Resources for Writers
Really Useful Links for Writers: Self-Promotion
The image of the successful author is the lone figure, working tirelessly on their manuscript before it gets sent away into the wilds of the publishing world. There, some unknown magic occurs which results in the book independently appearing on shelves and thrilling readers the world over. When was the last time you watched a movie or tv show, or even read a book, in which an author had to do more than sit at a typewriter or computer to make all the money they needed to maintain their spacious Manhattan apartment or rustic French villa?
Sadly, this is all pure fantasy. Particularly in today’s competitive environment, authors must pitch in with promotion. Publishers simply can’t afford to invest large sums of money in marketing, especially for newer authors. Unless you’re a James Patterson, JK Rowling, or have sparked the latest popular craze in books, your book’s success will depend on your own ability to get the word out.
But before you go jumping to Facebook and Twitter, take a moment to consider that every other author out there is doing just the same thing. Social media is a wonderful tool, but like any tool, it’s only as effective as the skill of the person using it. Nothing turns potential readers off as much as an author who does nothing but post “Buy my book” comments in their Twitter feed. As Delilah S Dawson says, shut up, and think about what’s going on in the world. Social media is everywhere. Anyone can write a blog, and everyone says you need to be on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and Instagram in order to reach new readers. But the reason those formats work is because people like to feel a real connection with artists (whether they be writers, actors, singers, etc). They don’t go there to get a hard sell. Delilah followed that post with advice on what does work in social media.
Is it harsh? Yes. Does it seem impossible to know what rules to follow? Absolutely. But don’t worry, because while social media might not be the golden goose it once was, it’s still worth sticking with. Some of the best opportunities I’ve had in my career have come from making friends and having engaging, interesting conversations through social media.
You might be asking yourself, if all this self-promotion is so hard, and people react badly when an author gets it wrong, is it really worthwhile? You can certainly try to go it alone, without any promotion or marketing. Absolutely, you need to weigh up your available resources and determine how much marketing is worthwhile, knowing full well that even the best marketing may still fail. And there can be routes to success that do not involve the obvious formats. But I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice to rule out self-promotion entirely.
As I said above, readers love to connect with authors. Each reader who feels like they can drop you a line and say how much they enjoyed your latest book is worth ten more, because they’ll tell people about your work. Their interactions with you will show up in other peoples’ feeds. It all helps build your online platform and professional image. Everything, from a well-presented website to Amazon Author Central, adds up to help you promote yourself in non-intrusive ways.
Chuck Wendig has a list of 10 commandments of self-promotion, and if you only check out one of the links in this article, his is the one to read. It covers a range of factors and reminds us that, not only do we need to invest in ourselves to get ahead, but we also need to invest in each other.
I hope this is all helpful. It can be easy to feel intimidated by the extra work beyond writing that an author must consider. And it can be a drain, putting in the time and effort when another author seems to succeed without it. But as with everything else in this business, there is no magic formula, no sure route to the top. Try as many different methods as you can, and find the combination that works for you.
(c) Paul Anthony Shortt