Promo is NOT Optional

Thursday, March 10, 2011
You struggle and work and sweat and cry and bleed and rip a piece of your guts out and -- finally -- you have a book and it's *gasp!* accepted by a publisher.

That was the easy part.

As an author in today's digital age, you cannot breathe a huge sigh of relief and go on to the next book without a look back. I've talked about this before, but you are competing against a huge (and ever growing) pool of writers who are just as hungry to sell their books as you are.

The problem for you, of course, is if they're even more hungry to sell books than you are.

Now, there is a right way to promo your work and a wrong way. I've briefly touched on the wrong way (spamming, annoying the crap out of people, doing diddly squat). I've also mentioned a few avenues for the right ways (Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail lists, blogging).

But if you do nothing but put out a few posts when the book comes out and then sit back and chill, don't be surprised if your royalty statements reflect that. And it's not the publisher's fault (usually).

It's yours.

In the good ole' days of publishing, publishers put money behind their authors, set up press junkets, and paid advances that allowed bigger name writers to hire publicists to help get the word out.

That was pre-social networking, and before the destruction of the archaic publishing model as we knew it for decades. Now, publishers cannot afford to spend money on unknowns, and if you're signed with a small indie publisher, they usually can't afford to spend money on ads. (There are exceptions, of course, but many can't.)

You are competing against a ton of other authors for space on readers' TBR list. You want to develop a presence with readers that makes them want to immediately click on your buy link and download your book to their device. You want to be more than just a byline on a book cover -- you want to be a personality. You want to give them value-added content, be it free stories or funny or informative blog posts or whatever. You want to keep your name out there as a participant on e-mail lists or social networking circles or whatever it is you choose to use for promotions.

If you sit back on your ass and wait for sales, good luck with that. You should be prepared to see your figures in the toilet. You should spend as much time on your promotions (and again, this doesn't have to involve money, just a lot of time and effort) as you do on your writing.

And if you can't stomach the thought of doing that, then maybe this isn't the right line of work for you. Sorry for the tough love there, but I get tired of hearing newbie writers lamenting poor sales, and when I ask them how much promo they do they say they don't. Or worse, they say they hate to promote themselves, so they don't do it.

We're not talking spamming people. We're talking getting your name out there, building a brand, a presence people can get to know, and working your tuckus off to keep you name out there on a regular basis. No, it's not an overnight thing, and sometimes it will take two or three or four books to really start to see a building sales trend from your backlist as more people get to know you, but like anything worth investing in, the more effort you put into it, the more return you will get.


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