Saturday, May 21, 2011

Promotion 101

I just came back from the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland, a well-run book extravaganza held on a perfect day and there were lots of families and book-lovers.

Between my session and a signing, plus driving, I only got to say hi to a few fellow authors and attend one session on promotion. Of course. I add the 'of course' because it seems as if getting my books into the hands of readers is always on my mind. The talk I went to was about using social networks/media to promote your business. The speaker was Jennifer Abernethy a business woman turned entrepreneur who out of necessity began promoting herself and her business on Facebook, then Twitter and Linkedin, and now has a book (another 'of course' goes in here) that would tell me how to sell a million books. Not. I didn't buy it because she has an updated one coming out in 2012, and as she herself said, the internet/twitters/iPhones of today will be obsolete by the time we blink.

A friend of mine also just came back from a writer's panel in NYC. The word there is that editors are looking for great writers, not just writers with great media presence and huge blog followings, BUT(and here's a big 'but')if you don't sell tens of thousands of books when your novel is published, you won't get a contract for a second novel from that publisher. I am experiencing that right now with one of my YA novels.

Hmmmm. It's no wonder I get worried. Those of you who don't write to pay bills or write for smaller presses or self-publish, may not need to worry. Writing to make a living is much harder than writing because YOU LOVE TO WRITE. I know that I DO and SHOULD write because I love to write, but I also pay college tuition for my daughter and buy feed for my horses. It's a dilemma that I have not solved in the twenty-seven years I have been writing and publishing. Some years have been down-right scary! (Which is one reason why I teach.)
So once again, my blog is not about horses but it sure is about books! And how to sell them. Anyone have the magic answer?


Laura Crum said...

Alison--I have no magic answers. I will say that I have been paid for every book I wrote--maybe not handsomely, but I've been paid enough that it would pay for my horse feed. College tuition for daughters? Not so much. Would my devoting myself to publicity have upped the amount I earn such that it would have paid for college tuition? I doubt it. But I tend to believe that we get what we need--and the amount of money I've made with my books has been sufficient to my needs-partly because my husband has a good job. However, I will say that I probably would not write a book (any more) if I wasn't paid to do it. Having written twelve mystery novels (and I know you've written many more books) has sort of taken me past the honeymoon period. I no longer work very hard at promoting my books--I have the somewhat unrealistic belief that they ought to stand or fall on their own merits. And yes, as you quite fairly point out, if I were trying to put daughters through college on what I make writing books, I might be singing a different tune. The truth is that I have a real distaste for self promotion and as my books are not my main means of support I am free to walk the path I choose.

I know that's not much help as a response to your post. I find the overwhelming pressure put on authors to promote themselves to be a sore spot for me--so I just had to comment. But I hear you on what a tough spot midlist authors are in these days. It is very hard to make any kind of a living in the traditional book business unless you are a bestselling author. Perhaps the future lies in the internet and new forms of publishing?

Alison said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments,Laura. I hope your time off gave you a fresh mind--sorry about the soggy roses and rain. The east coast is just as wet. We had beautiful weather for one day and now rain is again predicted. At least I don't feel guilty not riding. Enjoy your summer!

Belea T. Keeney said...

Alison, I share your concern. Selling hard copy books is more and more challenging these days. One thing that works for me is to find a niche for what I write and try to market directly to those people. Which means, going to horse shows if I write horse-y mysteries, going to flower shows if I write gardening mysteries, and making use of local/regional events and media.

is an article I wrote about the process, and have gotten some good feedback from other writers who work this way. Yes, it's limited to what you can manage in your geographic area, but every little bit helps, and people *like* to buy books from authors they've met in person. Well, if the author is nice, of course. :)

Alison said...

Thanks Belea--great advice, much of which I am already doing. I am heading to the website now. The article sounds perfect!