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    I promote, therefore I am . . . a writer

    Sara Rosett Icon

    Have you ever had a bookstore craving?

    You know, the intense desire to roam aimlessly through the aisles, browsing titles and scanning flap copy.

    Last week I had it bad.

    Since our move, I’m getting adjusted to the new area and the new area is. . . rural. Or, more accurately, it feels rural. We’re actually only about 30 miles from D.C., but my quick trips to the store, the mall, the gas station, and the bookstore have been curtained. We live in an area with houses and neighborhoods sprinkled between cornfields and dilapidated red barns. It’s scenic and beautiful. I’ve seen six deer already, but there’s not a Best Buy or Qboda right around the corner, not to mention a bookstore.

    So I did a Google search and with a bit of luck navigating the freeways, I found a bookstore and indulged in browsing.

    While glancing through the magazine section, I found an article in Writer’s Digest about a new author who isn’t into promotion. He’d rather write.

    Here’s the teaser from Writer’s Digest Website: “Can a writer who just wants to be left alone to write make it in today’s extroverted publishing world? Enter 24-year-old James Boice, who may just be the answer to that question.”

    I was intrigued.

    I’d love to spend most of my time writing, too, but didn’t this Boice guy know that you have to do promotion? It’s not a question of whether or not you want to. It’s a given.

    Then it dawned on me that I was reading an article about him in a national magazine. Not an article he had written for the magazine, but an article featuring him, which was a much harder gig to get. Plenty of authors, myself included, query magazines and pitch an article they’d like to write just to get their byline and bio in the magazine. To actually have someone else write an article about you is the next step up.

    I skimmed the article and discovered that he’s written a fiction book that closely mirrors the Kobe Bryant scandal. His book has been reviewed/mentioned/excerpted in several newspapers and other magazines, including Esquire.

    At this point the whole “leave me alone, I just want to write” thing was ringing a little false. Clearly, Boice, either had the luxury of leaving the promotion to someone else (a publicist, perhaps?)—although he’ll make time for interviews—or he’d been very lucky.

    I’ve met people with the same off-hand attitude toward promotion. At one of my first mystery conferences I sat beside an established writer who said, “I let the publisher handle all that publicity crap.” I’d been shocked. I was the author. I had to do my part, pull my weight to make sure my book got out there. Didn’t everyone feel this way?

    Apparently not.

    I have reigned in my promotion activities a bit because I’ve learned that sometimes an author can do everything “right” (get the word out and have great sales) but that’s no guarantee that the publisher will keep publishing the author’s books. So I try not to kill myself with promotional activities, but I do know promotion is essential. Maybe some day I’ll be “lucky” enough to have interviews fall into my lap and I’ll say I leave all that “promotion crap” to someone else.

    Nah, I doubt I’ll ever stop promoting my writing. The truth is that promotion feels a bit like I’m on vacation. I love to write, but I also enjoy meeting readers, other writers, booksellers, and librarians.

    So, the question(s) of the day: If you’re a writer, do you promote your books? Why? Do you think it makes a difference? If you’re a reader, are you excited about meeting an author at a book signing? Do you like to get newsletters or emails from your favorite authors? In other words does, all that “promotion crap” draw your attention to new authors or keep you reading authors you already enjoy?

    16 Responses to “I promote, therefore I am . . . a writer”

    1. Bookstore cravings! I love it. I snuck in one Friday night on my way home from work. Since I live in a very small town there aren’t a lot of opportunities to hit one of the mega stores, but I found one next to the higher end grocery store I stop at every once in a while for essentials they don’t carry at Wal-mart.

      I saw the books and now I’m kicking myself for not supporting a “brother” and putting out my cash but it was early in the browse and I wasn’t sure what I wanted yet.

      I love the smell, no not of the coffee, but of the books. I was a little disappointed at the size of the book section compared to the CD and DVD sections and I didn’t even find the magazines, but the visit filled my craving. Kind of like listening to waves on the shore.

