Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Power of Promotion and a Book Review

I recently read Linda Benson's middle-grade novel, Six Degrees of Lost, while at the beach. I wanted to read it for several reasons: I like Linda's writing, I had time (for once), and I wanted to help her promote the book. I know well the power of promotion. As the author of over sixty children's books, I have spent more time promoting than writing. In the olden days (gasp, remember that time before the internet!) I sent hundreds of books to magazines, newspapers, historical societies and libraries for review. I visited any school, conference or organization that would invite me, some paid, some unpaid. Later, I did the whole online thing, sending what seemed like hundreds of books to online reviewers, blogging, Skyping, and Facebooking. When I went to Linda's blog I was impressed with all she was doing. She had hundreds of people entering for her book give aways, I know she keeps up a Facebook page (or two?) and I could tell by comments that the book was being reviewed by many online reviewers/bloggers and had lots of Goodreads activity. Her books deserve all the attention they are getting--they are well-written, sweet stories--but reading about all the promoting Linda is doing made me dang tired.

Because it was promotion that burned me out.

I love writing, but the constant need to promote my books soured me on publishing. Now I haven't been to my Facebook page in so long I've forgotten the password, no school has called me for a year, I've lost all contact with reviewers and I've forgotten how to blog about writing. I have a book out this month from American Girls, but Mattel is such a huge machine, AG doesn't care if you promote. But next year, I will have a novel out from Peachtree Publishers, who need me to promote. UGH. My feelings on this remind me of a title of a book about teaching that goes something like: Not Burned Out yet but Crispy Around the Edges . . . You get the idea.  Anyway, I am hoping that by next year, I will just be crispy and not totally black and that writing this latest book about mercy dogs during World War I will get me excited again.

The other thing I am facing is that promotion is also key to selling whether it's on Ebay, Etsy, or in the booth. I am so turned off by this that I am hiring my daughter to be my online presence (except for this blog, of course). What a cheat! But let's face it, promoting is not my thing and she is great at it.  Her social media skills are sharp and her photography is superb. Who wouldn't want to buy a vintage Ball jar after seeing this photo?

Now back to Six Degrees of Lost and Linda who deserves to be promoted.

A summary from the back blurb: Thirteen-year-old Olive's mother is headed to jail and her brother to join the army, so Olive is uprooted from sunny California and dumped at her aunt's like a stray, surrounded by a collection of rescue animals. Fourteen-year-old David's future is already carved in stone. From a military family with two brothers serving overseas, he's been pointed towards the Air Force his entire life.

The blurb ends with many questions, but you know that these two are going to meet and have an impact on each other as well as the other people around them. To me this is the main theme of Six Degrees of Lost--the importance of relationships. Linda does a good job of creating real characters with real problems that don't involve sex fiends, incest or vampires. She sprinkles the story with animal tales as well as issues that many teens deal with.  Many parents ask me to recommend books that are interesting and yet age-appropriate. My daughter wasn't the only young reader who didn't want to read books about snarky Gossip Girls and sex between warlocks. Six Degrees of Lost would have been a perfect read for her, and I recommend it for your young reader.

Six Degrees of Lost is available as an e-book from many online sources. Your best bet to find and order it is through Linda's blog

Enjoy Six Degrees of Lost. Help promote it. And let me know how you handle promotion of any kind. I would love easy tips to motivate me and help me go from burned out to crispy!


Laura Crum said...

Oh Alison, you are singing my song. I, too, hate promoting myself--it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to be constantly going on about how great my books are and how people should buy them. Unlike you, I burnt out on the whole conference/book tour thing at about my second book. I kept writing, but I refused to promote myself. I think I had the (misguided) notion that I could be like Agatha Christie--write good books, refuse to do publicity, and still become a successful author. The books would speak for themselves.

Wrong. The books were good enough (I guess) that publishers continued to buy them, but by no stretch of the imagination did I become "successful"--or rich, either.

Now in the brave new world of the internet, I ought, I know, to do as Linda does and promote my books by all the various means available. But I don't, because I still don't like the feeling that self promotion gives me. I am tickled when another blogger reviews my books, but I don't ask others to do it, and my hope is that those who do review them do it because they genuinely like the books. Basically I'm a failure when it comes to promoting myself and my books. And that just doesn't work in the world of publishing today.

Obviously I have no tips on promotion for you. But I can say that my choice has made me a happy person. I've lived my life on my own terms--I love spending my time with my family and animals, trail riding, gardening, homeschooling my kid...etc. I would not trade a minute of it for success that was bought by giving up big chunks of my time to self promotion (though my family might not have minded if it had bought us relative wealth).

That said, I wish great success to Linda and all our authors who are motivated to do the work it takes to sell books. As you correctly point out in your post, an author HAS to do this work today--or success (and a new contract) will not come their way. I hope "Six Degrees of Lost" has a bright future.

Linda Benson said...

Thanks for reading Six Degrees of Lost, Alison, and thanks for the shout-out and nice review.

Yes, I am burned out by book promotion, too. I have three books out within a year (The Girl Who Remembered Horses, Six Degrees of Lost, and Walking the Dog, which releases in September.) At the time it sounded like a good idea, but several times lately I've lashed myself with the proberbial wet noodle saying, "what were you thinking?"

