take the leap and start, don't doubt yourself! Ask for support and guidance from your writing community, practice, and read books and articles like this.
The journey of being an author is a process. Personally, it's one that is just about writing books. I have created friendships and opportunities for myself and that all started with an idea for a story. It's going to present challenges and take some people out of their comfort zone, but you never know how much your story, be it fictional or nonfiction, can impact another life until you've shared it. My advice, is to not be afraid to share the story and just go with it.
Discover the Book:
My latest book, Jugend, which is the German word for "youth", has won three international awards for excellence in the multicultural-fiction category.
What makes it worth reading is that it is straightforward. Instead of endorsing a fake prosperity and tiptoeing around the topic, Jugend is an ideologically and emotionally-charged hard core book that directly taps in on the topic of white supremacy, Islamophobia, and the deep misunderstanding between religions and races.
It is also relevant. The idea embedded in the book is a powerful voice, with a humanitarian message and support for the minority groups around the world to show severe consequences in the misunderstanding between ethnic groups.
Stay Connected with Aalia Lanius
Available everywhere, click here to purchase Jugend on Amazon
To stay connected to me on Instagram: @aalia_unsugarcoated
You can also check out the audio version of my empowerment podcast here: "Unsugarcoated with Aalia"
And visual version on YouTube here: "Unsugarcoated with Aalia"
For more on the writing process from our bi-weekly author interviews, you can subscribe to my website for weekly updates: click here.