So I was having a discussion with, who else, Megan, and we were talking about promotion and the pressure to promote and how some authors have taken that pressure and just gone crazy with it and it’s backfiring onto all of us.
Promotion is a wily beast with sharp teeth who lives in some mythical place and you can only find the keys to get out of its lair on like the third Tuesday of the fourth month on a full moon when the planets are aligned just so. When you first start out the key is in figuring out what works and what’s a waste of time. It’s not the same for everyone I don’t think, because people have different approaches to their career.
But I will say right now, unless you’re Nora Roberts, promotion on some level is important (and she does signings and she gets out there too, because even Nora Roberts has to sell books). I know, I know there are authors out there who’ll say, “all you need to do is write a great book.” I disagree. Because on any given day many “great books” are released but how do people know your great book is out? In truth, your spectacular book isn’t going to fall from the sky with fanfare and set off some internal alarm to let readers know. And it’s really not going to happen for newbies and mid listers who are really thinking about position in the market.
This is a long one so I’ll put the rest behind a jump…
So you think about all the stuff you could do and you start ruling out stuff for being too silly or tacky, too humiliating, too expensive, too time consuming and not effective (and not in that order usually).
In my opinion, and I’m not an expert, I’ve just been doing this for a few years – there are a few things you need and they need to be done well.
A good website. Easy to navigate. Easy on the eyes. Professional looking (and everyone has different definitions but I personally don’t like websites with music, pop up ads or other ads in a sidebar – these usually come with free site hosting). Not so much stuff it’s impossible to find what you need and not so many blinking and flashing cursor effects and graphics people viewing will get a seizure.
And then a variety of things but I personally dig talking to people, talking to readers and IMO, that’s the best, most genuine thing you can do (unless you’re an idiot and you spend all your time at your blog creating hateful graphics attacking people or writing three page screeds about folks who you feel have done you wrong – in which case, it’s good to just stay off the internet)
A blog – I feel this way – update it or don’t have one. It doesn’t have to be every day, but if it’s not once a week or so, people tend to stop checking in. Sure, there are folks who read through reader services and rss feeds, but not all do, not even half yet. So give people a reason to come back or they won’t. A blog is about the author’s voice – so don’t make it a carbon copy of your website, because well you already have one of those. Some blogs are funny, some are about cats, some are very high concept writing blogs, some are a combination – make your blog yours, give it your stamp.
Group Blogs and Loops/Lists – antoher choice and one I think is worthy especially if you have a cohesive group.
Don’t use it as a platform to be negative, cruel or stupid. And please, spare me the whole, “everytime I’m mean it doesn’t harm my sales, those girls are mean to me” stuff, because, well, shut up. Come on, what is this third grade? Have some dignity. Every time this stuff happens it blows back onto the rest of the community.
Stuff I find to be a mixed bag: eight hundred banner ads, loads of chats – I think chats are good but not every day. That’s just my experience, your mileage may vary. Banners- I personally haven’t found them effective but again, that’s my experience and other types of ads DO work, but for some reason, a lot of banner ads have like five things on them and they morph too fast so you can’t see what the ad is for.
Which sort of gets to the point about subtlety and excess – all the excessive behavior and overpromoting can lead to burnout
Stuff that makes my eyeball tic recur – drive by promotions – if you’ve never actually been a part of a loop and you just pop in, announce your new sale and bop off again, that’s drive by and it’s not only not effective, it’s annoying. Moreover, DON’T put your freaking drive by spam on my blog, my loop or my myspace page. That’s what YOUR pages are for. If you pimp your stuff without even asking, you’re a bad guest.
Don’t insert yourself and your book into every conversation. At Amazon when I see authors pimp their books in the discussions there, it’s usually in an inappropriate way. It reeks of desperate and frankly, I don’t think it’s effective. Also, when someone announces their book deal or talks about their new dog or shoes, it’s not a challenge to to you to find a way to promote your book.
SOMETIMES, you can be a human being, you know? And actually interact with other people without constantly sellling yourself. You don’t need to be so damned excessive. You don’t have to act like a used car salesman every moment of the day. YES, promotion is important but don’t lose sight of the fact that you might be promoting yourself as a douchebag.