Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Musty

How many times have you heard or read something like this:

Writing books isn't good enough anymore. You MUST self-promote them.

A variation on this came up here last Friday, when Zoe posted a question about it (not to pick on you, Zoe; it was just a bit of a shock to me to think I'd have to ask my publisher for permission not to self-promote.)

I'm contracted by publishers to write books, not promote them. Which is a good thing in my case. Self-promotion is something at which I suck. Verily. Whenever I'm tempted to self-promote, the first thing that pops into my head is Can I write a check and have someone else do it? Then generally what happens is an idea for a story kicks the self-promo thought out of my mind and I forget about it and go back to writing books.

Self-promo dodging is an art, you know.

The latest thing being worried over by some of my writer friends is to newsletter or not to newsletter. I'm in the not camp. I've been bombarded by couple of authors who are one step short of being SPAMmers so I mostly delete newsletters automatically now -- when I can. One lit-head is becoming a borderline cyberstalker; I unsubscribed three times to this guy's self-promo rag (for which I never signed up) and it still shows up every month in one of my business or reader e-mail accounts (of course, this could be complete jerkitude on his part.)

I don't want to spit on the fabulous newsletter writers out there, though. If you're great at newslettering, go for it. Just make sure the unsubscribe link thing works.

I'm curious to know how other writers are feeling about this particular MUST these days. MUST authors self-promote now, or is it still okay simply to write the books? Tell us what you think in comments.

56 comments:

  1. Self-promotion is putting your name in front of other people who might otherwise not have heard of you.
    Author blogs are self-promotion, even if they've grown into something else over time. There are thousands of people who know you through your blog, and who might pick up a copy of your book when they spot one just because of that familiarity.
    It's not a MUST, but in such a crowded market it's smart for every author to put SOME effort in.
    Another aspect of this: My publisher knows that I'm enthusiastic, net-savvy and have good contacts. My own efforts with publicity spur them on, and I've gained extra support from them as a result. I forward all the reader comments I get about my books to my editor, I send links to write-ups or reviews which Media Monitors doesn't pick up to my publicist, and I let them know about any online interviews, chats or events I've set up on my own.

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  2. What do I think?

    My first thought was THANK GOD I'm not the only person who sucks at it!

    My second thought was that it may be one of the most dangerous trends in this business to come along in a very long time.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm a fairly new author, without a huge following so far. So I blog. Post the occasional excerpt, the occasional review. I even have a newsletter, which I mail ONLY when I have something important to say about the publishing. Yes, I understand you have to get your name out there, and be enthusiastic enough about your work to want to help it sell.
    Nothing wrong with promoting yourself as well as your book, especially if you're good at it. But to feel FORCED to do it is another matter.

    I may have a limited scope, but what I'm seeing in the self-promo department is that it's getting (or has gotten) to the point where it doesn't even matter whether the writing's any good, or even interesting. It's a matter of how much you promoted yourself, how many contests you sponsored, how many chats you did (where often the books are hardly even mentioned), conferences attended, freebies offered, etc.
    And I just wanted to write--not run for Homecoming Queen.

    Again, for those who love it and do it well--more power to ya. But when a writer friend of mine who IS a major player in the biz recently told me she spends 50-75% of her time promoting rather than writing...well, then this business is no longer about craft, it's all about marketing.
    And that's a scary thought.

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  3. After your books hit the shelves you have a narrow window of opportunity before they disappear again. While that window is open word of mouth is your friend, and you need to generate as much of it as possible.
    Once they're off the shelves you've missed the opportunity, and can only load up for your next book - if there is one.
    With so much at stake, I can't understand why any author wouldn't put in as much effort as possible to help their books along. Yes, you have to write the next one but if you're a complete unknown like me you can't just wait for your publisher to (maybe) do something.

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  4. No writer really wants to promote themselvse, I think, despite one or two examples of media-tarting. My own experience has been that self-promotion is a necessary evil because my publisher is too small to do any at all, but I've managed to get my book noticed by some people in the industry (e.g., Scott Pack, after reading my book, has been sending copies to literary agencies). Let's not forget that it boils down to having a good product; but publishing is a gamble, and it can't hurt to load the dice with a bit of self-promotion.

