April 26, 2015
Recently there's been some discussion about author self-promotion and whether or not it is worth it. Here's my perspective. I think there are several sides to self-promotion. Much of publishing, as far as I can see, is pure serendipitous chance. Finding a publisher who wants to buy your book? I know one friend who got his first book contract because he forgot his car keys. True story, too long for right here. As for finding an agent - after thirty-one books I still don't have one. As for getting people interested in buying the books. Let me start with friends and relatives - they all presume they should be getting free copies connected to their status as friends and relatives, or at least that was my experience with many of my friends and almost all relatives. And if I had the chance to do it all again, I would, in fact, give them all free copies - prevents a lot of pointless agonizing on both sides. Their connection to you is far more important than any profit that you'd make from selling them an actual book. The rest of the world? A bit of a story. When I was starting out, we were told any number of pearls of wisdom about getting our books sold. Some of them: Go to bookstores, we were told. Go to writers conferences! Set up book signings and tours! Make bookmarks pushing your books! Send out notifications to every library in your state! Except this was mostly kind of backwards. For example, people saw big time authors doing readings and signings and the crowds that would line up around the block. But see, the mistake made was presuming it was the signings and readings and appearances that made one famous. This might happen, I suppose, but most often people go to signings, readings, and appearances because the author is already famous. The causality was mixed up. And then if there is a magic spell to get a big time publisher to fork out big time money to get an author on big time network morning shows, I'm not aware of what that spell might be. My guess is, there is no such spell. We're back to pure serendipitous luck. Then there was the article not that long ago that made the claim that at least some editors in New York were laughing themselves silly about the poor mid-list authors rushing about the countryside trying to sell their books. True? I have no idea. My editors are and were always most kind, gracious, and encouraging. I've spent a great deal of tax-deductible money on taking out ads in the past few years. I keep track of sales at the author central section on amazon. You can keep track in any number of ways including by geography. I have yet to come remotely close to showing a profit from an increase in sales compared to what it cost to run the ads. In terms of all the Internet networking, I know some swear by it, and I've been to a couple seminars at conferences that push getting yourself onto the Net. But I'm afraid it's the same catch-22 as above. Those who are famous have huge followings already. Being on the Internet doesn't get you the following. If you're famous, then the following is there. All of the above said, what is an author to do? I think two things. The most important is three fold - shut up, sit down, and write. But at the same time, it really is important to do as much publicity as you can. You never know what bit of activity you might engage in that might lead you to your 'Susan Boyle' moment. That is that magic few seconds that turn you from not-famous to a star. But even more, there were a number of us who started out about the same time in the late 80s, early 90s. Those of us who madly rushed about and continue to rush about, are still being published. Those who did not rush about doing publicity are mostly not being published. Is there a direct cause and effect to all this that I can prove? No. I can only give anecdotal evidence. And so what I've done here, for example, is taken a chunk of time away from getting tonight's writing done to write this. Worth it? I know I feel better. And when I write my books, I know I feel enjoyment, pride, and great satisfaction. That has to be enough, I think, because all the rest, as far as I can see, is mostly pure serendipitous chance.