Hey, remember this?
It’s back, beginning February 1st!
Hey, remember this?
It’s back, beginning February 1st!
A bunch of months ago, a bookstagrammer made a cool photo challenge that revolved around author life. I absolutely loved the idea, but that particular challenge didn’t show off the kind of stuff I personally love to talk about as an author. (Not the fault of the bookstagrammer or anything! But I am not a fulltime author, so stuff that revolves around fulltime author life isn’t for me.) It did however, inspire me to make my own, and I did it for February because it’s how the timing worked out, and also, whee! Shortest month.
Hahahaha I completely forgot that in 2016, February has 29 days.
ANYWAY, this challenge only has 28 so feel free to do whatever you like with that final day. In the meantime, when I mentioned to other author friends that I’d done this, they suggested I put it up on my blog a little bit in advance so people could “prepare” and so that the challenge would be easy to find, so, voila!
If you’re an author, and you’re not on Instagram but wanna be, here’s a great way to get your feet wet! You just post an applicable picture that day, hashtag it #AuthorLifeMonth, and…that’s it!
Feel free to interpret however you want; just don’t forget the hashtag, so the rest of us can find your posts!
Just to clarify a few that are getting the most questions:
If you’ve get any other questions, please leave them in the comments!
(If you’re just tuning in, you can probably tell from the title of this post that you missed something. For Part I, click here.)
OK, let’s move on, shall we? Say you get your cover and buy links, and now it’s time to promo. Let’s play a game I like to call What’s actually worth the time, effort, and stress, bearing in mind that time is just about always better spent writing your next book? Or, to make up for the stress-y section I just closed with yesterday, let’s play my favorite (PG-13) version: Bang/Marry/Kill?
Cover reveal: Bang. Do not get nearly as emotionally attached to this as you think you need to. This is probably the most overrated source of stress in debuting. It does not matter if your cover has leaked before you do an official reveal – no one cares. There are a bunch of ways in which this can happen that almost always lead back to some sort of lacking communication between Editorial and Publicity. Do not stress. If your cover gets out before your planned reveal, just bump up your reveal as early as possible and do it anyway. Not nearly as many people have already seen it as you imagine have, and even if they have, the official reveal is fun. It’s when people comment, it’s a huge bump of TBR adds, and it’s usually when you’ll do your first giveaway. (If you don’t have ARCs yet, just promise to send an ARC as soon as you have them.) Hafsah at IceyBooks has been fantastic at super fast turnarounds for those who’ve found themselves in a pinch, and she has a great audience.
Blurbs: Bang. They’re wonderful if you get them, but truth be told, plenty of fantastic books don’t have them (and some editors/imprints don’t even go for them, as a general policy), and while I think they can help sell a book, I don’t think not having them hurts.
Blog Tour: Kill. Seriously. Kill it with fire. Or at least kill the “Write a guest post for a different blog every day for a month” kind of blog tour. Interviews are great but get repetitive really quickly, so unless you really enjoy answering interview questions (which I personally do, so I did a whole bunch), I’d say to do maybe three and then chill. As for guest posts, they probably require the greatest amount of effort to the lowest possible result, and I really strongly advocate against them unless either A) You really want to write about that subject, especially if it’s relevant to your book, B) It’s something cute and simple you can do pretty easily, and/or C) It’s for an audience you never would’ve reached on your own. The guest post that had by far the best response, and to an audience that largely didn’t know me otherwise, was a simple 10 Reasons Not to Date Your BFF’s Co-Star, which I did for Hazel at Stay Bookish and never would’ve thought to do on my own.
Twitter Party: Marry. I know, right? I didn’t see that coming either. And truth be told, I didn’t do the best job at mine, because I was so paranoid that I’d annoy the hell out of everyone on my feed that I didn’t promote it nearly enough or make my answers broadly visible enough, but I still had a great time, and found some new readers through it. I was super lucky to have Rebecca at Reading Wishes offer to throw me one – I definitely wouldn’t have done it otherwise – and while it can be a little overwhelming, I also found it to be a lot of fun, a great way to interact, and it only took an hour. (Yes, I know a lot of people might be wondering WTF this even is, but this post is already super long, so if you’re one of them, just ask in the comments.)