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  5. I'm not published... yet, but I've started a blog that will, along with other posts that take my fancy, detail the long and torturous road to publication. Just the thought of putting myself out there - me, the person, not me, the commentator - makes me shudder. Public speaking is one of my fears, no matter how well people tell me I do it. God! Just the thought of all those people, faces turned to me, expecting... something... from me.

    Should the best happen, I'll be out there, at conventions, volunteering to be on panels, answering questions, signings... doing everything and almost anything to pimp my work.

    It will be my alter-ego out there, not really me, and that is a damn good reason for a pseudonym.

    It seems to me, that many authors have a hardened cadre of devout fans who will hear nothing bad about their favourite authors. As long as the said author has a daily blog, does signings a certain amount of times per year, then all is well in fan land. If an author seeks to expand that circle, then they must do something more creative. I don't think newsletters are the way - there simply isn't enough information. Although I do think personally signed bookmarks, books, whatever will always give a fan that thrill of 'knowing' an author.

    I also think 'freebies' on a website are a great marketing device. For example, how many people downloaded, or did you e-mail, your short story anthologies, S.? I know I have them all and enjoyed just about every story contained therein. I'll probably do the same (Forward Motion's Story-a-day marathon being on at this time), just to get my work out there.

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  6. Oh, jeez, I think the idea of self promotion is so individual. I've heard stories of editors who will interview an author with promotion in mind. Yes, the telegenic, photogenic, and silver-tongued get the bigger promo budgets.

    I think it's best to know yourself and to know your limitations.

    One final thought. You might not be as bad at self-promo as you think.

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  7. No writer really wants to promote themselvse, I think, despite one or two examples of media-tarting.

    I don't promote myself, but I do promote my books & fiction. I think the "Look at me, author extraordinaire!" approach is completely wrong - I mean, who cares? Film stars have more cachet in their little finger.

    However, if you have a book which people that read X might like, then letting people who read X know about it is a good idea. How else will they know your book is like X? Amazon built their entire business on this sort of 'if you like this...' recommendation.

    I've put writing articles on my site, stuck up my previously published short stories, I'm running a book giveaway, I've got a guess-the-balls thingo and a daft multiple-choice quiz, I've put up first chapters of my books (with my publisher's permission) and done just about everything I can to make it an interesting place to be, rather than a cover-shot-and-blurb. At least, I hope so.

    It helps that I code my own html because I can tweak the pages at no cost to myself, but if you're running a blog posting new and interesting content doesn't take any technical skill.

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  8. You may not realize it, but having this blog is a GREAT form of self-promotion.

    And you do not suck at that.

    As to answering the question, I think writing is what writer's do and promoting is what promoters do. If you are good at both - good for you.

    But, (I think) every minute spent flogging your wares, is a minute wasted in creating them.

    I say let the floggers flog and let the writers write . . .

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  9. I hate promo.

    Unfortunately though, since I started out as an ebook author, it was a necessary evil. I put a little more effort into early on, then I got lazy.

    One of the easier things for me, promo wise, was setting up a group site through www.writerspace.com. It's a big site for romance readers~just being listed in the sidebar gets a lot of clicks to the website. It does have a newsletter and I like that part~we send it out every other week and you have to subscribe in order to get it. Unsubbing is a piece of cake, which is an essential thing, since I can't stand being sent stuff I don't want either.

    There's the group blog I'm in and then my yahoo group. The group blog is a once every other week thing for me since we rotate and my yahoo group is low key and chit chat. I use a service that notifies the online community of new releases.

    That's about all the promo I do. I don't send out links to every excellent review I get and I don't prattle on nonstop about every little thing going on with a MS.

    It's a tricky line, because unknowns can benefit from GOOD promo, but learning how to promo good seems to take time, for the most part. When you promo bad... well, you lose readers a lot of the time even before you can tell them about your book.

    The key things about promo, in my opinion

    1) have a website. a GOOD one. if you can't make one that looks fairly professional on your own, get one done. There are places that will do basic sites for under $150.

    2) have an email or some form of contact for readers.

    3) if you are going to promote via email or newsletters or groups... get a grip and don't overdo it.

    that's my two cents, for what it's worth.

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  10. Anonymous8:29 AM

    Unfortunately, a new author MUST promote. I'm with a small press, and my publisher doesn't do much to get the word out about their products. I can't complain too loudly as I know authors with NY publishers who have the same problem.

