Monday, February 01, 2010

Promote yourself

by Jim

Since Jane already noted the high stakes, high drama standoff between Amazon and Macmillan, and Rachel already discussed the death of J.D. Salinger (anyone else think he’s totally overrated?), I wasn’t quite sure what to blog about today. Then I found this pretty fascinating article from the Denver Post about the author’s role in publicizing their own work.

Tama Kieves might be a little hyperbolic with regard to her readers (“They thank God for me and I thank God for them,”) but she makes a number of solid points about the need for authors to take on a distinct amount of the burden of publicizing their book.

Though Kieves is prepared to “walk across the desert for this book,” most people don’t have the time, energy, or financial backing to be able to make PR a full time job. That said, self-promotion is a big part of the business. And though the tone of a lot of publicity discussions is increasingly negative (my publisher didn’t send me on tour, I don’t understand why Oprah hasn’t called, etc.), I think it’s actually a really exciting time to be published.

Social networking sites make spreading the word about your work cheaper and easier than ever. And for those authors who are on the shyer end, you don’t even need to actually speak to anyone to get the job done! Sure, publicity budgets may be decreasing, and your publisher might not set you up in a fancy hotel before your Today show appearance, but there is a rabid group of readers out there almost asking to be directed towards new work.


  1. This is an interesting article and points to the increasing responsibility of an author in terms of publicity. It's no longer just about writing the best book you can -- although I still believe (and hope) that's step #1. Yet, I also think authors need to possess a basic understanding of marketing techniques. As I've been revising my ms, I've been reading marketing blogs and books so when my book gets published (hey, I'm an optimist), I can start promoting long before it hits the shelf (or iPad). :)

  2. I read Seth Godin's books and blog religiously, and I think he has a good sense of why the author is more important. It isn't just that publishers are slashing budgets, but that the world has changed. Getting the attention of the audience is no longer a matter of throwing money at big, established venues. It's a "long tail" world - where the personal touch is really important. Authors are in a better position to take advantage of these changes.

    (And I agree about Salinger, and I suspect he agreed too.)

  3. Definitely agree with you on the J.D. Salinger front.
    I have definitely noticed that writers now have the responsibility of promoting their own books. I'm just glad there are so many tools to do so and that I'm aware of it beforehand. Seems like a good idea for writers to start personal branding and connecting with readers before they even have a book deal. That way writers are not scrambling to create an online presence later.

  4. I'm such a fan of your blog, and I learn a great deal about the publishing industry from it--but I'm not sure if I agree with calling someone overrated so soon after his death. I think we need to give time for his friends, family, and fans to mourn before the bashing begins. I mean no disrespects from my comment--it's just my opinion.

  5. Don't think J.D. Salinger was overrated -- don't really know how he was rated. But I don't think he could have been OVERrated. I think every one of his lines was perfection. Here's to different tastes! On the subject of your blog, thanks for your continued advice.

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  7. I loved Salinger when I was a teenager. I reread Catcher in the Rye in my 20s and loved him still. I reread him as a parent and felt like I'd really lost something: Holden Caulfield sounded whiny and difficult. My favorite Salinger work of all time will always be his short story, 'De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period', a perfect blend of self-deprecatory humor and youthful awkwardness and hope, all the embarrassment and horror of being young and stupid and living to remember it. I don't want to reread that one.

    As for publicizing my own work, I suppose I could be grateful for having a largish family. The only trouble is, we're all cheapskates. I'll have to figure something out, should the happy day ever come.

  8. Jim, if you're still checking in on the comments, I'd be curious about your opinions on book trailers. Worth it? A waste of time?

    It's definitely a whole new world for authors and their books!

  9. I'm of two minds on book trailers. I think they're fun and can be great tools, but I also feel like the amount of time and money it takes to create one doesn't necessarily pay off in direct sales.

    If you can find a way to make one inexpensively, there's nothing at all to lose. But they tend to be the sort of advertising that hits the people who were already going to buy the book anyway, at least in my opinion.

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