Saturday, August 21, 2010

Publish, Promote, Panic

I have been writing and publishing since 1984 when my first story appeared in Highlights magazine. Sixty plus books later, you would think I would have the hang of this crazy business. Yet here I am once again in panic mode.

Writing I LOVE, but every stage thereafter sends me into nervous jitters. Right now I have a completed novel with my agent. I love it; she loves it. Next week it will get sent out to prospective editors. Will any of them love it? Or will it politely get rejected for some obscure reason? (Doesn't fit our list. Too similar. Too different. Marketing hates it. We're only doing Twilight clones. Blah blah.)

In March and May I had two books published. Terrific, yes. Terrifying, absolutely. Because in today's publishing world, the fate of an author's books is in her hands. That brings up promotion, which I agonize over every day. Am I doing enough? Is what I'm doing working? And if it's not working, will my book, which I researched and wrote for a year, disappear?

When I go to conferences, I am envious of the authors who are also mini-publicists. I'd rather write (and ride and garden and hang with my kids and take walks with my dogs.) Only my horses, kids and dogs don't buy my books. So I guest blog and Facebook and send out postcards. I check sales on Amazon and "Big Buzz" on Ice Rocket, and worry that my books are getting lost in the flood of novels with titles like Fang and Crazy Girl.

Fortunately, through the years, I have added a fourth and fifth 'p' to 'publish, promote and panic.' Perseverance plus my love of writing keeps me persisting. I'd love to hear from other writers--do you also panic? And how do you deal with it?


Laura Crum said...

Alison--I am probably the wrong author to comment on this post, as I am so out of sync with what is currently expected in the publishing world. Nevertheless, your post certainly touches a nerve with me. I've been a published author for almost twenty years. I've done eleven books, eight of them with a big NY publisher, the last three with a smaller mystery press. When I started out, I was hopeful--I tried to promote my books, and do the right things to become a "best seller". However, like you, I'd rather ride and garden and be with my family and critters. I don't enjoy book tours or conventions and I haven't the patience for Facebook and Twitter...etc. In the end I made what I'd call a "life choice." I continue to write (I have a contract for book number twelve in my equine mystery series) but I don't promote myself any more, other than doing local book signings, and writing for Equestrian Ink, which I enjoy. I am prioritizing the things in my life that are important to me, and becoming a big seller in the publishing world just isn't one of them. (And no, this is not making me rich, but my books sell well enough that the press I'm with is happy to publish them.) The big thing, to me, is I'm out there riding with my kid, and not fighting my way to some big city bookstore to push my books, or sitting endlessly at the computer touting myself and my work. So, those are my priorities, for what it's worth. And no, I don't panic any more when my books come out--like everybody else, I get both good and bad reviews, and it all sort of rolls off like water off a duck's back. I no longer even ask about my sales numbers; I just inquire if the publisher wants to send me a contract for another book. Does this mean I'm a bit jaded? Maybe. But it works for me.

Alison said...

Wow, Laura--now I envy you! You have found the right balance, for certain. Thanks for your candid comments--and for your trail riding stories! (Which I love having no trails around us to enjoy.)

Jami Davenport said...

I am firmly convinced that a lot of it is luck. My best promotion comes from mentions on random blogs that I never initiated or this blog.

Since I haven't actively promoted any of my books for a year, and I still sell a modest amount every month, it must also be word-of-mouth.

My really steamy romances seem to sell themselves. I don't do any promo for them.

As far as Facebook and Twitter. I have both. Personally, I don't think they help the average author at all. At least not yet.

As far as the future of publishing, a well-known, large romance publisher announced recently that they are dropping mass-market paperbacks and going to ebooks. It's a drastic measure to save a floundering company, but also a very interesting one.

I'm very happy with small press publishing. NY publishers want certain types of books that clone successful author's books. Not for me.

Laura Crum said...

Alison--I can tell you for certain that the more successful mystery writers that I know certainly don't envy me. If they were candid, they would probably say that I threw away a good chance at a successful career as an author. And I am not considered a "successful" author by anyone in the mainstream publishing biz. So, it all depends on what the right balance is for you as an individual. What I am doing works for me, but it might not be the right choice for someone else. I have friends who do lots of tours and are very involved with internet promotion and sell lots of books and made way more money than I do. And this seems quite rewarding to them. So, I really don't mean to prescribe for anyone else or to imply that my way is better. I certainly can relate to your post and to the dilemma surrrounding promotion that authors face today. I do feel that my involvement in the "horse blog world", which I participate in because I enjoy it, actually, has helped to sell my books.

Linda Benson said...

Alison - great post. I bet the average person reading this blog has no idea what else (besides writing the book) is actually required or expected of authors today, in the way of promotion.
And unless you are truly an outgoing people person, promotion of said book can feel like a daunting task.

For me, the internet has been a blessing in disguise. I don't claim to be an expert in promotion, but as a self-proclaimed introvert who would rather stay home, write and enjoy my animals and garden, the internet has been a way to reach out to other like-minded souls, and I really enjoy the connections I make in this manner.

Besides writing for this blog, I maintain my own blog, facebook, twitter, and try to drop by other blogs from time to time and comment. Whether this all pays off when I get my next book contract remains to be seen. But I enjoy it, or I wouldn't be doing it. I think it's important that we remain true to ourselves, because if you're doing something you hate, it will show through.

But in some ways, I think the internet has allowed some of us home-loving introverts to shine just as brightly as others. And to discuss things! All the way across the country, and in fact the world. That is a very cool thing.

However, when I was recently presented with the opportunity for a radio interview, I totally chickened out.(Baack, baack) Ah well, we all have our limits.

Oregon Equestrian said...

I'm still unpublished but I can't help but wonder about the publishing industry expecting introverted writers to go forth and promote. Plus -- by the time the book is in print you're already deep into the next project that you're expected to set aside in order to push the newly published book. Aack!

Alison said...

I'd love to hear more from others on this! Linda is right--blogging has helped us homebodies. Jamie is right--so much of it is luck! Laura is right--we all have to find our correct balance. Oregan is correct, too--the publishers do expect us to write and promote. I am usually revising, putting together a new proposal or writing and promoting all at the same time. It can get very confusing.