Saturday, July 14, 2007

VW#5: Seducing vs. Slapping ~ Self-Promotion Styles and Strategies

The winners of VW#3 giveaway are:

Katherine Hazen

bamabelle

Winners, please send your full name and ship-to address to LynnViehl@aol.com, and I'll get these goodies out to you. On to the workshop:

I. Disorderly Conduct

A friend and I were playing the "What psychological problem does your online behavior reveal?" game, and trying to decide if one chronic offender was displaying a borderline or narcissistic personality disorder. My friend decided the excessive dependency on ego-feeding indicated borderline, but the exaggerated sense of self-importance made me go with narcissistic. We're waiting for a third pal who was a psych major to make the final call.

Yes, this is what we do when we're not playing Amazon.com review poker. We profile jackasses.

It got me to thinking, though, about the psychological aspects of self-promotion. Being the obsessive-compulsive organizer I am, I decided to come up with a classification system. When it comes to self-promotion, writers tend to fall into one of three general categories:

A. Avoidant: for whatever reason, these writers dislike or resent self-promotion intensely, and thus try to avoid it. Like anything, you never know how good you are until you give it a shot. These folks would rather never know (and this would be my category.)

B. Dependent: these writers are submissive types who lack self-confidence and do whatever self-promotion their publisher, writer friends, or writing organization tell them to do. They rely almost entirely on others to make decisions for them. These writer may be good at promoting, but they never think they are, so they follow the herd (the most prevalent category of self-promoting writer.)

C. Obsessive-Compulsive: self-promotion is one of the secret handshakes these writers believe exist, so they obsess over it, go to extremes, and take on more and more of the responsibility for promoting their books. Like the dependent, they may actually be good self-promoters, but they're never happy with the results, and escalate until they blow up, burn out or give up (this one is always a heartbreaker to watch.)

I think we need a fourth option. One that doesn't require us to be control freaks, herd followers or conscientious objectors. One that permits us to promote intelligently and effectively without feeling shame, dependency or disgust.

And I'm still working on what that option is.

II. Trends

Self-promotion follows as many trends as publishing does. Whenever a few authors start doing a new type of affordable self-promotion, and it looks like it's working for them, every other author online jumps on the bandwagon. When I was blogging back in 2001, I knew maybe a dozen other authors who were doing the same. Now it seems like everyone in the biz has a weblog, and a MySpace.com page (okay, I don't, but I also avoid anything that requires me to learn new HTML.)

This doesn't just happen with the low-cost self-promotion, either. Having a professional book trailer, which can cost thousands of dollars, made for your book became a trend for a while. The quality ranged from excellent to counter-productive. Virtual blog tours, which also have a hefty price tag, were another popular trend.

I keep thinking of that thing our moms used to say: If all your friends jump off a cliff, that doesn't mean you have to.

It surprises me, too, because writers have such creative minds and are talented problem-solvers. Our books are all different, we're all different, yet the general strategy being used for self-promotion is to clone what everyone else is doing? That makes no sense to me. There is no safety in numbers, not in publishing.

Look at it this way: if you're a tree, and you want to stand out in the forest, the last thing you try to do is look like all the other trees.

III. Take My Book, Please

I can't tackle all the problems with self-promotion in a single workshop, so let's focus on one issue: tone.

The tone of your self-promotion says a lot about you the writer. If the reader percieves your self-promotion to be strident, demanding, egotistical, phony, tentative, clumsy, etc., they will apply that opinion not only to your work, but to you as a person. We all think SPAM is irritating, impersonal and offensive, and when an author SPAMs us, we think the same about them.

When appropriately presented, well-crafted, genuine and artistic self-promotion has the same effect. A beautiful, thoughtful or sincere presentation says great things about the author, especially if they created it. Personally when I see writers doing innovative things with their self-promotion, I respond to it by buying their books and talking about them here on the blog.

Achieving the right tone is tricky. Even defining it is problematic. It's like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's infamous quote about obscenity given in his opinion on Jacobellis vs. Ohio -- I know it when I see it. What I do know from my observations is that people largely respond to how they perceive they're being addressed as much as the content of the address. Some examples:

A. Love Me, Love My Book -- authors often objectify themselves in their self-promotion by tossing out lists of awards, professional achievements and other forms of special recognition to portray themselves as successful industry icons. Everyone loves a winner, and this does impress some readers, but it only works on a large scale if the writer actually does have the professional clout to back it up.