    Of late I've been obsessed with my WorldCat numbers (my publisher targets the library market). My book has been out five months. Another friend's book has been out a month. Her smaller publisher works very hard to sell to that market, and it's obvious do an excellent job (admittedly they have far less product to sell and can concentrate on fewer titles) because her WorldCat numbers are already triple mine.

    There's not much I can do about. My publisher ARCs went out too late for national reviews. No national reviews, few library sales.

    It's up to me to improve my sellthrough, else my sequel will never see publication.

    In the meantime, I'm writing something completely different. It's already time to reinvent myself.

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  11. Am I good at promoting myself? No. I'm better at the writing so that's where I concentrate my time and energy. And the reality is that I don't have a lot of money to spend on promotion. Writing pays for little kid sneakers, a new furnace and now braces.

    I'm curious. If you're someone who does self-promote would you share how you pay for it?

    Thanks.

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  12. While not a huge fan of Suzanne Brockmann, she is the queen at self promo and has built her NYT bestselling career off of it. The more that you can make your fans feel part of your family, the stronger the bond becomes. The stronger the bond becomes, the more likely those fan girls are going to run all around and hand sell your books.

    I think that Fan Girls, in the long run, do more good than harm. Particularly off the internet. Having a message board where fans can interact is important. Being newsy and available about your books is another vital thing.

    Look at Jenny Crusie. I am part of her list and at least once a week, I read of some member rearranging the shelves at Target or Walmart or a bookstore so that her books are more prominently placed. Suzanne Brockmann fans would talk about what were the best "convert" books to give to the uninitiated.

    Sherrilyn Kenyon has also made a career out of self promotion. Her website has a role playing game of sorts. She handed out bookmarks and pins to anyone who would take them. I think, one year, she brought male models to an RT convention. I think self promotion, as distasteful as it is, can make mediocre sales into great sales.

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  13. I feel that at this stage of my career, I need to self-promote. However, I did less with the second book than I did with the first because of economics and budget. I'm selective where I spend money.

    Even though a conference is an opportunity for self-promotion, I don't count that expense out of my promo budget. I have fun and learn while I'm networking. I went to conferences before I published, so it's the same deal for me now. I invest in some promotional items and look for opportunities to connect while I'm there.

    When I first sold, I started an e-newsletter and sent one each month. Once I started blogging, I lapsed on the whole newsletter thing. Now I might send one seasonally. I think I say pretty much all there is to say in my blog and invest time daily in that forum.

    I don't heavily promote in my blog posts. I'm not one who always talks about my books. My goal is to entertain. If I'm entertaining in my blog, I believe readers will make the leap that my books might be entertaining.

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  14. Like any business expense, I want to see the ROI (return on investment). Some kinds of self-promotion -- this blog, for instance -- require relatively small investments for the potential return. On the other hand, going to lots of conventions and making a big splash is hugely expensive and time consuming, but the connection between doing that and selling books is not at all clear. Does anyone have comparative sales numbers between books whose authors did or didn't self-promote?

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  15. Simon wrote: It's not a MUST, but in such a crowded market it's smart for every author to put SOME effort in.

    Thing is, self-promo has become such a SOP for authors that I think it's becoming as choked as the market. Your self-promo doesn't stand out because it's the same thing being done by ten thousand other authors.

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  16. Thank God, another ducker of self-promotion. I despise it all. don't mind by interviewed once in a while to talk about my writing. And nothing wrong with putting review quotes on your blog or website. But I'm embarrassed by what is called self-promo. I'm doing a signing with four other writers at the end of the month. That will be my self-promo for the year. And anyway does it really work? Some does, certainly, but it's like the days when everybody had to do signings. There were so many of us mid-listers out there that we canceled each other out. The same thing is happening to all this self-promo. That's my opinion anyway. Yes, it does work on occasion but I don't think that most of us have the stomach for it. Bragging on yourself is, for me anyway, debasing.

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  17. I'm reclusive by nature and the thought of self-promotion is enough to give me a scorching case of hives. I have my blog (which I need to update more often -- right now it's at least once a week, sometimes two or three; it needs to be daily), my website, and interacting with others via their blogs, message boards, websites. I do booksignings infrequently and I'm planning some contests on my blog for later this summer, with prizes being copies of my August release, Memnon*. I'm looking into bookplates; I have some bookmarks and cover flats left over, some spiffy lapel pins . . . but I have no clue what to do with them. Any suggestions would be welcome.

