As I wrote in a post last March, I have three books coming out this year and another one in early 2013, due to the vagaries of publishing rather than my own writing schedule. An embarrassment of riches, I’m not complaining. Nor (at this moment, at least) am I whining about how this traffic jam caused an unanticipated drought of publications for the last four years. Right now I’m thinking about how these past few years have given me time to take some steps toward the Brave Not-So-New World of author self-promotion.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in a glass bubble. I’ve had a website for a million years; after all, it’s the modern equivalent of a business card. I’ve always been willing and able to help promote my books. As a former magazine writer, I had contacts and used them. Four years ago, I was already blogging here at I.N.K. and knew all about Facebook, even though I had no interest in signing up.
So what's different now? Many things, for me and for most authors. There are a lot fewer magazines and newspapers, for example. Furthermore their decreasing advertising revenue have shrunk “less necessary” features about authors or their books.
Four years ago my publishers did some promotion for my books coming out, and they are this year as well. Yet more than ever, it’s so clear that even more of the responsibility for promotion has shifted to the author. New and midlist authors certainly. Yet I also have a friend, very well known, who has been firmly told she should post on her blog at least three times a week.
Most of the publishers I work with have sites or pr brochures that encourage us to promote. The Random House Author Portal, for example, lets you track your book sales and subrights online. But before you get to those weekly updates, you are invited to click on the “Connect with Readers” link or the “Monthly Marketing Tip.” Facebook, websites, blogs, twitter, of course. Then there’s the world of Pinterest that our own Melissa Stewart uses so cleverly, Infographics, virtual reader communities (Goodreads, LibraryThing, and JacketFlap being just the beginning), and Linked-In as a social medium—not job hunting—which I still haven’t figured out. It’s mindbloggling, but one ignores it at her peril.
The bad news, I now figure, is these tools have been put in our hands. And the good news is—these tools have been put in our hands. We have the potential of creating word of mouth ourselves in a way authors couldn’t have dreamt of even a decade before.
Do we want to? I have to say that the experience of building the guts of my new Wordpress website, (individual pages, sidebars, etc.) while hiring a professional designer for the customized frame has made me much more confident. And much less likely to glaze over or shrink away when considering my Brave New World.
These are the first new things I’m trying. To paraphrase the late Neil Armstrong: A small step for mankind, a giant step for me. If you find anything new and useful for you, grab it.
Facebook. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I don’t even like answering my email.
A Facebook Author Page This I like better, but try not to post 3 times a week because it feels a little spammy to me. Am I being too retro? I frankly don’t know.
A trailer for my new book, It’s a Dog’s Life. And trying to find more ways to use it than just my own and my publisher’s website.
Again, for It’s a Dog’s Life, a monthly contest on my site showing a photo of a dog in action, which asks, “What is this dog doing?” Kids and adults can email in their responses. At contest’s end, the person who best explains the behavior and the one who makes me laugh hardest each receive a free book. To me, this is a win-win situation. I get website traffic and people get free books. It’s actually win-win-win-win. Teachers can use it for a fun literary activity and dog, mom, or book bloggers can run it as an easy post that will interest their readers.
Am I reinventing the wheel? Sure, but how else am I going to understand it?