This is a continuing commentary of my Authorpreneur post. The author in my previous post, Connie Bennett, was gracious enough to offer her thoughts and reactions to my post, and we have some fundamental disagreements over what we consider effective promotion. That’s fine because differing opinions are what make the world go ’round. My reason for continuing the discussion is that I want authors know the difference between good promotion that will invite the right people to take you seriously and promotional misfires.
Connie’s overall message that stuck with me is this idea that “the show” is designed to get people to pay attention to the writing, and I think there is a huge disconnect in this logic. In Connie’s case (sorry, Connie, but you did put yourself out there), for example, her sandwich board is provocative. “Are you the right one? Will put out on the first date!”
She’s an attractive woman and used sexual innuendo to garner attention for her manuscript. You’d think she had written a sex book, right? But you know what? I couldn’t remember. Turns out it’s a diet book. So authors need to ask themselves how effective is the promo campaign if everyone remembers the show but not the book. I’m an editor; I’m paid to pay attention to things like books. Yet I had to go look it up. To me, this is a misfire.
I can’t sell a peep show, but I can sell a well written book. To me, promotion, at any level, is about balance. Authors should ask themselves whether their publicity tactic is equivalent to the material being promoted. How does advertising you’ll “put out” equate to a diet book? It’s an interesting idea, but it’s promoting the wrong message, and that’s why I think few will actually remember the book.
In fact, I asked twenty of my agent and editor buds today, and not one of them remembered the book. But they remembered her. All of them thought it was pretty gutsy, a lot laughed, a few cringed, and all of them agreed that the stunt didn’t entice them to view the work. So what was gained? Hey, it’s possible that Connie will sign a mega million dollar deal because of this; who knows? If she does, more power to her. Rock on! What worries me is whenever I see stuff like this, I see a ton of “me too” authors who think, gee, it worked for her, so I’ll try it too.
Before we know it, we have all kinds of absurdity walking the floors of book conventions and writer’s conferences, all trying to out-promote each other. It’s visual overload, and we tend to not even see it anymore; it’s white noise.
It’s like the story that went around about how JK Rowling’s oft-rejected manuscript was picked up because it was in a brightly colored folder. For a solid year my mailbox was filled with all sorts of whackadoodle packaging. I threw every one of them into the recycle bin. Unread.
Are you willing to take the chance of repelling those you’re trying to attract? This is about perspective, and I hope that before authors step out wearing feathers over their girly bits or toilets on their heads in hopes of attracting attention that they consider not everyone will find it suitable, even though they laugh.
If you want to get attention, write a damn good book and a damn good query letter. Get a damn good agent. Understand your audience and marketplace, and leave the theatrics to Hollyweird. You’ll never go wrong letting your writing do the talking.