Publicity. It might not make or break a book – word of mouth will always carry more power – but it can certainly establish it in the general consciousness. The question, of course, is how to achieve that.
Most publishers, even small ones, have publicists. Some good, some mediocre, a few plain terrible. The big publishers, of course, have a budget for all this, at least for some of their releases. Move away from that and much of the onus is on writers. But even in small houses, creative publicists can make an impact. And even judiciously placed ads, ones that don’t cost much, can’t bring some readers to the fold: I had a ‘50s British noir published, where the main character loved jazz. The publisher placed a cheap ad in a couple of jazz magazines and it definitely helped. That’s lateral thinking.
We do what we can. In the UK, unless you’re with one of the big publishers, it can be hard to get a review in one of the daily newspapers. The thing is, they’ve become less important. Something regional, if a book is set there, can have resonance. Crime fiction blogs (or appropriate genre) can reach people who actively look for books. Win-win.
Blog tours have become a thing, but the jury seems to be out on exactly how worthwhile they are. Yes, it’s good to be very visible for a period, but that fades. Better, perhaps, to have a good social media presence and build a community – that valuable word-of-mouth can flow from that.
But back to publicists. Work with them. I often write my own press releases and pass them to the publicist. To be fair, I write press releases as one of my gigs, so I know how to do it. But I know my book, I know the points in it that might raise interest. And publicists are working on several projects at once; I can ease a little bit of the pressure on them.
It's worth brainstorming a little with the publicist, suggest outlets they could approach, ones they might not consider without knowing the book well.
Small things, perhaps, but as the supermarket saying goes, ‘every little bit helps.’