Friday, July 04, 2008

Get on the Bus, Y'All--It's Adventure Time!

If there’s one thing that new or aspiring authors hear over and over again, it’s that we must actively promote our books.

But wait a minute, many authors say. Promotion is the publisher’s job, not mine.

It’s true that your publisher will put together a publicity and marketing plan for your book, just as it does for every title it produces. But plans vary widely, depending on—among other things—the subject matter of the book and the amount of time and money the publisher has to spend. At a minimum, your book will be included in the publisher’s catalog and sent out for reviews. The in-house publicist might be able to arrange some media coverage, maybe some local events. But if you’re a new author with no audience (yet), don’t start packing your bags. That national tour most likely ain’t happening.

So then what? The answer from most publishing folks these days is: take off the writer’s hat and put on the self-promotion one. Because now that your book is written, rewritten, edited, rewritten again, designed, and on the shelf…it’s time to get to work.

Not everyone is unanimous on this point. Well-known agent Donald Maass, for example, dismisses the notion of authors promoting their books. In his writer’s guide, Writing the Breakout Novel, he contends that the best way for a writer to sell books isn’t by going around tooting her own horn, but by focusing on writing the best damn books she can manage. Write a novel people want to read, he says, and the rest will take care of itself.

Donald Maass notwithstanding (and I love ya, Donald, really I do—yours is a refreshing, soothing voice, and lord I wish I could believe you), most of us grit our teeth and roll up our sleeves, if for no other reason than we believe in our books and we want to give them the best chance possible. The problem is, most writers—myself included—start out having no clue what to do. (If we did, we’d probably be in sales, and making a lot more money). The possibilities seem endless—and endlessly expensive, in either time or money. Should I spend $2000 on a book trailer? Another $1500 on a website? Scrape together thousands for a freelance publicist? Devote hours every week to MySpace and Facebook? Write a blog? An article for the local paper? Comment on other people’s blogs? Drive to every bookstore in a 50-mile radius to sign stock and meet booksellers? Should I bring cookies? Homemade or store-bought? What about milk?

Having now studied these burning questions for two years (and having actually done some of them) I herewith inaugurate another periodic series* on this blog: My Adventures in Book Promotion!

And just to kick the series off right: Watch this hilarious book trailer from author Dennis Cass (hilarious, because it is so painfully true...)

Next week: The One Thing People Fear More Than Death, and How to Deal (without actually dying).

*In case you missed it, the first periodic series was called From Manuscript to Finished Book. Click here for the first post in that series.

3 comments:

Walter Rowntree said...

The following came through the crystal ball this AM: "Fans and Critics alike are heaping praise on the eagerly anticipated newly released tenth novel from master wordsmith C.M. Fletcher. Never one to disappoint, Ms. Fletcher delivers again, this time with a gripping page turner that blows the top off the sordid underworld of book promotion. "I've never been one to 'Write What You Know'" says the eminent novelist, "but I felt the people of America needed to know the truth." She says that this novel is a fictionalized compilation of her experiences promoting her previous novels. The unexpected twists and turns of plot, the subterfuge and mind-bending CIA-inspired 'psi-ops' of 'guerrilla marketing' will keep readers riveted, and the revelations of emotional turmoil and physical trials and tribulations are sure to finally wake the general public up to the plight of authors across the country, and may even create the popular groundswell that's needed to finally get the publishing houses to do the right thing and market books themselves. This book is not without a lighter side, though. Its frequent descriptions of over-the-top Murphy's Law-isms will leave you ROFLing. He latest novel is sure to be one you read over and over, and if Hollywood does as good a job with this one as they have done with her others, movie fans, too, are in for a treat.

Melissa Marsh said...

Wouldn't it be nice if we just had loads of money to give someone else to do all the promotional stuff? Still, I think the promotional phase if part of the fun, too. You get to meet and interact with lots of people.

Christine Fletcher said...

Walter, that cracked me up! If I ever do write such a tome, you'll know I've gone completely and irrevocably 'round the bend.

Melissa, I agree, on both counts! To me the most fun and rewarding part of publishing has been the people I've met and friends I've made. Promotion has its frustrations, but--once I get out of my introvert shell--I find I have a fantastic time.