Blog Hops/Release Day Blitzes: Bang. But not Bang because I think they’re as helpful as other Bang-y things; more because people are really nice and really like to help you promote your book as possible, and this is a nice, relatively easy way to allow them to do that and also promote themselves and be of interest to their own readers. I chose a blog hop that focused hard on the latter – if people were taking the time to create blog posts for me, I wanted them to be able to use those posts to promote themselves/their books as well – but a surprising number of people opted not to use it that way. Did this sell any books or heighten awareness? I have no idea. But I think for me, emotionally, the feeling of community and all the people who wanted to participate helped a lot with the process.
Giveaways: Marry. Giveaways are great things for drawing attention to your book, though obviously they can be severely limited by the number of ARCs you’re given by your publisher. My fellow OneFour, Maria Andreu (The Secret Side of Empty), wrote a great post on Goodreads giveaways for the blog, and though I know authors have had mixed results, I’m very pro them. Yes, they result in a lot of TBR adds, which is nice, but they also make your book/cover pop up over and over on people’s Goodreads feeds, which is never a bad thing. If the winner(s) actually like the book and review it, that’s just a great bonus, as far as I’m concerned! (Mine did not, in case you were wondering. Oh well.)
I think that covers the promo basics, so, let’s talk about that whole “ARCs” thing and what we do with them!
I have to confess something here – I have no idea WTF you’re supposed to do, as an author, with regard to sending ARCs to indies or libraries. I didn’t use any for that purpose, and maybe you’re supposed to? I have no freaking clue. Hopefully someone who knows better about this stuff will talk about that in the comments or something. So let’s talk about what else you can do (in addition to aforementioned Goodreads giveaways):
I’m pretty sure that covers everything I did, and it was all to varying levels of success, but this is, of course, only half the story. Here’s, to my knowledge, what my publisher did:
Now, on to a reality that sort of sucks to say, but is important nonetheless:
There’s no telling what any author can expect from his/her publisher; promises are frequently made and broken, if they’re ever made at all. Publicists leave, and sometimes that can cause an entire publicity plan to get abandoned. Bloggers fail to post when they say they will. You might fail to write what you promised by the necessary deadline. Et cetera, et cetera. The fact is, you can build up all the expectations you want, but I’d venture to say almost no author ends up with the publicity experience being what (s)he expected, for one reason or another. Be prepared to handle yourself whatever you feel you cannot possibly live without.
And finally, one more thing that falls under the phase of post-cover, pre-release self-promotion is Swag.
I actually don’t have a ton to say about swag. (Famous last words. I’m obviously about to say a ton about swag, just because.) The fact is, it doesn’t help your sales. From a financial perspective, it will never justify its cost. If you don’t have the money for it, and your publisher isn’t providing it (I’m pretty sure most don’t. Mine provided my bookmarks, which I gather is rare; I paid for everything else), it is really, really okay to skip. Even if you can afford it, don’t spend a ton of money on it; I’d say the number one thing I’ve seen authors say they’d do differently next time (well, the number two thing, after “Spend less time writing guest posts for blog tours”) is get less swag.
So what purpose does it serve? Here’s what I’ve gotten and done with it:
Bookmarks – I’ve loved having these, because they were great to sign at BEA when I ran out of ARCs, and at my launch party for people who’d preordered the book but not received it yet, and wanted me to sign something. I also sent a bunch to an awesome friend who works at a bookstore and stuck them in comp titles. And I also sent a bunch to a friend of a friend who works in a library and uses them as prizes for a teen summer reading thing. And, every now and again, I do a giveaway for a book that isn’t mine, and I stick one in. These are really great, free uses. (I’ll get back to the other use in a minute.)
Bookplates – These are key for people whose books you can’t sign physically. I actually had to buy them for Reasons I’ll get into closer to the event I really bought them for, but truth be told, these are a little weird for paperbacks. They’re still nice to have, but I wouldn’t call them “everybody must buy” kinds of items. (Obviously these are pointless if your book is e-only. I would, however, advocate signing up for Authorgraph to anyone whose book is coming out digitally, which, these days, I think is everyone. It’s free, both for you and for fans.)
Buttons – These were fun, and are great for in-person events, so you have something to scatter on the table and for people to take etc.