    In my genre -- historical fiction, specifically ancient historical fiction -- you can literally count the working writers on the fingers of both hands (maybe throw in a toe or two). To my knowledge none of them are rabid self-promoters; Steven Pressfield, the reigning king of the ancient historical, only recently started doing any self-promotion (his 6th book is set for a July release) and still his books routinely hit the bestseller lists. It's the quality of his writing, not the inventiveness of his widgets, that seduce and snare his fans.


    *See? I self-promoed. Give me a cookie :)

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  18. Raine wrote: My first thought was THANK GOD I'm not the only person who sucks at it!

    Thank heavens I'm not the only one coming out of the closet here, lol.

    My second thought was that it may be one of the most dangerous trends in this business to come along in a very long time.

    Yeah, my thought, too. Writers are being trained and even brainwashed to think this is the only way to be a success.

    Nothing wrong with promoting yourself as well as your book, especially if you're good at it. But to feel FORCED to do it is another matter.

    Exactly. It's really tough on the shy and reserved writers who aren't at their best on display. Akin to torture for some of them.

    I may have a limited scope, but what I'm seeing in the self-promo department is that it's getting (or has gotten) to the point where it doesn't even matter whether the writing's any good, or even interesting. It's a matter of how much you promoted yourself, how many contests you sponsored, how many chats you did (where often the books are hardly even mentioned), conferences attended, freebies offered, etc.

    Lord. I must horrify people.

    But when a writer friend of mine who IS a major player in the biz recently told me she spends 50-75% of her time promoting rather than writing...well, then this business is no longer about craft, it's all about marketing.

    It backfires, though. You can only promote a sow's ear as a silk purse for so long. Even if you're good, if you don't devote yourself to the writing, the writing always takes a dive into sow territory.

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  19. I do *some*. There's tamboblog, of course, and the website, and I do an occasional public appearance thing - I'm going to be in Oklahoma City week after next and I'm trying to shake something out of the bushes there. That said, I am not comfortable with doing a lot of self promotion. It's not about me, it's about the work.

    Like Raine said, ... what I'm seeing in the self-promo department is that it's getting (or has gotten) to the point where it doesn't even matter whether the writing's any good, or even interesting.

    I've found this to be the case, several times, that promote-promote-promote authors *sometimes* put 98% of their energy into the promo and 2% into their product, and it shows.

    Thanks, anyway. I'd rather spend most of my energy on the book. Crafting a good story is important to me. As is keeping my fans salivating for more. Besides, the fans spread the word far better than I ever could.

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  20. Simon wrote: With so much at stake, I can't understand why any author wouldn't put in as much effort as possible to help their books along. Yes, you have to write the next one but if you're a complete unknown like me you can't just wait for your publisher to (maybe) do something.

    I've been in that camp, too, but I mostly found myself being swindled and scammed by various entities and organizations looking to make a profit off the hopes of a rookie unknown. I've also watched friends practically bankrupt themselves pursuing self-promo and end up with little or no return on their investment (see Katherine's comment below.) Writer desperation has become an industry on its own.

    I agree that it is important to get some attention, and most of us can't rely on our publishers to help much, but self-promotion isn't the answer. If it was, we'd all be rich and famous.

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  21. Ian wrote: Let's not forget that it boils down to having a good product; but publishing is a gamble, and it can't hurt to load the dice with a bit of self-promotion.

    Interesting analogy. I guess I'd rather play five or six games simultaneously with straight dice. The odds of the house not tossing me out the door are better. :)

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  22. Jaye wrote: I also think 'freebies' on a website are a great marketing device. For example, how many people downloaded, or did you e-mail, your short story anthologies, S.? I know I have them all and enjoyed just about every story contained therein.

    My freebie e-books remain the single most cost-efficient self-promotion I've ever done. I wrote the stories in my spare time, made up the e-books for free, and kept them available on the web site, which was like $30.00 a year for hosting.

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  23. Jpatrick wrote: I think it's best to know yourself and to know your limitations.

    And to defend them to the death! Lol.

    One final thought. You might not be as bad at self-promo as you think.

    Obviously I have not yet nailed you with a StarDoc the Bookmark, lol.

    I can promote other writers' books, but when it comes to mine, I just go tharn in the oncoming headlights.