B. Buy My Book Before I Starve -- self-promotion that involves the writer confessing their personal or financial straits in relation to their book sales can create reader empathy and a desire to help. This can be dangerous, though, because there are authors who use this approach with every book they promote, and readers get tired of hearing how desperate they are, or perceive them as liars trying to get a mercy read.

C. You're Not Smart Enough to Read My Book -- this is my personal favorite; also known as the Stone Soup approach. Authors who use it actually try to persuade readers to buy their book by convincing them that only extremely intelligent people will be able to understand it. And yes, a few people with low self-esteem fall for it, but I think most readers have a pretty solid sense of how smart they are, so it can backfire on the author.

D. Don't Buy That Idiot's Book, Buy Mine --
The gleeful online trend of schadenfreude self-promotion depends on people's need to vent some hostility to generate sales out of comraderie, gratitude and support. Most of us do respond to authority figures, especially if they present themselves as judges, but often the author's anger and self-righteousness slips into unreasonable outrage whenever they are judged and found wanting, which makes them appear largely hypocritical, and can quickly disperse their following.

IV. Honey and Vinegar

As much as I avoid self-promotion, I have learned a few things from watching it over the years. Readers are book lovers, and they don't want to be ridiculed, kicked, punched and slapped by a potential new flame. They want to be respected, intrigued, involved, appreciated, and seduced.

It's the classic honey vs. vinegar situation. If you want to catch more flies, you don't put out a dish of vinegar.

The fact is that readers seem to respond most to sincerity, humor, honesty and a certain level of enthusiasm. The problem is that all of these things can't be faked, or not for long, anyway. So to find the right tone for your self-promotion, you have to think about how you feel about your readers, and how much of your real self you want to share with them.

Then? Get real.

For a chance to win one of today's two Left Behind and Loving It goodie bags, in comments to this post ask a question or share your view on self-promotion, or just throw your name into the hat by midnight EST on Sunday, July 15, 2007. I will draw two names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners a tote filled with a signed copy of my novel Dark Need (paperback), as well as unsigned copies of The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid (hardcover), The Writer's Portable Therapist ~ 26 Sessions to a Creativity Cure by Rachel Ballon (paperback), Deborah's Story by Ann Burton (paperback), Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi (trade paperback), Working Man by Melanie Schuster (paperback), Hunting the Hunter and Hunter's Salvation by Shiloh Walker (paperbacks), the July 2007 issue of Scientific American magazine and some surprises. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

Other sources on self-promotion:

Astrid Cooper's Marketing and Self-Promotion

Self-Promotion Means Always Having to Say You're Somebody by Morris Rosenthal

Self-Promotion by Robert J. Sawyer

Barbar Stahura's Shameless Self-Promotion

Other virtual workshops now in progress:

Joely Sue Burkhart's Do You Know the Secret?

Gabriele Campbell's How to Make a Battle Come Alive on the Page, Part 1 and Part 2

LJ Cohen's Organize your Novel with a WIKI

Rosina Lippi's Workshop Day 1: The Story Machine, Workshop Day 2: Ask Your Characters, Workshop Day 3: Rev Your Engines, and Workshop Day 4: Mix It Up

Jordan Summers talks about writing outside the traditional boundaries of romance, and her own trials and triumphs as an example of what roads are available and how to avoid some of the potholes

Shiloh Walker's Heat with Heart Day 1, finding that missing emotion, Exploring that Backstory (where she briefly grills me)

70 comments:

  1. When I do public appearance things, I play upon the dichotomy of being an apparently normal quilt-making, cookie-baking, midwestern housewife/mom who just *happens* to write grisly, violent, brutal and rather disgusting at times forensic murder mysteries.

    It seems to work pretty well - I have yet to take any books home from a talk/conference/workshop/meet the author thing. However, it's a LOT harder to maintain that perky Suzy-homemaker chipperness all the time.The quiet, shy, terrified me seems to come out more online which probably isn't a good thing.

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  2. I think your weblog is your best form of self-promo, because everyone can see how funny, honest, and nice you are. I know reading your weblog made me want to read your books. Same for Holly. I read her weblog first, and then read her books.