The sad part is that all this online work promoting them has temporarily killed my creativity, or desire to write more (at least for the moment.) I know some authors who successfully juggle the time constraints of both writing and marketing, but I hear from many more who are similarly burnt out.

I think next year I will just hibernate, and try to finish a partially-completed sequel to The Girl Who Remembered Horses, plus a YA novel in verse that I'm working on, plus a mystery with a girl and her horse (ha, sound familiar to anyone?)

The creative brain and the marketing brain are two different species, and I find it hard to jump from one horse to another.

For you readers - remember that the nicest gift you can give an author whose work you enjoyed is five minutes of your time to pen a review on Amazon, or Goodreads, or Barnes & Noble. We truly live for those reviews, and they mean a lot to the success of each book. And tell your friends, if you like something.

Alison, I love the picture of the Ball jars. Your daughter has definitely inherited your creative side! Hopefully you'll find some spark to get back into writing next year too! We'll just all have to keep cheering each other on!

Laura Crum said...

Linda is so right about the short reviews on Amazon...etc. They mean a LOT to the success of books these days. I hugely appreciate those readers who take the time to do this!

Unknown said...

Wow, it sounds like we all feel very similar but the promotion beast.

Linda - I also find it very difficult to both write and promote at the same time. I've tried many times and find I don't have the creative energy to write after investing so much energy in promotion.

Alison said...

Obviously, I am not the only one who finds promotion a creative buzzkill! Linda, I had no idea you were feeling burned out, too. Just keep focusing on the fact that you have three great books out--what an accomplishment!

Laura, I know from past posts that you and I think alike on the whole promotion band wagon and how much we'd rather do ANYTHING else! Thanks for seconding the need for folks to post a short review for their favorite book -- on FB, Goodreads and their own blogs as well.

Angelia -- thanks for chiming. Does anyone out there enjoy promotion?? I know someone must, because I meet them at conventions. They're the ones still smiling and handing out brochures . . .

Oh for royalties without promotion!

Maggie Dana said...

Linda hit the nail squarely on its head with this one:

"The creative brain and the marketing brain are two different species ..."

It's the same with muscles, and it's what my guest post is about (to appear later today, 9/3) that Linda and Laura kindly invited me to share with EI.

I think we're all much better at promotion than we give ourselves credit for as long as we're promoting someone else's book! Look at the lovely article Alison has written about Six Degrees of Lost. This is one of many examples of authors promoting another author's book.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm always giving shout-outs to books I love ... on Twitter, Facebook, and in person. I've even handed OABs (other authors' books) to strangers in bookshops or the library if I see them gazing at the shelves and perhaps wishing the fairy godmother of good books would recommend something.

[brief pause while I fluff up my wings and recharge my wand]

But when it comes to my own books? Not so much. I've sent them to book reviewers and I've set up a web site and a Facebook page, but then feel awkward about promoting them.

So yes, it's about different parts of the brain and different muscles. Case in point you might enjoy: Many years ago, my daughter and I were lucky enough to meet ballerina, Margot Fonteyn, at Jacob's Pillow (courtesy of a relative who's very involved in the world of ballet). My daughter was ten and trying to decide between riding and dance lessons. Dame Margot said she'd faced exactly the same dilemma as a child. Then she stood up (oh, so gracefully) and demonstrated the two very different leg positions required for each activity. Toes and legs pointed straight ahead for riding; feet turn outward for ballet. She said, "You can do one or the other, but never both ... not if you want to succeed and enjoy yourself."

And there you have it. Directly from a world-famous ballerina to the horse's mouth, as it were!

Laura Crum said...

I'd like to add one other point to this discussion. I have known several "mid-list" authors who did invest a lot of time and money (in the days when book tours were the main thing) in promotion--and many of them were dropped--despite all their efforts. So I have to say that in my experience promotion does not always help an author succeed. I think its pretty much true that without a lot of promotion you are VERY unlikely to become a "successful" author. But sadly, you can invest all that time and effort (and sometimes money)--which no one who has commented here seems to enjoy doing--and still not reap the rewards of success. There is a certain sort of extroverted author--I've met them--who really does seem to enjoy publicity work, and those are the enviable few. For them the stuff that the rest of us find so tedious is actually fun. I think I should hire one of these types as my stand-in(!)

Alison said...

Maggie--thanks for adding a push to us authors to help promote other authors. I hear stories about diva writers who are bullies about their books and themselves and it gives authors a bad name. Most of us are like you--eager to support each other!

Laura, I agree that promotion doesn't always work, but I've also met relentless children's authors who make a living on school visits, which they promote to the hilt and which sell tons of books for them. So I guess it goes both ways.

RiderWriter said...

I am chuckling, because if I had followed the advice Dame Margot gave you, I would never have become an equestrian! Not only am I horribly "duck-footed" while walking, my hip joints are actually aligned so that when mounted, I'm physically unable to turn my toes in while my heels are down. Doesn't work. This caused no end of frustration to my childhood riding instructors, let me tell you! So I would obviously have been better off as a ballerina. Too bad I've never had the slightest interest... :-)