Here’s the thing about swag – it can be really, really pricey. What you’re paying for when you really deal with swag is:
This adds up so, so fast. You cannot imagine how much will you spend on postage if you send swag to everyone who wants it, and especially not to people who want it outside your country of residence. (Not to mention when you give away actually books – postage on those can be killer, so make sure you use media mail!)
That final thing I’ve done with my swag? Sent it out to people who ask for it, both as real giveaways and in response to tweets. It costs me almost as much to send a package containing those three things as it does to buy my book at its current Kindle price. Not the amount I make from my book – the cost of my actual book. To send one package of swag, to one person, in the US. (To send one standard envelope – just a bookmark and bookplate – outside the US costs exactly half a book, or double the royalties of that book.)
My biggest piece of advice regarding swag, if you’re going to buy it and send it out reasonably liberally? Get flat swag that fits in standard envelopes – bookmarks, tattoos, whatever. If you’re in the US and can’t send it for 45 cents (which adds up quickly too, I assure you), save it for in-person events.
That isn’t to say “don’t get swag”; I love having something to send to people who are excited about my book, or can’t afford to buy it but want something, or…I don’t even care what. I just like it 🙂 I’m just saying, don’t feel pressure, especially if money’s tight, and be careful about how you’re spending it; they’re easy costs to underestimate.
So, that’s part II! Questions? Comments? Trying to figure out how to politely tell me I talk too much? It’s all good! (Well, not really the last one, especially because there will be a part III at some point, on in-person events. GET EXCITED.)
I’ve blogged before about how writing is a business and just how many things come along with that, including being a big boy or girl in the face of bad reviews, but this is one that almost every writer I know – myself included – struggles with in one way or another. We all know that having a modicum of humility is a virtue, and that being spammed with links and BUY MY BOOK is freaking annoying (and if you didn’t know those things, surprise!), so what do you do when you’re expected to sell yourself and you just kinda…don’t wanna?
Look, it’s unlikely anyone’s gonna make you. But unless you’ve got a big marketing and/or publicity budget behind you, I’d be remiss to say, “Eh, it’s OK, you can skip it.” Because while you can, part of doing this as a business is optimizing your sales. And even if you don’t care about the money, presumably you still care about reaching the maximum amount of readers, yes? (If you care about neither money nor readership, then congrats! You don’t need this post, and also teach me your secrets of life.)
For the purposes of this post, let’s assume you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that some self-promotion is necessary, whether you like it or not. So what are your options? How does it all work? When should you start pouring it on? And when does it stop being all weird and scary?
To answer the last question first, I’m not 100% sure it ever does. But that’s not particularly helpful, so let’s focus on the other things!
Regarding the question of when, it’s never too early to start getting to know fellow authors and other people in the industry, but if we’re talking real promotion, the time things really pick up is once you’ve revealed your cover. That way, you have an image of the book to associate with each post, and it’s also when people who don’t know you start really taking note, adding it to Goodreads, and hopefully pre-ordering.
(For a great post explaining A Promotion Timeline, check out this one by Jodi Meadows.)
And now, the how:
Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.)
Self-promotion doesn’t have to be about “selling yourself.” It can just be a matter of being present, publicly discussing books and publishing, “meeting” people who will naturally be interested in what you’re writing and selling. You can promote yourself without being a noxious overlord of bookwhoring!
If you’re going to choose just one social media platform, the one I would most highly recommend (to the surprise of no one who knows me) is Twitter, for a few reasons.
That said, Twitter begs for a relatively active presence, more so than, say, Facebook, where you can have an author page with all the basic info that just kinda sits there. Admittedly, although I have a Facebook author page (you can “Like” it over there on the right, if you’re so inclined), I often just kinda…forget about it. Which, my fault, sure, but I also attribute that in part to point 3. Hopefully, as the graphics associated with my book(s) grow in number (or at least are allowed to be revealed!) I’ll find more use for those sites I find to be largely reliant on visual media.
One site I never would’ve thought to use before promotion purposes before a few people mentioned it is Pinterest. Whether or not I have songs or images in mind when I create a character or setting, I’d never before created any sort of visual manifestation of that outside my own brain. But it really is a nice way to connect with more visual readers, and to let others in to your creative process. (Here’s the one I ultimately created for BEHIND THE SCENES, and the one I created for my NA WIP, LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, as examples.)