    You also have a strong self-promo in the giveaways on your site. True it is tied to your weblog, but it's also a seperate thing entirely. No one on the internet I've seen does give aways like or as often as you.

    Book trailers, to me, don't really make me want to read the book, they just look really cheesey.

    Basically, I think you've got it down to an art.

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  3. Throwing my name in the hat

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  4. I'm taking the softly-softly approach of putting out free Harold & Jasfoup short stories in the hope that it'll generate scales when the book come out.

    My name and the hat want to be together.

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  5. I detest self promotion and do get tired of other authors who constantly push their books. Sometimes you can sell a book just by participating in a discussion--without even mentioning your own work. I think you're right about tone--authors need a sincere and humble one.

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  6. Can I be classified as avoidant/dependent?

    I'll do it when I have to and I think I do it well enough, but I usually don't want to bother.


    I think promo is a tricky thing and for some reason, some of the most annoying self-promoters are the ones published eletronically. As a side note, I'm e pubbed and have been for a while and I've seen enough that I can honestly say this. I'm not just picking on anybody e pubbed because I don't like them. I AM them.

    But I've lost track of how many epubbed authors I've seen join lists and only come out to crow about their five star reviews and how this site gave me that award and oh, won't you please come see my site (then you go to the site and it's a freebie site loaded with pop ups and such but that's another issue). They sign everything with sig lines ten lines long... uh, I'm not wading thru that and those emails or messages just get deleted or skipped when I'm the one doing the reading.

    Promo without making an ass or an annoyance of yourself can be tricky. Some people can do it. Some can't.

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  7. Throwing my name in again. :)

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  8. Thank you so much for the goodie bag win! I sent you an email. :)

    I agree completely, that it is a fine line that writers have to walk. I also think it is good to try to be yourself, to stand out from the crowd.

    You said:

    "Look at it this way: if you're a tree, and you want to stand out in the forest, the last thing you try to do is look like all the other trees."

    I really like that. I think sometimes it easier to follow than to put your own ideas and creativity out there to be possibly criticized. But as the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I figure nobody else is going to be me, so I better do it. :)

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  9. I'm first? Yeah. Seriously though, I think I've come up with a 4th category for your list: the professional. This writer has studied the field, particularly those aspects that affect a writer; has developed skills (if not talents) in this area, sometimes in self defense; does it well and acts professionally while doing so; and yet does not confuse having a profession (or career) with having a life; and develops a little professional detachment, the ability to not equate job performance with personal worth. I've been learning a lot about being a writer from reading writer blogs and watching what goes one, and I would say that three examples of this categorie would be Nora Roberts, Holly Lisle, and you. (and I'm not just saying that because I'm jonesin' for the signed copy of Night Lost).

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  10. *sigh* SOMEDAY I'll win the goodiebag! Congrats to all winners!

    I'm not at this stage (yet), so I don't have any thoughts on the subject. Name in the hat for a change. ;)

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  11. Laura D.3:23 PM

    Where I work just had a local author signing. The author wasn't good on one-on-one interaction and he didn't advertise anywhere that he'd be there.

    He also came across as "C. You're Not Smart Enough To Read My Book." I'd rather scoop water with a slotted spoon than sponsor that kind of attitude.

    He sold one book in three hours.

    I'd like to toss my name in the hat.

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  12. hi will keep this in mind when I finish my book. Mostly I just throwing my name into the hat. *laugh* thanks again for this "workshop"

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  13. hi will keep this in mind when I finish my book. Mostly I just throwing my name into the hat. *laugh* thanks again for this "workshop"

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  14. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Another great post!

    Throwing my name into the hat!

    Thanks,

    Terri W

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  15. Whether it's from industry experience or just a natural talent, you do have a gift for insight. Lynn.

    And as usual you are dead on target.

    One quick question - in an industry where the pressure is on to constantly come up with new ways to promote, isn't the tried and true word of mouth still the best way to go? Or is this simple ancient lowtech method getting 'lost' in the shuffle?

    Thanks again for doing these workshops.

    Tossing my hat in again today.

    Siana

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  16. Bridget Medora5:13 PM

    I'm an avoider too. Self-promo makes me uncomfortable, like I'm barging in on someone's free time. I always want to cringe and apologize to anyone who might see said promo. Which of course is more than a little counter-productive, sigh. ;)

    Please toss my name in the hat again too. Thank you again for these workshops!

