A couple of weeks ago, someone (not sure who) retweeted this blog post from author Delilah S. Dawson about self-promotion. I read it and, pinky swear, I wanted to break down and cry.
Go on. Read it. I’ll wait.
Here’s the thing: I’m terrible at promotion. I have yet to figure out a way to bring up the fact I have a book (rather, multiple books) for sale without it coming off as “Hey, you wanna buy one? You really do!” I keep hoping that they’ll magically sell themselves. Ah, yeah, nope. Hasn’t happened.
It makes me uncomfortable. I’ve gotten a lot better about talking about my writing and what I’m working on in general, but when it comes to a book that’s for sale, I tend to freeze up and kind of mumble something, then change the subject.
The post touches the various popular forms of social media and why they don’t necessarily work when it comes to promoting. That’s not to say they don’t work, just that your sales may not see the impact you want.
In the run up to the release of Fracture, I spent a lot of time freaking out and flapping around, penguin-style. My social media reach is tiny, compared to a number of other authors. I was taking a huge risk with no money back guarantee. Most of the time on Twitter I feel like I’m tweeting into a void. Facebook? I might post something once a day for a week, and then I’ll lapse. Don’t get my started on Tumblr (I swear if you stare at it long enough, you’ll see a tumbleweed bounce past). And then there’s this blog (and that’s another blog post in and of itself, but it’ll have to wait). I had a small handful of good reviews – 4 and 5 stars – all from book bloggers and established reviewers. Given how few followers I have on Facebook and the number of people on Twitter who likely just skim through their tweet stream, looking for something entertaining, I kept my release day promo to a bare minimum: a couple of review retweets here and there, links to major retailers, and that’s it.
I haven’t done any promotion since April 21st. And since the book released, I’ve sold about 100 copies. Not nearly as many as I’d like, but it’s doing about as well as I expected, and as long as sales keep trickling in, I’m…well, not happy, but okay, most of the time.
It’s hard, because it makes me feel like I just threw money at a problem and it’s still not going away. But at the same time, I’m trying to keep it in perspective. I’m basically a nobody in publishing at this point, but people are still buying my books. Better, I have people waiting for my next book. Both Delilah and Chuck Wendig say the most effective way to sell books is to write more books. Now that I can do. I can do it well, even.
If you think about it, it makes sense. The larger your booklist is, the more chances you have to reach a potential reader. Say Jane Reader picks up Book Four, reads it, loves it, and wants more. She might go back and buy books One, Two, and Three. She may only buy One. Or Three.
How did she hear about Book Four? Maybe it was from a friend. Maybe it was some social media post that happened to sneak through. Maybe a blogger got her hands on a copy and posted a decent review. But the likelihood of one of those things happening is because your reach increases with each book.
Again, take a minute to think about it. Some authors release their first book and it’s like, just add water and presto! Instant reader base. Those people are the exception. You are not the exception. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. I know I’m sure as hell not. I am the rule. I released One Night in Buenos Aires and maybe gained myself a couple of fans in the process. Then I released Rehab for free and maybe gained a few more. Thanks to what promo I did do with Fracture, I gained a couple more. More people bought Fracture in the week it was released than bought One Night in Buenos Aires in the first two and a half weeks it was available. When Hidden Scars releases in September, I can reasonably expect (and hope, there’s always a dash of hope) that that number will increase over Fracture.
I don’t think I explained myself very well. Here, Chuck Wendig does a better job.
I believe you need to do something to get people’s attention. Writing a book and throwing it up for sale on Amazon isn’t gonna fly. Not when you’ve got so many authors competing for space. But exerting all your energy on promotion when you could be writing your next book doesn’t work, either. Finding that balance requires trial and error. I’ve got the next book thing covered (hooboy do I have that covered). So I have a couple of other marketing ideas I’m going to try, including one I’m really excited about: Wattpad.
But that’s another blog post.
The point I’m trying to make is that the pundits are right: your best promotional tool is more books (see Wendig’s commandment on pebbles). And that makes me really, really happy.