For most writers, the actual writing part of developing a manuscript – outlining, first draft, re-writing and critiquing – is the fun and creative part of telling stories. But storytellers need audiences, need receptive listeners, and publishing venues, and that’s where promoting your book becomes a necessity.
So you must decide whether you are writing just to please yourself. If so, the work of writing well is its own reward.
If not, the work of writing only precedes the work of building a following of people who read your work – because they truly like it, because they believe in spending their precious time learning from or being entertained by your words, and not because they are close friends or relatives whose arms you might be twisting.
Here are selected thoughts from three WAG members who have recently published books.
Kaye Linden promotes her book Tales from Ma’s Watering Hole around a philosophy – which is in itself remarkable.
Kaye says, “Be subtle. No one likes to be inundated with promotions to buy or endorse stuff. That being said there are many ways to get the word out.” Kaye says a sensible division of one’s time between writing and promoting is 70 percent writing and 30 percent promoting. “Don’t depend on family or friends to sell your book.”
First, there are the online avenues. Kaye has taken advantage of Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads, a website with a blog, and Twitter as well as all the standard methods of promotion such as email notifications. (Be careful what you put online, Kaye warns, because once it is out there, it’s out there forever.)
Sometimes your publisher will chip in with ideas and time, but in these days of thousands of competing voices, a publisher wants the writer to become a brand. That means they want the writer to develop a name, an image, and even a “likeability factor.” Dress in a manner that interests your audience, for example, and carry handouts – specialized bookmarks and business cards that reflect your current project. Give these away and leave them in libraries and in airports. Think of them as tools.
Above and beyond the normal (and not-so-normal) avenues, Kaye says a writer must believe in a project and must be willing to spend some time and money promoting it. Find ways to give away books; try to “create buzz” about your product.
What about the traditional, author’s method of speaking and attending book signings? If you are a brand – famous, a celebrity – fine, but otherwise, forget it.
Jack Owen’s first book, Midshipman Porter In Harms Way, was published in 2013. Jack has worked with the Melrose Library and other writer groups (Ancient City Writers), but stays in touch with friends via Facebook.
Jack says he does not have a promotional plan: “I’m winging it.” Still, he believes that someone who can tie a book into a charity, for example, stands a greater chance of satisfying sales.
But Jack thinks of himself as a writer, not a marketer: “I could do marketing full time, but then my writing would suffer.”
Wendy Thornton’s book, Dear Oprah: How I Beat Cancer and Learned to Love Daytime TV, spells out her battle with cancer.
“I didn’t start with a written plan,” she says, but she began with family, friends, her writing pods and medical personnel, to whom she gave books, asking them to spread the word. Dear Oprah is a very personal story, but it also is filled with recommendations and ideas for working through cancer – from a personal and a family point of view.
“An agent,” Wendy says. “That’s what I want for my other books. Now, time to get busy writing.”