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  17. I am far from any kind of promotion what so ever. I think I would avoid it if at all possible.

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  18. Somewhat unrelated to writing, but I've been doing self-promotion to get a "bishop" in my church body (actually a district president, but more people know what a bishop is) to consider me for churches that need a pastor. It's a fine line to walk, and there are times when I'm not sure I don't fall off. Rhetorical question (because I don't know if there really is an answer): Where do you draw the line between sounding earnest/willing and sounding pathetic?

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  19. Now I'm tryinhg to figure out where I am in the self promotion game. LOL. I guess sort of between Dependent and Obsessive compulsive. LOL

    Is the fact that this is what I chose to comment on telling? LOL

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  20. This is such an nice bag of goodies, please put my name in the hat.

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  21. I think the best book promotion comes from writing a good story. Of course, we all think we've done that. *grin*

    Book give-aways (on blogs) help to get the word out, I think, but if authors could afford to give a book away to everyone who wanted one, we probably wouldn't worry quite so much about selling more.

    I'll probably try to make my ideas on promotion more concrete later--like when I actually have a book out to agents. (So I guess I'm at least temporarily Avoidant.)

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  22. Promo - not something I've had to do thus far. Definitely something I'm not looking forward to. I'll do it when I have to, but have a strong suspicion I'm fundamentally avoidant, and will revert to dependant when I can't avoid any longer.

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  23. Throwing my name in. Thanks!

    DiDi

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  24. I appreciate the honest approach. "Hey, this is my book. Check it out. If you like it, GREAT, if not well, thanks for the shot." I find that I not only enjoy those books more (no pressure), but I'm more inclined to 1) support the author by continuing to buy said books and 2) recommending them to friends and family.

    I absolutely 100% dislike the fangirl approach. You know the one were the gobs of fangirls gang up on you when you say that you disliked the last book-"You aren't a real fan if you don't LOVE her books!" They make the message board experience a nightmare.

    And the UBER-fan approach to promotions-join my fan club and for $35-50 a year you can have all the "free" bookmarks, exclusive excerpts and buttons that $1.50 worth of shipping will get you. It just smacks of conceit and greed to me.

    DeeCee

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  25. Please throw my name into the hat.

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  26. I find self-promotion excruciatingly painful, even though I only have one sold story to promote :). Whenever the magazine is reviewed online, I post a link to the reviewing site, a direct link to the review, and quote what's said (if anything) about my story. That's about it!

    I suspect I come under A.

    I finished reading the big fat whatever today :). Husband caught me sprawled in bed reading it this morning, trying to find out what happens at the end with only 100 pages to go. "I thought you were getting up," he says. Well, I was up. Sort of! Apparently his idea of being up involved a very exciting trip to the garage.

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  27. I think I'm going to have to fight to overcome being avoidant. I'm just so shy sometimes that it's really hard. But I'm learning a lot about self-promotion lately, so hopefully when the time comes I'll be able to do what I need to.

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  28. Anonymous8:22 PM

    Shiloh Walker expressed my sentiments exactly. I'm also an ebook author (with a print book) and I've been on those lists and witnessed the silliness. At first I thought it was fun to read the excerpts, but was disappointed with how bad so many of them were. Even so, it helped to learn what books NOT to buy.

    I have mixed feelings about promotion. On the one hand, I know better than to put too much money and time into it because the distribution of my book is extremely limited so I have to think of my ROI (return on investment). On the other hand, I get a kick out of coming up with new ideas to promote myself and my book. Still, it's not like the number of books sold through innovative marketing in my situation is going to do a whole helluva lot for sales. I don't stress about it. I just have fun with my ideas and let it go at that.

    IMO, reviews have worked well for me in terms of generating interest in my book. I've had five out of five whatevers (kisses, crowns, cups, etc.) on every review, and if that encourages readers to want to see for themselves if the book is as good as they've heard it is, then terrific. I'm happy.

    To be honest, I'd rather spend my time and energy writing the next book. A better book. Because whoever said the best promo strategy is a good book was spot on.

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  29. OK. I'll make it easy for you -- I'm borderline narcissistic with a touch of paranoia tossed gently for good measure. 'Cause the full-blown narcissistic paranoid in me just knows it must have been me you were profiling.

