Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More on publicity

If you'd like to comment on yesterday's post about what you think works (and what doesn't) when writers are trying to promote their books, please click here.

The way I see it (and I could be wrong) is that there are two (potentially overlapping) ways to look at book promotion. The first is that any exposure (barring accusations of something truly nasty) is GOOD exposure. More twitter followers, more blog posts, more Goodreads reviews = a wider reach.

The second is to look at promotion from a return-on-investment perspective. If activity X requires Y amount of resources (energy, time, money) and results in Z book sales, was that a wise investment? Would activity A (requiring B resources and resulting in C book sales) have been a better use of time?

Once upon a time, I was a marketing assistant for a local, independent book publisher called Deseret Book and its imprint, Shadow Mountain. Like most publishers, DB/Shadow Mountain was looking for the best way to promote its books while remaining cost effective.

The marketing department put together tours (in bookstores as well as schools), websites, launches, television interviews, you name it. Each book had its own angle -- middle grade authors got school appearances, nonfiction authors went on talk shows, etc.

One of my more memorable experiences while I was there was helping to set up an online, interactive "Author Appearance" for dozens of schools. Teachers would log on to the chat and type in questions from students. The author would answer, live, via Skype and all the classrooms could watch.

It was a lot of effort. It was an interesting experiment. And (in a different circumstance) it might have worked.

But it didn't, for whatever reason, have the result that the marketing department had been hoping for.

If we're only looking at book promotion from the first angle (all exposure is good exposure), then of course the live chat was a success--hundreds of kids heard about our author and his book. But given the time and resources it took to pull off the chat, maybe (from a return-on-investment perspective) we should have tried something else.

In 2013 (and onward), a lot of book promotion falls on the author, whether you're traditionally or self-published. Given that all of us have finite resources (time, energy, and money), it best to try to evaluate what works for your book, and what won't. Consider what you find easy (I find blogging easy and Twitter oddly difficult -- I'm sure the opposite is true for others) and what you find hard, and then try think about what you've never even thought about before. 

Thoughts? Disagreements? Inspirational quotes?


  1. This is a part of publishing that scares me...well, not scare, but intimidate. I wouldn't even know where to begin. Which is why self-publishing, for me at this time, isn't something I'm going to pursue.

    1. If you ever do want to begin, I suggest following Jolene Perry's blog, she is great and she has excellent advice regarding self-publishing :)

  2. Trial and error. You never know what's going to work best for you, but research into what's worked for others is invaluable. I always say, find the most successful kid on the block, then put your own spin on it and imitate. Learn from other's mistakes, eh? No reason for their history to become your own.

    1. Totally agree - which is why I'm hoping people will just share what they've learned so we can all try to do better :)

  3. From what I've seen and authors I've spoken to, online/social media promotion is not as helpful as people think. The online world is more insular than we like to believe, and just because an author is well-known on twitter or has a popular blog doesn't mean their books are selling well.

    The tool that sells the most books? Word of Mouth. And writing another book.

    Authors shouldn't pour all their energy into marketing. I'm going to promote my book, of course, but I won't let it consume me. There's only so much I can do. Once it gets released, I just have to hope people read it, like it, and recommend it.

    1. See, that makes sense to me - it does seem like blogging/twitter can be a bit of an echo chamber at times.

      PS - I can't wait for your book to come out :)

    2. Aw, thanks! An echo chamber is a good way of putting it. Most people on those sites either a) are aspiring writers or b) work in publishing. Some of the best marketing is networking at a local level: talking to librarians, book clubs, schools, booksellers, even get an article in your local paper. If you book could appeal to a specific audience, (church groups, people w/ disabilities, etc) target your promotion there.

  4. Hi Ru! I was in marketing and sales too (once upon a time) and I think the best you can do is cater to your target audience, whoever that may be. It's an ever-changing market and field, so what worked once, may not work for you in the future. Nothing is fool-proof. I wish, as authors, we didn't have to think about stuff like this, that we could just produce quality work and not have to worry about it, but sadly, that's not how it works.

    New follower!