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  24. Simon wrote: I think the "Look at me, author extraordinaire!" approach is completely wrong - I mean, who cares? Film stars have more cachet in their little finger.

    True, although I think we all need our little amusements, and recreationally watching one of those guys is better than TV.

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  25. Paul wrote: You may not realize it, but having this blog is a GREAT form of self-promotion.

    Which is why I am so often tempted to shut it down, I suppose.

    I say let the floggers flog and let the writers write . . .

    Amen, brother.

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  26. Shiloh wrote: The key things about promo, in my opinion

    1) have a website. a GOOD one. if you can't make one that looks fairly professional on your own, get one done. There are places that will do basic sites for under $150.


    Agreed. If you don't have the money, try to barter services with another writer who is design savvy.

    2) have an email or some form of contact for readers.

    Agree with this too, as long as you can handle the volume, which can get out of hand at times, especially if you maintain a popular blog.

    3) if you are going to promote via email or newsletters or groups... get a grip and don't overdo it.

    I think with this, content is everything. So is brevity. I'm more likely as a reader to enjoy a newsletter with a short preview and some interesting factoids or links than I would the War and Peace editions some writers send out.

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  27. Amen, Shiloh and PBW.

    I think, at the very least, one must take the build it and they will come approach.

    That means having a website, running regular contests on your site, maybe even a blog and/or messageboard.

    I don't see the need for JA Konrath's all-out approach, but I also see that I'm a different person from him. If I tried to do what he did, my numbers would probably rocket, after the news gets out that I lost it and am currently resting in jail.

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  28. That is, resting in jail because I decided to massacre everybody at a booksigning or something. LOL.

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  29. I like Ian's analogy too.

    In the May 06 issue of Business 2.0 there's actually a short article on author promotion (I read it in the dentist office). Not exactly where I expected to find somethink like that =)

    The thing is, with e-publishing your ENTIRE readership is online, not walking through a bookstore, browsing book shelves where they might randomly pick up your book, read the back blurb and hey, maybe even buy it. People do have to learn your name but that doesn't mean they want it shoved down their throat.

    I don't think putting out a good product is enough anymore but I think we walk a very fine line when it comes to overkill.

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  30. Nothing will kill a mediocre product faster than a great ad.


    Read that on M.J. Rose's blog recently. Love it. NO ONE talks about craft in this atmosphere of promo whoredom. It's like craft is an afterthought, and I can't stand it. (I have a draft saved of a post about this very thing. LOTS of thoughts on this subject that I'll eventually find time to discuss at home.)

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  31. A further thought on my comment on ROI, above. If you or your readers spend more time talking about your promotional efforts than about your books, you may not be spending your time and money wisely.

    Which is better for an actor's career? A People magazine cover, or an Oscar nomination?

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  32. I love you, Alison!

    Yes, yes, YES!!

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  33. I'm curious. If you're someone who does self-promote would you share how you pay for it?

    A lot of that depends on what kind of promo you're talking about, and what you write.

    If you write romance, there's all sorts of promo services.

    Places likes http://www.genesispromotions.com/
    http://www.millenniumpromotion.com/
    http://www.theromanceclub.com/
    They do a lot of promotional services for writers, from newsletters, to announcing new releases... that's what I use the most~Millenium charges different amounts depending on what you want done, but it's reasonable. You cna have one of them design a banner for you and they can run on it various review site.

    It all depends on what you want done.

    Fangirls, or very avid readers, can be a writer's best friend. But if they go from avid to rabid, that can hurt. I've seen people who leave lists, groups, etc, because they were practically attacked by rabid fangirls.

    Promo whoredom I love that term. Self promo can easily turn into promo whoredom if you use places like yahoo groups to sing your own praises night and day. If all a writer ever really talks about is how great her reviews are, how wonderful her book is, and how wonderful her characters are... well, it bores the hell out of me~I'm a reader, too. If I'm bored with it, chances are a lot of people are.

    There is a middle road to all of it... the trick is finding it.

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  34. PBW...say it ain't so!

    I was always led to believe that no matter how you chose to publish, promotion was the authors responsibility. So, with my 3rd novel, MACUMBA, I decided to pull out all the stops and so I went in search of a publicist. For 4 months I did extensive research and finally found one that fit. $13,000 later I walked away with a pretty press kit and not one single review!