    I'm not big on the overblown self-promotion you described. I DO want to know when someone has a book out. In your case, your latest releases section does a good job of telling that.

    Blogs are great ways to make on-line readers aware that something is available. I'm not sure how you reach readers who don't cruise the web looking for their favorite author. In that case, on-line bookseller recommendation pages can help.

    As an example of something that works, I love what Rosina Lippi did recently for the trade release of Tied to the Tracks.

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  30. Throwing my name in the hat, and I'll look this entry up when I get to a position where I can promote something. :)

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  31. Throwing my name into the hat. Thanks for doing this series, PBW!

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  32. Throwing my name in the pot

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  33. As an unpublished self-promotion is the thing that terrifies me most about the journey to becoming published. I do well with people I know, but when it comes to strangers I'm very shy. So the idea of ever trying to promote my work is frightening. I'm sure I could get over the fear, but I'm not sure self promotion is something I could ever embrace.

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  34. I may be in the minority here, but I think the whole industry's gotten a bit over-the-top when it comes to promotion. Sure it makes sense for authors to appear at conferences, give lectures, and do signings, but MySpace pages and trailers? My apologies, but gimmicks have never incited me into action and they never will. I buy a writer's book because the characters and their lives are compelling, the story is solid, and the writing is top caliber. The focus should be more on producing the best novels possible, not who has the most air time.

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  35. Since writing is a solitary profession, most writers are a bit shy when it comes to 'getting out there' and selling the books.

    I think creating and maintaining an online presence is a first step; the second would be to comment on lots of other weblogs (people are curious about who is commenting and will visit the home blog). From there, posting freebies or competitions is a more obvious way of garnering interest. And, of course, nothing beats the grapevine.

    As long as your work has good/great writing that evolves, people will be interested.

    Personally, I'd still get out there to do book signings and meet with people. I've done the public speaking bit and unfortunately I'm apparently good at it, but it scares me grey...

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  36. I'm avoidance. Definitely. I do not enjoy self-promotion at all! But I do enjoy promoting others...as strange as that sounds. I do not enjoy self-promotion and being epubbed myself...I am so tired of excerpt "hell." Please just give me a blurb and a link to your website in the sig line. All of your groups, chats, book purchasing area, etc should be ON YOUR SITE. I'll look at it if I feel inclined. If not...throwing 15 excerpts in my face on EVERY group I'm a member of will make me avoid you.

    Sorry if I sound snarky. I enjoy respectful promo. Write a great book and you'll have readers. All the promo in the world isn't going to make up for shoddy writing. My opinion, of course, and something I constantly tell myself.

    Thank you for the workshop lessons. I've learned a lot! Oh, I went to a workshop today that had a Plot-stormers worksheet you'd done some time back...it really helped me plotting my next novel. Thank you!

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  37. I like getting to know the people behind the book. Blogs are a terrific, convenient way of doing that. If the author comes across as someone I think I'd like, I read their books.

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  38. This has been a great week of workshops. Thanks. Throwing my name in the hat.
    Lavern

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  39. I'm throwing my name in the hat.

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  40. Since I live abroad and my book is not (yet) in print, it's tough for me (and pointless at this date) to do personal appearances or book signings. I have tried to establish a web presence but I don't want to be one of those hit-and-run promo post people. And lately I've been seeing a lot of discussion in various places about how all the promo stuff like bookmarks and magnets and such don't really influence sales anyway - it mostly boils down to word of mouth.

    So how you manage to not look like a tree is something I have not yet figured out.

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  41. Throwing my name in as well.

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  42. I'd like to throw my name into the hat please. Thanks! Also, congrats to all the winners.

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  43. Add my name, please! Thanks!!

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  44. (I'm definitely in the Avoidant category.) Thanks for this and the entire week of workshops. I've learned and re-learned a lot and there was no pantyhose involved.

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  45. Adding my name.

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  46. I was at the RWA PRO workshop on Thursday where the speaker asked how many folks (out of about 350) had websites. About 75% raised their hands. How many people have weblogs? Maybe a third. How many people blog daily? Only six.

    I must hang out with active bloggers, or else pubbed authors get into blogging, but that low low number shocked me. Shows how many people are involved in writing but largely exist outside of online communities.

    Thanks for doing these workshops, PBW. I've been keeping up all week.

