Am I the only one squicked out at TV commercials? I mean really…do we need to have a moaning hottie stretched across a Scrabble board telling Mr. Jack in the Box “No Nookie”? Is this the most effective way to sell a breakfast sandwich?
And what about the girl making out with a walrus in order to sell Skittles? Makes me want to hurk up every Skittle that’s ever gone into my pie hole.
Please don’t even get me started on the Charmin commerical with the bear family who can’t seem to learn how to clean themselves. Their tag line is “Enjoy the Go.”
Enjoy. The. Go?????? Good holy Helvetica, Batman. May the Cosmic Muffin strike me dead if I ever find myself amused because it’ll be a sure sign that I’ve finally gone ’round the bend.
And sure, we can probably agree this is not an effective way to market a product. But we also need to consider the gimmicks used to market books. With so many authors going DIY, I’m seeing some equally squick-worthy attempts at promotion. Most come in the fashion of the ever-irritating SPAM email. “Hey, lookie what Jane Author has written! It’s the coolest thing since Hemingway!”
Uh huh. Spammy emails – often sent by vermin passing themselves off as internet publicists – are bug repellant, not enticing nuggets of joy.
Book promotion is about calling attention to your book in a positive way that entices readers to hop, skip, and jump to their nearest bookstore. Spam emails have absolutely zero effect, and all you’ve done is separated yourself from your hard-earned dollars to someone who’s laughing all the way to the bank. Spam publicists will tell you they send “announcements” to “targeted” audiences, but that’s hooey. They have large databases and simply spam them with a click of a button. Collect $500, move on to the next sucker.
Hopefully, there are personal aspects that you can draw upon that will create a bridge between you, your book, and your readers, and spam publicists aren’t the way to go.
Look For the Golden Thread
I know there are more limitations if you write fiction. Not like you can exactly promote yourself as the owner of a purple unicorn and three trolls, right? But are there some elements to your book that can serve as a kickstarter? Something that connects you to your story and, therefore, your audience? I always harken back to Mr. Surfer Dude and his challenges of trying to sell his DIY surfer dude SF/Fantasy. We helped him make lemonade out of some serious lemons, without having to resort to inane gimmicks. He never made millions, but he ended up having a ton of fun, met a lot of new people, and sold more books than he ever dreamed possible, considering his storyline.
I’ve seen some very effective marketing via author blogs. Blogs take awhile to gain an audience, so it’s best to have one going before your book ever comes out. One amusing blog began with the genre author’s journey of getting published…but that wasn’t the main fare. She has a wonderful sense of humor and her blog posts surround some inane, goofy thing she does, which tie directly into the type of books she writes. In short, she drew in potential readers through humor, but it ties in with her genre. So when she got a publishing deal, her book sold like hot cakes.
I adore Kim Kircher’s blog, and not just because we published her fabulous book THE NEXT FIFTEEN MINUTES. I love her blog because it’s the perfect example of talking to her audience on topics that connect her to them. Her posts always make me think because she finds the miraculous in her job as a bomb-tossing ski patrol Amazon woman. She ties her experiences on the slopes to everyday life – observations we can all apply to our lives. This is an example of everything done right because the tone of her blog is the exact tone of her fabulous book. And if you haven’t read it, run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore and get a copy or three. Makes for the perfect Valentine’s gift.
I’ve seen a lot of misfires as well. Blogs that try to be too serious, for instance. Now, there are times when this makes sense; human trafficking would be very hard to make light, chatty posts. The trick is to match the your tone of your blog to the tone of your book, like Kim’s. Your book could have some very serious issues – heart attacks, for instance – but if your book includes a lot of things that are utterly hysterical, it’s perfectly appropriate to strike a lighter tone with your blog because it’ll pull in readers, who will want to read your book.
These are delicious things because potential readers get to see you up close and personal. If you’ve discovered your inner hambone, I recommend these because a live audience is the best place to get instant feedback and wonderful questions. It’s also a lovely place to get more invitations to give more talks. Dropping seeds, and all that.
But take care. I’ve seen cases where the speakers were fabulous, but their books were disappointing because they had a completely different tone. More than once I’ve told authors to think about their talks. They get standing ovations for a reason, so they MUST carry that same tone in their books. It’s what their audience is expecting. And vice versa. Your talks and your book must be complementary, not war against each other. That’s as bad as a Charmin commercial.
Whatever form of promotion you choose to do, do it with dignity. Don’t be a dancing hamburger who’s crying about having no cheese. Don’t be the poor souls at Book Expo America, who wander the rows and rows of publishers wearing toilets on their heads, or dressed up as pickles (seen ’em, pinky swear) hoping an editor will leap out, screaming, “I MUST sign you!”
Analyze your personality. Are you good in front of an audience, or would you be better doing radio? Are you a talented blogger, or do you write magazine articles? Follow your passion…after all, you went so far to write your book, so you owe it to yourself to keep your dignity and promote smartly.