    My attorney advised me that for $3000.00 more he could send a letter that would almost guarantee out of court settlement. If not and we went to court, even if I won, I could expect to see about .30 cents of my money back. Needless to say that was a very valuable lesson learned.

    I've since thrown in the towel when it comes to promotion, as I too feel my time is better spent writing. Unfortunately my royalty checks reflect my lack of exposure, but I'm a lot less stressed and have faith that if it's going to happen, it'll happen.

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  35. I would rather your efforts went into writing more, better books than to waste energy doing something you may not like simply trying to promote your books.

    Let the books do all the 'self-promotion' you need.

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  36. Anonymous wrote: In the meantime, I'm writing something completely different. It's already time to reinvent myself.

    You're not alone, Anonymous -- and thanks for posting about your situation. It's good to get perspective from all over the industry.

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  37. Darlene wrote: I'm curious. If you're someone who does self-promote would you share how you pay for it?

    Not that I self-promote much, but I started tucking away a little money from every advance check years ago, with the intention of someday doing one big self-promo thing. It was like a promo Christmas Club. :) When the time came to use it, I had enough saved to do things I normally couldn't have afforded to try.

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  38. Jane wrote: I think that Fan Girls, in the long run, do more good than harm.

    I've only observed Fan Girls at their worst, so it's good to know that they do something a little positive for the authors whom they adore.

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  39. Mary wrote: If I'm entertaining in my blog, I believe readers will make the leap that my books might be entertaining.

    I think the real factor counts a lot, too. You're a real person on your blog, not a cheerleader shaking fake pom poms in someone's face. We want to read books by real people, not self-sequinned ninnies.

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  40. Katherine wrote: Does anyone have comparative sales numbers between books whose authors did or didn't self-promote?

    I know of one author who turned pro out at the same time I did, went to the cons I did and all the cons thereafter that I didn't. Said author self-promo'ed like publishing was going to fold up tomorrow. Bookmarks, signings, mailouts, con workshops, every other month something somewhere. Just watching the author exhausted me.

    I can't compare our writing styles, but that author and I had the same size print runs, the same amount of publisher backing, and initially hit the same spot on the BSL lists with our first novels. The other author had three advantages over me: the endless self-promo, entering and winning a number of contests and awards that I never did, and being quite well-liked among our peers.

    The author's promo was tastefully done and also well-received, but in spite of all that effort, that author's books didn't sell. The publisher dropped the author after the fourth book tanked. I have not seen or heard from that author since.

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  41. Ed wrote: And anyway does it really work? Some does, certainly, but it's like the days when everybody had to do signings. There were so many of us mid-listers out there that we canceled each other out. The same thing is happening to all this self-promo.

    That's what I've been trying so lamely to say: readers can't see one tree when the whole forest is being shoved in their faces. All most self-promo really promotes is the herd.

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  42. Scott wrote: Any suggestions would be welcome.

    Let me think on that seriously, Scott. I'll e-mail you or come over to your place and bug you about it.

    *See? I self-promoed. Give me a cookie :)

    You deserve a good one, too. Hmmmm. Okay, what if another shy, reclusive colleague drops in on one of your Memnon booksignings? Maybe signs a few books with you?

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  43. Tam wrote: It's not about me, it's about the work.

    I'm going to have that tattooed somewhere. Don't tell my mom.

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  44. Milady wrote: I think, at the very least, one must take the build it and they will come approach.

    Web sites and weblogs can be a big draw, but building them to last is tricky. Bloggers seem to run out of steam at regular intervals, or start big and dwindle to nothing. Career dry spells make web sites go stagnant. Maybe mixing up the content is the way to go -- use your sites and blogs for self-promo, but don't make that the only thing you use them for.

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  45. Cece wrote: The thing is, with e-publishing your ENTIRE readership is online, not walking through a bookstore, browsing book shelves where they might randomly pick up your book, read the back blurb and hey, maybe even buy it. People do have to learn your name but that doesn't mean they want it shoved down their throat.

    I thought you started something interesting and productive by getting bloggers to talk more about e-books, Cece. That one was your fault, wasn't it? Lol.

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  46. Alison wrote: (I have a draft saved of a post about this very thing. LOTS of thoughts on this subject that I'll eventually find time to discuss at home.)

    Please do. We will come to your blog and shake it out of you if you forget. :)

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  47. Katherine wrote: Which is better for an actor's career? A People magazine cover, or an Oscar nomination?

