My guest today is Edward Talbot, author of the thriller New World Orders, available as a free audiobook online. This post was originally a discussion for the “Help Support Independent Publishers!” group on Facebook, but I thought it important enough to index here. I especially found the questions at the end of the article astute, so when planning your marketing strategy, keep them in mind. Talbot wrote:
When you’re talking about independent publishers, changes in the publishing industry, how can new authors get noticed, and a number of other topics, a lot of the discussion turns to publicity and promotion. We’ve had some excellent discussions in this group already. In the twenty-first century, an author is adding a nearly insurmountable burden when he or she doesn’t pay close attention this this side of the business.
We’ve all read or heard the words of wisdom. Treat writing as a business. Create a web site. Create a blog. Do contests and giveaways. Books signings and talk radio go without saying. All these are valuable suggestions. But to my mind, the most important thing that can be missed is a sense of exactly what you are aiming for.
We want to sell books, of course. But exactly how does a book-signing, for example, sell books? Well, the book store advertises the signing, you show up, and a bunch of people buy signed copies. Of course, you might blow most of a day to sell several dozen copies on which you make 10% of the cover price. The hope is that the buyers tell their friends, and also come back for your next release. The question I would ask is whether there are better uses of your time?
I want to note that I am NOT suggesting book signings are a bad thing. Not at all. They may not be better uses of your time. If your only response to my post is to defend book signings, then relax, I like ‘em too. I could have used talk radio, blogging or contests as examples instead. These are all valuables tools. But I am trying to make two points
1. There is never time to do enough promotion and publicity. I mean that literally. You could cut your sleep to an hour a night and that would still be the case. There’s always one more set of letters or emails to send, one more audience to try to connect with. For that reason, it is imperative that you target your efforts and look closely at everything you do. I work full-time at a reasonably high-powered job. I exercise regularly. I have a wife and a child. I’m rarely going to stop writing to focus solely on promotion, because the next deadline will always be out there once I’m published. I suspect that having these commitments is the rule, not the exception. I can’t afford not to take a critical look at every single thing I do for my writing business. I use the word business partially in jest because right now it’s a bunch of red numbers. But I think of it as a business.
2. It’s important to model after people who have been successful, but there is a difference between model and copy. Tiger Woods would say he’s modeled himself after any number of people. But he has also forged his own unique approach. We as writers need to do the same thing. Don’t just do what everyone else does because that’s what worked for them. Apply a critical eye. Trust yourself (and your agent and publisher if you have them) to figure it out. And try new things, but analyze them honestly.
Before I ask the specific questions, I’d like to make a couple of brief mentions that I think are appropriate for the topic. First, my fellow podcaster J.C. Hutchins wrote a blog post last week called “Spontaneous Human Promotion.” If you want to hear thoughts on this topic from someone who used promotional creativity to go from an unpublished, unagented author to awaiting the launch of the first in a multi-book deal with a major publisher, check out his post at:
Second, I’d just like to share one of my favorite quotes that I think applies to most of us at one point or another. I treasure a good quote, whether it’s from a song, a book, or just conjured out of the air in a conversation. They’re like gems that never lose their lustre. Most of us really believe we’ve written something good, and it can be very difficult to take it when it seems that few others share the opinion. It makes promotion particularly difficult, right at a point that you need it the most. And it makes it very easy to start blaming the publisher, agent, the industry as a whole, etc. I try to remember Don Henley’s words:
“Have you noticed that an angry man can only get so far? Until he reconciles the way he thinks things ought to be with the way things are.”
Comment on anything I’ve written, but here are three questions to discuss specifically:
1. Name at least one thing you do to promote yourself that is not common. Tell us how it has worked and why you think it works.
2. Tell us as least one common promotion technique that you don’t use because you’ve realized it simply is not effective for you. And tell us exactly why it is not effective for you.
3. If you are either published, or have at least one novel-length work you are trying to get published, on average, how many hours a week do you spend on things that build and/or support your audience but don’t directly generate income? I know if you aren’t published, you might ask yourself what you could possibly be doing to build an audience. Maybe nothing. But while you’re doing nothing, other authors are thinking outside the box and building their fan bases. Who knows, you may come up with something no one’s tried yet. There’s only one way to find out.