Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Two for the price of one!

by Michael

I’ll admit, I was having a tough time coming up with something for the blog this week. After a busy Comic Con (wrap up here) and a hectic SCBWI National Conference (great conference blog led by my good friend Alice Pope here), my brain had shifted into neutral. I think this was a precaution to keep it from overheating. Coincidentally, I also made a return to Twitter, where one’s brain need never be engaged—just kidding! Seriously, I’d taken a break during a very busy time, and I just hadn’t gotten back into the habit. But I recommitted myself to tweet last night, so I turned to my friends to see what they’d like to find out. And, since I got two good suggestions, I’m taking them both!

First, my wonderful author Nova Ren Suma pointed me to this blog post by up-and-coming novelist Scott Tracey. It addresses the idea of “overpromotion.” In this day and age, when agents, editors and publishers all harp on authors that they need to be out promoting themselves, things can get out of hand. Scott gives an example of authors who focus on acquiring friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. The purpose? To bombard these folks with reminders about of an upcoming book—a book, Scott humorously points out, that may be a year away from publication! More than overpromotion, this is a case of improperly using social networking. Networking, both in real life and online, is about building relationships and creating a give-and-take. You wouldn’t show up to a party and start screaming that you have a book coming out in a year (at least, I hope no one does that), so you shouldn’t be doing that on social networks, either. It’s about building relationships with other authors, industry professionals, and your audience. You want to mix direct marketing with actual interaction. You want to help promote other authors and the business generally. And if you can do it all with a sense of humor, well then, everyone will appreciate it all the more. So before you go sending out tweets about your DEBUT NOVEL!!! COMES OUT MAY 2102!!! WILL SEND TWEET REMINDER EVERY DAY UNTIL THEN!!!, remember that networking is a two-way street.

The other great question I got was from the talented Joanne Levy. She said, “I keep hearing that editors would rather publish a debut than an already pubbed author—can you elaborate?” I’ve actually been asked about this a few times, and it’s confusing to people as it seems counterintuitive. If you’ve already sold a book, aren’t you immediately more valuable to a publisher? Haven’t you proven yourself to be reliable (well, we hope that’s what you’ve done) and talented? But, that’s not necessarily the case. Yes, you’ve show you can deliver and write, but the question is, can you sell? If your first book doesn’t sell well, it’s tougher for a publisher to take on your second book. Why’s that? Because B&N, Borders and Amazon are not likely to line up to buy copies of a book by an author with a bad track record. And if the publisher can’t get those guys to take books, they have no effective way of selling them in large numbers. And if they can’t sell a book in large numbers, they won’t acquire it. This is a simplification, of course, and many other factors come into play. A well-written, high-concept book will often overcome the challenge of a bad track record. Also, the children’s side of the market (and the author who asked writes children’s books) is a little more forgiving than the adult side. Though as with everything in children’s publishing, that’s switching to more of an adult model, too, for better or worse.

So despite being stumped earlier, I hope I’ve been helpful. Let me know in the comments if you need clarification.


  1. Thanks so much, Michael. You took what I babbled about and made me sound incredibly insightful and far more intelligent than I have any right to be. :)

  2. Makes total sense. Thanks so much for this, Michael!

  3. Great post!

    Although there goes my "500 Followers by Friday or I Throw myself off this Ledge!!!" contest.

  4. Aw, thanks, Michael :)

    I think these points about over-promotion are great... and important to hear. Sometimes it's hard to know, when you're running wild all excited about your book coming out, how often is too often to talk about it. I like what you said about how "you want to help promote other authors and the business generally" -- these tend to be the authors I enjoy following and watching online, the ones who are enthusiastic not just about their own books but other books, too. It makes me like them more (and then I may be more inclined to go out and buy their book!).

  5. I think it's more fun to be engaged in the world of writing, rather than a lone author shouting at the top of a mountain. If you love the genre you write, wouldn't you love to read it and celebrate the genius works of your fellow authors?

    Great post.

  6. Well said, Michael! I've often thought the same thing about social networking mania--thanks for having the courage to voice it on behalf of the agency.

  7. I attended a writing conference once that encouraged us all to get on Facebook, if we weren't already, and build up gobs of friends so that when we did get published we would be all set for some free marketing. I did get set up my facebook account, so I'm greatful to that speaker for that, but I never was comfortable friending people I really knew nothing about or didn't care to become friends with. Now I feel better about my decision to be selective with my friends. Thanks.