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  47. Anonymous9:57 AM

    Keeping my name out of the running. I just wanted to say thanks for a thought-provoking week and interesting links PBW. Me and my bunny slippers were very happy.
    JulieB

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  48. Right now I'm doing the least amount of work in promoting. Heh...I've written five novels, but I haven't published anything yet.

    I do have a website. I have an LJ. And I plan to use my blogger account for pics. (photography is my favorite hobby.) Every once in a while I post a snippet of a writing exercise on my LJ or blog. Not anything I'm currently working on, but mostly a scene I thought was fun.

    I do keep a list of things I'd like to do once I have a contract. A build up I guess to the release date.

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  49. nancy b1:22 PM

    This is the first time I have been to this site and would love to win a bunch of books. Put my name in the running!
    nancy b

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  50. I'm a reader, not a writer, but this is interesting and has got me thinking about how I decide which books to buy.

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  51. I confess to being somewhat intimidated by the notion of self-promotion. I know I COULD do it, but I look at all the OTHER stuff I have to keep up with in addition to my writing and the need for self-promotion seems to make that already small writing window even smaller...

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  52. Congrats to the winners! Thought provoking post! Very interesting! Would like to drop my name in the hat!

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  53. Very thought provoking post. Do you know whether it is much the same in the craft book market?

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  54. Ouch. I don't even want to think about where I fall.

    A very good point on the trend issue. I've found that getting known (not your books but you) is actually pretty darn easy. You just have get out there and help people. The books? That's a whole nother story :).

    Cheers,
    Margaret

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  55. I would just like to add my name to the hat. Thank you.

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  56. Actually, you know the honey-and-vinegar thing? If it's fruit flies you're hoping to draw, a dish of cider vinegar will draw them like...well, flies.

    Add a squirt of dish soap to the vinegar, and you'll have dish of drowned fruit flies faster than their life cycle ends.

    Just sayin'...

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  57. laubaineworld wrote: One quick question - in an industry where the pressure is on to constantly come up with new ways to promote, isn't the tried and true word of mouth still the best way to go? Or is this simple ancient lowtech method getting 'lost' in the shuffle?

    Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and I think it's being overlooked by most authors who dismiss it as not big or flashy enough. Huge mistake.

    StarDoc is a prime example. The series never got support from anyone but the readers. I did what I could by putting out some stories on my old web site, but after my publisher basically abandoned the series, word of mouth was the only thing that kept the series alive, and the readership growing.

    None of the first five books went out of print because more people kept buying them every year. And not because I got great reviews and lots of awards -- the series has been repeatedly trashed or ignored by the genre trades. The only time I got a mention was when I hit the SF top ten bestseller list, which I did with every book (but now they ignore my BSL rankings, too.)

    Ask any SF author how many years on average they can keep a midlist book in print and they'll tell you -- one, tops. StarDoc book one alone has been in reprint for seven straight years. And the only people responsible for that are the readers.

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  58. revalkorn wrote: Rhetorical question (because I don't know if there really is an answer): Where do you draw the line between sounding earnest/willing and sounding pathetic?

    Very tough question.

    To me, humor never sounds pathetic, and it establishes instant rapport with almost everyone (there are people with no sense of humor, of course.)

    If humor isn't appropriate in the situation, then I'd go with a professional approach. Be factual and polite, but don't bring any personal or emotional elements into it at all.

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  59. Sasha wrote: Now I'm tryinhg to figure out where I am in the self promotion game. LOL. I guess sort of between Dependent and Obsessive compulsive. LOL

    Oh, I don't know -- you have a sizzling web site, a lovely personality, and you always come across as warm and friendly. You're actually nice without any hint of that air-kissing phony RWA red-lipsticked B.S. I used to dodge back in the day.

    But then, you're Canadian, and all the Canadians I know are very cool people. :)

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  60. Buffysquirrel wrote: I finished reading the big fat whatever today :).

    Bravo! I admire you for wading through all those pretentious footnotes (and I hope the weight-strain on your wrists and elbows doesn't result in carpal tunnel syndrome.)

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  61. witchofbreithla wrote: I think I'm going to have to fight to overcome being avoidant. I'm just so shy sometimes that it's really hard.

    I've battled shyness all my life, so I understand the dread. I think most writers are shy to some degree. It's worth finding an avenue like blogging where the shyness won't stop you from communicating with others, sharing information and making friendships.