Now, in order to maximize your social media presence, and also because I’m just obsessed with etiquette, it pays to understand the right and wrong ways to use social media. What do I mean? These (subjective, because this is my blog and I have opinions you do not have to agree with) things:
During these days, do pretty much whatever you want. Like, whatever. Seriously. Anyone who can’t appreciate what these days mean to an author has no soul.
On other days, however, chill out. Wrote a blog post? Awesome! Tweet it, Facebook it, Pin it, whatever – but be realistic about how many times you need to do so in one day. I like a rule of three there too – morning, noon, and night – maybe tweeted with different aspects in the description each time. (But be realistic about how interesting/helpful your post is. When I blog about why I haven’t blogged, I’m not freaking tweeting that three times a day. ONCE. BECAUSE IT IS MOSTLY BORING AND HELPS NOBODY.)
Hmm, now that I mention that, it’s probably worth mentioning how to get interviewed or guest post, right? If you don’t have a publicist pointing you in the right direction, this can certainly be tricky. Fortunately, this sort of thing is my crack, so:
And, on that note, let’s talk…
Now, it’s pretty obvious I’ve got a blog. (I also, separately, have a website.) Know why I have one? Because I like blogging. But I also do it on my own terms, and I do it quickly, and I don’t let it interfere with writing time.
Blogging is not a mandatory part of being an author. Don’t like it? Don’t do it. I know there are people out there, even pub pros, who treat it like a must. It isn’t. Will it build you an audience? Maybe. But if blogging’s like pulling teeth for you, and it’s taking up chunks of time you could spend writing, I promise – it’s not worth it. Just have a single web page with a little info about you, your agent, and upcoming releases, and have a way to contact you. Don’t have an agent or upcoming releases? Maybe put up a bit about what you’re writing. Fin.
(If you read all that and still feel like you need to blog, whether you want to or not, this post might help if you’re feeling at a loss for content.)
Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Tours
I’ll be the first one to tell you that I have totally oversaturated media presence on the Internet, especially for someone who hasn’t even revealed her cover yet. (I was a Journalism major. I’m incapable of saying no to an interview request.) You don’t have to be like me, and honestly, you probably shouldn’t. I can’t even imagine how many people are all, “ENOUGH ABOUT HER,” and won’t even bother reading any interviews I actually do around my release.
But, a few interviews and/or guest posts is a nice thing. For one thing, each one potentially reaches a new audience – that of the blogger hosting you. For another, it gives people (including agents and editors) something to find when they Google (or Bing!) you that gives them a little insight into you and why they might like working with you or be interested in you long-term.
Now, somehow (rise of self-publishing, is my theory, not that you asked), blog tours have become this mandatory thing that just about everyone does in the two weeks or so surrounding publication, so it’s pretty hard to avoid blogs in any way, shape, or form once you hit that point. My advice is just to do the kinds of posts you actually enjoy, don’t do too much of any one kind, and look into what works so if you opt for a smaller tour, you can really optimize the posts. (Some great insight into that here.)
And, though this is far ahead in the game, I thought it worth mentioning, even though I personally have nothing intelligent to say on the subject:
Signings, Visits, and Launch Parties
These are areas I know pretty much nothing about yet, I must admit, but here are a few sources that provide some really great suggestions and guidance:
So, those are some of my thoughts on self-promotion, as written as inarticulately as humanly possible because my mind sort of rambles when I think about it.
As an author, how do you like to engage with readers? As a reader, what kind of author’s self-promotion works for you?
I didn’t really start blogging here with the intention to focus on any one thing, if I’m being perfectly honest. I mean, hell, one of my first posts was literally just about the Foo Fighters. But over time, I’ve realized that if there’s one thing I really want my blog to be, it’s something of a one-stop shop for writers at any stage of the process, but especially those who are new to the community, to find the relevant information that may not be available elsewhere.
Publishing has been my life for a really long time. My first internship was during my senior year in high school, in the Publicity department at HarperCollins, and I’ve been bouncing around ever since – to Production and then to Editorial, to Simon & Schuster and then to academic publishing, and of course freelance copy editing and writing have been lingering around for a long time too. I hope bringing all that stuff together has helped some people, and if it hasn’t, well, you probably don’t read this anymore anyway.
