Authors & Self-Promotion: Why This Isn’t Someone Else’s Job

delilahThis week has seen a week of self-promotion posts. Not necessarily a week of authors hardcore-pimping their latest book or sounding from the rooftop news about their latest work-in-progress—and it should have been as Delilah S. Dawson released Hit while Pip and I kicked off the fourth season of Tales from the Archives—but a week of writers blogging about self-promotion. Two authors of infinite awesome—Chuck Wendig and the afore-mentioned Delilah Dawson—posted strategies on what to do (and what not to do) when it comes to talking about your own work.

I could hitch a wagon on to this promotional parade with my own tips and tricks, but Chuck and Delilah covered a lot of what I would say. Also, I do not want to be one of those #socialmediamarketinggurus who spout out-of-date crap in the hopes that authors will pay for followers because they’re so desperate for an audience” as Delilah puts it. I’ve met those people, best personified by Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler.

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Make of that what you will.

What I do want to be is the caboose of this promotional train. You’ve heard of the what’s and how’s, but what I don’t think has been covered adequately is the why’s in self-promotion. Plenty of writers describe themselves as introverts, and therefore hate the notion of getting up anywhere and promoting. It could be a panel. It could be a Twitter account. It could be talking about it at the Thanksgiving table. Authors hate the idea of being that snake oil selling writer. What happens in most cases is an attempt to shortcut it or (worse) automate their promotional strategy. Across the board, authors hate self-promotion, believing if they land a New York contract a magical team of marketing pros take the reins and slingshot their title up the charts via book trailers, tours, and impressive press kits to media outlets.

The reason authors must self-promote is a simple one: If you do not talk about your book, no one else will.

While many publishing houses big and small brag of having marketing team, you should never rely on those marketing masters carrying the mantle for your new book. You may be with an impressive publishing house or imprint, but whom else? George R.R. Martin? Charlene Harris? Patricia Briggs? Jim Butcher? These “stablemates” of yours are at the top of a list deemed to get marketing dollars. Why? Because they are sure, reliable names who constantly earn out advances and dominate New York Times bestseller lists.

penniesIn other words, they are smart investments.

You as a new or mid-list author are a high risk in the eyes of Marketing, and there is a strong certainty that there is little to no money in the budget once the literary juggernauts have been covered. No, it really doesn’t make sense that those who don’t need the money get the most advertising dollars, but that’s the way the business side of writing is managed. Self-promotion for authors in my first decade as a professional writer has become more and more part of the author’s occupation, and a good numbers of authors don’t care for it. “It’s someone else’s job” I’ve heard some writers say, and perhaps on certain levels it is; but until you reach that level when you write up a “Honey Do” list and hit the New York Times Bestsellers with it, you’re not on that certain level.

This is why self-promotion is part of the job description. You can just write, sure. Upload your book on Amazon, offering it alongside the other 3 million books they sell, and hope you get discovered. That is an option.

The other option: Let people know you have a book on Amazon.

However, as Delilah, Chuck, and even my wife Pip over at One Stop Writer Shop mentioned in their blogposts, this does not mean you bombard your readers on Facebook and Twitter with constant pushes of your book. You need to find a middle ground between promotion and personality, and build platforms that represent you and your writing. While the gurus want to tell you “BE EVERYWHERE!” you honestly can’t multitask like that unless you have a team. Most authors are a team of one, or two in the case of me and my wife; and we’ve found what works for us.

Smiling beautiful cheerleader with pompomsAuthors are truly the best cheerleaders for their works. They know them better than anyone else. You can say “I’m an introvert. I can’t do this…” but that doesn’t change the fact you need to find out what self-promotion works best for you. Will it be podcasting? Will it be Facebook? Will it be Instagram? It has to be something that works for you, and more importantly for your books. What is most important to remember about being your own cheerleader is knowing when to fire up the crowd, and when to step aside and let the crowd watch the game.

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