Peter McCarthy is is a publishing industry veteran and the founder and Principal Consultant of McCarthy Digital. This is the second part of our interview with Peter. Read the first part here. Read more about Peter at The Jury.
How important do you think promotion is for an author nowadays?
As a marketer, I am biased here but I would offer that it is incredibly important and is increasingly the part of the package that separates the bestsellers from the pack. Promotion has changed a lot in the past 15 years with many "traditional" elements such as reviews, interviews, traditional media platforms, etc. driving discovery. It is incredibly important for authors to get this right. The advice I often offer is: define your desired audience and only then define the promotional tactics you'll employ.
Which do you prefer: reading ebooks or paper books?
I like reading both equally. I make my purchase decision based on whether I wish to shelve the book in my home and have it to hand at any moment. Shelving on devices is just not there yet. I never remember what I have stored in ebook form.
Which social media outlets do you like?
Whichever ones best suit my goals and potential audience. I look hard at the demographics, use patterns, and best features of each before jumping in. If a book has a great cover image and is geared toward a female audience, Pinterest has to be in the mix and Tumblr may be the best blog platform. If an author is a big personality who is out and about and likes to interact with fans, Twitter is great. The key is to drive word of mouth, which studies have shown time and again is what sells books.
What are your favorite genres and authors right now?
I love thrillers but also literary fiction and any kind of nonfiction. I have no favorite authors. Just the next great story, though I have a long-lasting literary crush on Joan Didion and her work.
What do you think is the most common mistake made by independent authors?
In my opinion, it's a tie between a) not hiring a good editor and b) not hiring a good cover art designer. Without those two pieces solidly in the foundation, the "house" is built on shaky ground.
How do you discover new authors and books?
Via digital mechanisms -- I spent a ridiculous amount of time setting up various media consumption tools to ensure that books I might be interested will be in front of me on a daily basis. Now it is on auto-pilot. However, like the majority of the reading public, word of mouth, especially from my spouse and close friends, is the biggest driver.
Which current author really understands how to maintain a relationship with their readers and fans?
Among fiction writers, Margaret Atwood nails it. In the lead up to publication of her book -- actually beginning when she was writing it -- Rebecca Skloot, author of the bestselling nonfiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, used social media in probably the most effective manner I have ever seen. She continues to do so.
Why are author photographs often ridiculously outdated?
They seem a little "I am the author and you are not." It is really fun to go back and look at author photos from, say, the '60s and '70s. You'll see a lot of tweed and ascots! As a marketer, I love an author photo, despite their being outdated. But, let's not kid ourselves; some authors have sold many more books because of their looks than they would have if they looked differently. In this sense, books are just like any other form of media and behave especially like entertainment.
Do you have any closing advice for people struggling to get published?
Keep doing the work, primarily writing. Finish your work first. Get it professionally edited so it is as good as it can be. Then decide the route you want to take and ask people questions. Don't try to go it alone. Writing is a lonely enough endeavor. Seek help and support as you try to get published -- either via a traditional house or via the self published route. Work with others.