ANYWAY, my point is, while I’ve tried to encompass as much as I could think of in this blog, it’s maybe not the most… organized? So I thought maybe I should try to put together a post that puts a little order into this thing, and see if maybe that’s not useful, sort of? Or maybe no one cares. WHATEVER, I’M DOING IT ANYWAY.
For brand spankin’ new writers, you’ll probably want to start here – it’s a post detailing “pub speak” that’s especially common on Twitter, given that whole “character limit” thing: An Abridged Glossary of Pub Speak
OK! Once you’ve got pub speak down, you’ll probably want to work on that whole “writing” thing. Short on inspiration? This might answer How to Get Your Own Shiny New Ideas. Not sure where to see teens in action? Here’s a suggestion for how to use Teen TV to Make You a Better Writer. Finally, one thing that might help as you’re writing and/or polishing is this Brief Lesson in Copyediting.
And now, you’re drafting! Or maybe revising! But you’re having some trouble staying in the zone. Maybe your issue is needing help to maximize your writing time. Or maybe you’re too wrapped up in The Headgames We Play.
Finish that draft, and need some opinions on it? You may or may not be familiar with the concept of beta readers or critique partners. Fortunately, I’ve got a 3-part series on Writing Relationships that might help!
Now, are you all done? Like, really? It’s revised and polished a hundred times and you don’t think you can make it any better? Then it’s time for you to figure out WTF to do with that beautiful thing! Traditional pub? Small Press? Self-pub? This post might help you with Choosing Your Pub Path! I also recommend you brush up on what it really means to enter The Business of Writing. And if you’re thinking of both querying agents and submitting to small publishers? See On Querying and Subbing Simultaneously for why I do not recommend it.
You’ve decided to self-publish and are feeling overwhelmed because you don’t know the first thing about it? Check out what a bunch of authors who’ve already done it have to say about the process in Perpetual WIPs: Self-Published Authors.
You’ve decided you want an agent and you’re ready to query? Then you also might be ready for A Quick Querying Q&A! And I definitely advocate braving When Agents Wave the Red Flag. And, if you’re looking for a little help with research, there’s this.
But wait! You are FREAKING OUT, because querying is terrifying and how the HELL does everyone else deal with this and AM I NORMAL???? (And from there you definitely want to check out Perpetual WIPs: Querying Writers!)
And yes, rejection comes with the territory… for everyone. In fact, a whole lot of the publishing process is quite universal.
An agent is interested! An agent is interested! IT MAY END IN REPRESENTATION! And you know all there is to know about what happens then, right? You don’t?? (Just kidding, because seriously, no one does until they get there.) Well, here are Some Truths About Life After Agent that may help you when you have The Call.
Something else that’ll help, at any stage? This. For real. Read it now.
You got an agent!!!! Congratulations!! But wait! You are FREAKING OUT, because querying is terrifying and how the HELL does everyone else deal with this and yup! There’s a Perpetual WIPs: Agented Writers for that!
AAAAAAHHHHH YOU GOT A BOOK DEAL!!!!! Congratulations!! But wait! You are FREAKING OUT, because querying is terrifying and how the HELL does everyone else deal with this and yup! Perpetual WIPs: Pre-Pub Authors.
Wait. I’m supposed to promote this thing?? But I’m shy! And awkward! How do I do this?? Oh, you read The Necessary Evils of Self-Promotion. And if you need a little extra help, you can also check out the Author/Blogger Exchange.
And, of course, before that baby gets published, don’t forget to thank the people who got you there: The Immortality of Acknowledgment.
And now it’s published!! Congrats!!! You probably wanna see how your experiences compare to other published writers, huh? YOU CAN – Perpetual WIPs: Published Authors.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses, of course. Sometimes, for instance, you find yourself having to jump back into the query trenches.
And hey, it’d probably help to hear from some pros, huh? You’re in luck! I’ve got interviews with Random House Marketer and Publicist Ayelet Gruenspecht, YA Author Courtney Summers, YA/NA Author Diana Peterfreund, and NA Author Leah Raeder!
And overall, these are probably the 10 wisest things I’ve ever said about publishing… in the form of blunt messages.
So, that’s most of my blog so far, but I hope to have lots more awesome things coming up in the new year. If you’re already a reader, THANK YOU!!! If not, welcome! Take off your coat. Stay a while! And if there’s anything you’d like to see me blog about that I haven’t already, feel free to sound off in the comments!