    Trick question. If you're Annie Proulx, neither.

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  48. Tam wrote: I love you, Alison!

    It's hard not to love Alison. :)

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  49. Shiloh wrote: If you write romance, there's all sorts of promo services.

    I just wanted to chime in here with a thanks for the info and links, Shiloh. Much appreciated.

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  50. Jill wrote: For 4 months I did extensive research and finally found one that fit. $13,000 later I walked away with a pretty press kit and not one single review!

    Jill, I am so sorry to read what happened to you. I'm glad it didn't stop you, and thanks for passing it along here for the benefit of others who might be considering taking the same route.

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  51. Pixel Faerie wrote: Let the books do all the 'self-promotion' you need.

    They're a lot better at it than I am.

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  52. PBW wrote: The author's promo was tastefully done and also well-received, but in spite of all that effort, that author's books didn't sell. The publisher dropped the author after the fourth book tanked. I have not seen or heard from that author since.

    That puts it all in perspective, doesn't it! I've often wondered if I didn't promote, would my sales be the same? I have a website and a blog. I put out a newsletter every other month. I also have a low volume discussion loop where I'm writing a serial story. I promo because I want to feel like I gave my latest book the best shot of I could.

    This past year though I've shifted what I do for promo so I can focus on working hard at the part that matters most--the writing. Like you said, at the end of the day, the writing is what sells the book.

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  53. I think it depends on where you're at in your career. I know several people who've done well with promo. Of course, their writing backed up their promo, so that helped a lot. I think if you're just starting out you should definitely promo your books the best you can. The key is never losing sight of what's important...the writing.

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  54. PBW wrote:

    Let me think on that seriously, Scott. I'll e-mail you or come over to your place and bug you about it.

    Door's always open, PBW :) Comments and sage wisdom always welcome . . .

    Okay, what if another shy, reclusive colleague drops in on one of your Memnon booksignings? Maybe signs a few books with you?

    Heck yeah! I hate doing these things alone. I get self-conscious, blush alot, and stammer at the most basic of questions (i.e.: "Did you write this?"). In fact, after having a couple of signings* I now know what the monkeys in the zoo feel like. "Look, ma! A chimp with a typewriter!" :)


    *My first booksigning was in Manhattan . . . how the bloody hell do you follow up on that in Podunk, Alabama? Geez, talk about setting the bar high . . .

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  55. I need to temper all my comments above with the following: The most important marketing and publicity is that employed by your publisher's sales force when they're trying to get it into shops. You don't have much input or influence on this.

    To me, author promotion encompasses the effort you put in to make your book more visible than the rest to a bookstore browser. Whether they recall the name or the title, that first hint of 'I know this from somewhere' might be enough for them to lift your book off the shelf and scan the back cover.

    I'm lucky that my books are crossover - in other words, clean enough for the YA market. This has led to a number of school visits, ranging from 20 kids to speaking sessions at 4-day literary festivals with audiences of 200+ A few years back I would have been struck dumb at the thought, but starting with small groups and working up to the biggies made all the difference.

    First and foremost I see this as promoting reading and literature - not myself or my books. I don't expect the entire audience to rush out and buy, but it was really nice when a tiny lass came up to me and said her dad LOVED my books (her emphasis.) Then there was the girl who got me to sign her bookmark half a dozen times (loved the novelty of it, and so kept joining the back of the queue). Great stuff, and it helps me work up enthusiasm for the next book.

    The thing is, whatever my publicity lady asks me to do, I'm up for it. (Book related, that is ;-) And now that I've got a rep as someone who'll say yes and won't let them down, I get offered more and more stuff to do. E.g. in a couple of weeks a big name kids' author is coming to WA to meet public & school librarians to promote his books, and last I heard I'm going to be part of the same evening. (Probably ensuring his glass is kept filled ;-))

    Having said all that, the last thing I'd suggest is that an author break out of their comfort zone and stand up in front of a large audience, absolutely terrified. Better in that case to be the mysterious shadowy anon.

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  56. >>That one was your fault, wasn't it? Lol.

    *blush* who knew one little comment would have the effect it's had? I'm glad though, real glad!

    Patrice FWIW I didn't do any promo for four months (shame on me) except to send out a newsletter in late April (I even quit blogging for over a month) and my sales figures didn't vary much.

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