Myths of book marketing Part I
Social media marketing is a great way to get the message out about your upcoming book releases, but it can be time-consuming. In the old days book marketing was done by publishers, and authors only had to show up when they were scheduled to do signings. Market research was done by agents or publishers, and authors could devote most of their time to writing.
Successful authors have always done lots of marketing on their own. We went to select conventions (World Science Fiction Convention, World Fantasy Convention, World Horror Convention, Bouchercon, Thrillerfest, Horrorfest, and monthly regional cons) as much to get our names in program books as to have a good time and meet old friends. In this business, like most businesses, you’re nobody without name recognition. There are so many other authors out there that it’s easy to write a good book and never sell enough copies to impress publishers. Writers have always had an obligation to get out the word about their books.
Today we sit at our keyboards and post to Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Blogger and Wordpress and Tumblr or send off e-mails or Constant Contact newsletters to subscribers to our mailing lists. We have no need to shower and shave and dress up in costume and hop planes to far-off places. We can stay at home and switch hats from writer to marketer as easily as switching from our writer’s hats to our editor’s hats. ‘Tis indeed a brave new world that hath such wondrous and goodly tools in it.
But, like talking out your story instead of writing it, it’s much too easy to fall into the social media trap. Authors are, of necessity, solitary creatures chained to keyboards. We relish positive feedback. We know we are often too close to our own work to see the forest for the trees. And we love to see our by-lined names in print even if it’s only on blogs.
I’ve noticed my creative output (novels and short stories) declined significantly as I increased my on-line presence. Something similar happened to me back in the early nineties when SFWA and HWA went on Genie and Compuserv (precursor to AOL). Not only did I have to overcome the learning-curve for new technology, I spent far too much time reading and posting to forums instead of writing novels and short stories.
Now I’m doing the same thing again. I recognize the need to find a balance between writing, marketing, and social presence. Some of my writer friends have publically commented on the decrease in their creative output in direct proportion to the increase in their social media presence. I guess it happens to most writers.
My present solution is to set specific times for each task. I write in the mornings, and I refuse to talk to anyone in person, on the telephone, or online during my best writing time. I edit in the afternoons. And I do marketing, Facebook, and reply to communications in the evenings. I limit my convention appearances to four per year, and I do signings and public readings only rarely. That seems to work well for me.
With the release of six new novels during the next two years, I’m preparing to do interviews and even a book tour overseas. I’m looking forward to getting copies of my books into the hands of readers. But I’m also dreading the toll this may take on my creative output. What happens if I have written no new novels next year or the year after that? Will I fade from memory as I did after 1997?
I know marketing is important. Without readers, my writing means nothing. Writing only for oneself is like verbal masturbation. It’s satisfying, but it’s fruitless.
(To be continued)