At a recent writer’s conference, I watched one particular author make a complete fool of himself. A friend of mine was conducting a seminar, and this clod-hooved bovine came in late, interrupted my friend by introducing himself while pulling his self-pubbed books out and passing them around the room…causing the seminar to come to a screeching halt. My friend was gobsmacked. After passing his book around, he packed them up and left without a word! Predictably, my friend was livid.
At the banquet, darned if Mr. Rectal/Cranial Inversion didn’t sit down at our banquet table and do the same exact thing. Thankfully, he only got as far as the lovely woman sitting next to me. He even pulled out a CD player and earphones (must have an audio book as well), and insisted the woman take a “quick listen.” Meanwhile, the man made no attempt to engage anyone in conversation. He politely waited for her to scan the pages, whereby he packed up and left. My mouth was in my lap. Word in the hallway was that he did this the entire weekend.
This is not being gracious. This is bug repellant.
As extreme as this case is, there are degrees of Bug Repellancy that defy logic, and you end up working against yourself when promoting your books. Most of the mistakes I see come from self-pubbed and vanity-pubbed authors, and I think it’s because they are a force of one and have no one to advise them on effective promotion.
While sitting on an agent/editor panel, we fielded the question about social media. Every single agent supported the idea that social media is a must. The two editors, including me, didn’t agree because we’ve seen how social media is a huge black hole of white noise.
It takes a long time to establish yourself on Facebook or Twitter, so if you aren’t already well-entrenched, then you’re in for a huge disappointment. If everyone is doing the equivalent of the annoying author I described above, then who’s listening? Screeches of “Buy my book!” in 140 characters has the same efficacy as the overused exclamation point – it loses its potency with extreme overuse. With Facebook, you still need to drive people to your page, so how will do that?
We all know that social media is a HUGE time suck – and there are a handful of cases where this modality has generated huge success. Ironically enough, I spoke with many self-pubbed/vanity-pubbed authors, and their complaints were same – promotion sucks stale Twinkie cream. If they’re depending on social media, then I daresay promotion does suck.
Many authors consider social media as the go-to destination for book promotion, and they soon find out that they’re simply one of a million other voices. So what works?
What’s Unique About You?
Maybe a better idea is to ask yourself why readers would want to read your book. Is your book yet another saga of substance abuse, or vampires and werewolves? There are so many books out there, what makes your book unique? This is one of the first questions I ask when considering a manuscript. I may love the writing, but I have to back away if I don’t feel I can sell it because it lacks a unique hook.
Talking about your book’s unique qualities is a far more effective tact than blathering on about “Buy my book!” In truth, few care. What tickles your fancy:
“Buy my book! Mom and Auntie Bertie loved it!”
“Women are the heartbeat of the family and they never get sick…until they do, and all hell breaks loose. The nightmare happened to Brian O’Mara-Croft when his wife, Patty, suffered a ‘widowmaker’ heart attack. PULSE OF MY HEART is Brian’s and Patty’s journey on how they handled life, love, survival, and everything in between.”
One is a plea, and the other is an effective pitch about their book’s unique qualities and the elements that make this book a “gotta have it.”
But it’s a valuable consideration to those whose plans include a serious writing career. It doesn’t matter how or who publishes your book, you reach a far wider audience if you can speak to the high points of your book that will pique readers’ interest. What you’re showing is that you are thoughtful of your readership and not caught up in your own ego. You’re putting yourself in your readers’ shoes. That’s being gracious.
Go To the Source
Rather than throwing a dart and hoping it hits the target, go directly to your potential readers. There are a gajillion websites that cater to every genre, so it makes sense to become a regular. Rule #1 – NO DRIVE BY PROMOTION. Forum regulars detest this sort of thing.
Instead, be gracious. These are people who love your genre, so take the time to learn about them because the knowledge you gain is invaluable. Stop your fingers from commenting on blogs, and open your ears. If someone says something that you feel is poignant, then comment on it. Introduce yourself. Become a regular. By doing this, you’re gaining trust because you truly care about readers of your kind of book.
The universal agreement among all writers is that promoting a book is very hard work. I send out hundreds of TIP sheets and media kits for every one of our authors. I send them to print media, magazines, radio, and pertinent blogs, all in the hopes that someone will find it irresistible. I step outside the norm and hit up unlikely sources who might carry our titles and that our sales teams don’t approach. The goal is to hit the target audience with the biggest bang possible. We can accomplish far more by speaking to the salient points of a book with grace than we can by simply sending a book that says, “Read me,” or worse, pulling out your books with the expectation that everyone will slobber uncontrollably.
If you’ve put this much time into writing your book, doesn’t it only go to reason that you’d spend an equal amount of time showing yourself in the best light possible? Anyone can be bug repellant, as witnesses at this past conference, but it takes someone of heart to put their best foot forward and think of their audience, and not themselves.