Here we are again with WRITERS AT WORK. This is the fourth episode of the month’s topic, which is about the ways in which today’s authors strive to promote themselves and/or their books. It’s my turn. The previous episodes were posted on January 3, 10, and 17.
WRITERS AT WORK
Topic 10: REGARDING THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES
Part 4: David
Good grief, Sandy! Recycled energy theory? I’m going to need help from readers on this one! But off the top I’ll say that I love lists and yours is brief, to the point, and provocative.
So the answer to the author’s self-promoting dilemma, as you say, is to discover ways to promote ourselves that feel comfortable and are fun to do. Hmmm. Well, everyone is different and comfort levels are going to differ too. A list of options that are available to enterprising and energetic authors isn’t all that long. One can visit schools; speak at PTAs and other local groups; hand out business cards and flyers; attend conferences to meet, greet, and sign books; get interviewed on local radio and television stations; be reviewed or interviewed by local magazines and newspapers; and ask at local book stores and libraries about signing and speaking opportunities. The list should include sending letters and e-mail notes to those who might like to know about an author’s latest accomplishment. One can also enter a variety of contests and, for the higher rollers, there’s the possibility of renting a booth at conferences and selling wares directly to the conference attendees. That’s a little like standing behind a fruit stand hawking your own melons, but what the heck. For some, it’s the very ticket.
And these days there’s a host of Internet-based social media options: websites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, podcasts, videos, YouTube, Skype and so on. Sandy, so far I’ve tried several of these so let me tell you more about my experience with blogging.
When Kathy Temean created my website in 2009, I was proud of the way it looked and glad to finally join the rapidly growing number of authors who present themselves to readers who routinely search the web for people who write and illustrate books. When Kathy urged me to establish a blog presence, I said no but it didn’t take her long to persuade me to give it a try. I never imagined how time consuming and exhausting it can be to maintain a decent, on-going blog.
For one thing, writers write. So give us a blog, it’s like handing out free paper to write on each day and share with an audience of mostly anonymous readers who might or might not drop by to check out what we have to say. It doesn’t take long to begin to feel pressure to make the most of the opportunity. This isn’t Twitter. You have more than 140 characters. It isn’t Facebook. Blog readers don’t want to know what movie you like this week. A writer’s blog is about content and the merit of the content says a lot about the writer. I may write my blog in my pajamas and robe, but I want what I write to be decently dressed and have its hair brushed.
Early on I established a series of interviews of people I know or want to know who are in the business of writing or illustrating or editing or publishing or agenting or teaching or professoring. It has been a fascinating experience and I’ve learned much along the way. But fun though it is, interviewing someone is neither simple nor quick. So far I’ve done about five dozen and look forward to adding others when my time is less restricted than it is at the moment.
I also started a program for poets of all ages called Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. Until recently, I recruited judges who agreed to read entries and select their picks for monthly winners. These days, poets continue to post their work on my blog but we’ve dispensed with judging. In addition, I’ve posted writing tips on poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and, of course, you and I have engaged in several months of chatting in our WRITERS AT WORK series.
All of this takes time – hours of it. Sandy, you may observe that these blog activities have little to do with promoting my work. Like you, I usually find it far more comfortable to cheerlead for others than to wave my own baton and hope there’s a parade behind me.
The benefits of social networking (yes, I also tweet and have a Facebook page; sigh) include the meeting of many fascinating people. If you call this a “circle of influence,” then I suspect that mine has grown. I hope that some of my words and those of others who have appeared as my guests or left comments have been beneficial to readers who drop by.
Am I selling more books as a direct and measurable result of my blogs and tweets and LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends? Sandy, it beats me. I want to say yes but I don’t have a yardstick (blog-stick?) for this situation. I think the answer is yes. Certainly I’m busy with books to write. I’ve made meaningful contacts with additional publishers. My publishers know that I’m out there trying to do my part. The price of the effort? It can be hours a day. I’m fortunate in that I have no “second job” to go to and can spend up to twelve hours on good days working at my trade. But not everyone can afford to give up an hour or more of their writing time to add Internet-based efforts to their marketing campaign.
So, my friend, we’re back where we started. Every author is expected to help promote his or her work. The trick is to choose ways that feel comfortable and fun so that it generates energy. Then, according to Sandy Asher’s theory, we can use that energy to fuel more writing! I’m good with that.