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  62. Anonymous wrote: I have mixed feelings about promotion. On the one hand, I know better than to put too much money and time into it because the distribution of my book is extremely limited so I have to think of my ROI (return on investment). On the other hand, I get a kick out of coming up with new ideas to promote myself and my book.

    If you're having fun with it, then self-promotion isn't such a chore. You're more likely to come up with creative promo if you feel enthusiastic about it.

    Still, it's not like the number of books sold through innovative marketing in my situation is going to do a whole helluva lot for sales. I don't stress about it. I just have fun with my ideas and let it go at that.

    My thought would be to find as many low or no-cost ways to promote each book while you start saving some of your income for one big push. That's what I did with the Darkyn books -- I saved my extra pennies for five years, and when I saw I might have a chance to break out with this series, I invested everything I had in it. I learned a lot from promoting this series, too -- if I ever want to do something like that again, I know what works, what the publisher will support, what's a waste of time and money, etc.

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  63. Jean wrote: OK. I'll make it easy for you -- I'm borderline narcissistic with a touch of paranoia tossed gently for good measure. 'Cause the full-blown narcissistic paranoid in me just knows it must have been me you were profiling.

    Lol. Not even close, pal.

    I'm not big on the overblown self-promotion you described. I DO want to know when someone has a book out. In your case, your latest releases section does a good job of telling that.

    That's the type of self-promo I respond to most often -- present but not screaming in my face. I like to see cover art, too, although I try to resist buying a book based only on the art. Interesting art will catch my attention, though, so I'm just like any reader that way.

    Blogs are great ways to make on-line readers aware that something is available. I'm not sure how you reach readers who don't cruise the web looking for their favorite author. In that case, on-line bookseller recommendation pages can help.

    The problem with online bookseller recs is that they are usually publisher-purchased space versus honest recs. I don't mind advertising, but I dislike it being represented as something else.

    As an example of something that works, I love what Rosina Lippi did recently for the trade release of Tied to the Tracks.

    Have to agree with you there. :)

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  64. Jessica D. Russell wrote: Oh, I went to a workshop today that had a Plot-stormers worksheet you'd done some time back...it really helped me plotting my next novel. Thank you!

    Wow, that IS a blast from the past -- I did the original Plot Stormers at National back in 2002, I think. It's nice to know my worksheets are still making the rounds after all these years -- thanks for mentioning it, Jessica.

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  65. Jenyfer Matthews wrote: I have tried to establish a web presence but I don't want to be one of those hit-and-run promo post people. And lately I've been seeing a lot of discussion in various places about how all the promo stuff like bookmarks and magnets and such don't really influence sales anyway - it mostly boils down to word of mouth.

    So how you manage to not look like a tree is something I have not yet figured out.


    You're already ahead of the game, in that you see the value of real blogging versus the phoning-it-in variety, and that widgets are mostly vanity junk.

    I think about the tree problem this way: I'd rather pick up my roots and move to a little meadow of my own than be smothered by branches crowding me out for whatever little patch of forest I might be able to occupy. The meadow may not be as impressive as the forest, or visited as often, but I can breathe and grow there.

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  66. Carrie wrote: I was at the RWA PRO workshop on Thursday where the speaker asked how many folks (out of about 350) had websites. About 75% raised their hands. How many people have weblogs? Maybe a third. How many people blog daily? Only six.

    Only six? Yikes.

    I must hang out with active bloggers, or else pubbed authors get into blogging, but that low low number shocked me. Shows how many people are involved in writing but largely exist outside of online communities.

    Given how easy it is to set up a blog and participate in the online publishing community, you'd think it would be the reverse, wouldn't you? Very interesting info, Carrie, thanks for posting it.

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  67. Romi wrote: Do you know whether it is much the same in the craft book market?

    I have some friends in my quilting gild who have published how-to craft books, and their side of the industry is much more involved with their trade publications and selling via fabric shops, book clubs and conventions. One fiber artist friend is on the road eight months out of the year on her con circuit, but she handsells her own books while she does demos, and she does quite well.

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  68. Katrina wrote: Actually, you know the honey-and-vinegar thing? If it's fruit flies you're hoping to draw, a dish of cider vinegar will draw them like...well, flies.

    Well, that finally explains the hen parties, lol.

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