      Ok, I’m officially a book geek. :)

      And promoting, I told everyone in my family, work (I held up the magazine and did the Vanna thing) and any online friends I used to have about my essay getting published last month. So I think I’d be at least at the beginning pretty good at promotion. But I’m sure it gets tiring later. And I do admire Mr. Boyce for saying what every writer must want to say, “Let me write!”

      by Lynn on September 26th, 2007 at 6:18 am

    2. Hi Lynn. I think you’re in the company of many book geeks here. :)

      I love the smell of books, too. I remember checking out old books from the library and they had a certain scent that I loved.

      I love to write, but I really enjoy publicity most of the time, too. It’s the time crunch that gets to me.

      by Sara on September 26th, 2007 at 7:13 am

    3. I do averything I can think of (and afford) to promote my book. Since it’s my first, and I don’t want it to be my last, I feel like this is something I have to do. Fortunately, I’m like you in that I love it. Love connecting with readers, love meeting other writers in the process.

      And, as a reader, I really like meeting authors, getting their newsletters. I still go to book signings.

      by judy larsen on September 26th, 2007 at 7:30 am

    4. Judy, I think you’ve expressed what many of us feel: “I feel like this is something I have to do.”

      I can’t imagine not promoting my book, either. I like writing too much. I do what I can promotion-wise so that I can *keep* writing.

      by Sara on September 26th, 2007 at 7:54 am

    5. I promote and I think it makes a difference from connecting with readers. One of my favorite parts of going to the same small bookstores each year is getting to hear what the readers thought of the previous year’s book.

      I try not to go too crazy on promotion with a small press–only so much I can do and the Worldwide secondary rights deal carries no need for promotion (they do it all). But when I break in to a bigger house–I’ll promote like crazy. I enjoy it and I think it helps build a following.

      by Laura on September 26th, 2007 at 11:59 am

    6. I’m chomping on the bit to get started promoting. Of course I haven’t a clue about what works and what doesn’t. Having a more than full time day job and a personal life, I’m going to have to be selective about my promotions. I really need to hone in on value added activities.

      I’m interested to know what authors see as the most valuable promotional activities and items. And that even goes for bookmarks, pens, whatever. There isn’t a lot of cash available, so I don’t want to waste money on pens, if they really don’t pay off.

      I’m trying to make connections with the local media for articles, and/or interviews.

      So, Good Girls, what works? I’m waiting to read more.

      by Will Bereswill on September 26th, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    7. Love this Boice guy. Promoting by not promoting. It’s so Zen.

      I do a fair amount of promoting, not so much as some. I’m learning as I go. One thing I tend to concentrate on these days are events with a pre-planned audience: book clubs, library meetings, writer’s groups, and of course conferences. The conferences though, I mainly do because they’re fun. Without those, how would I ever have met the Good Girls?

      by JDRhoades on September 26th, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    8. Oh, J.D., we’re glad we met you, too. Conferences are great for networking, usually not so much for sales.

      Will, I think J.D. hit one of the key things about making promotion pay off–find events with a built-in audience (book groups, library events, writer’s groups, etc). These events are so much more fun than standing at the door of a bookstore handing out bookmarks. Although, I’ve done quite a bit of that, too.

      I’d say you have to find what works for you. I like giving out bookmarks and handing out signed books to key bookstore employees on drop-in visits. Work those media contacts. A few articles or TV spots goes a long way to building name recognition.

      Okay, I’m all out of advice for now. Anyone else?

      by Sara on September 26th, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    9. Oh, yeah–a blog is good for promotion. And fun, too.

      by Sara on September 26th, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    10. Yep. Google my name and the Good Girls site comes up. Many times.

      by Will Bereswill on September 26th, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    11. I have a year to go before I have to start worrying about publicity, but I’m all for soaking up useful info. So do you guys use a publicist, or do you publicize yourselves? Pros and cons? Do the costs of a professional (independent/not affiliated with the publisher) publicist justify the exposure, or don’t you think so?

      (I enjoyed your book, by the way, Sara! Thanks!)

      by JennieB on September 26th, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    12. Anybody know a publicist that works for beer? They have to be good too.

      by Will Bereswill on September 26th, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    13. Jennie, I love marketing (media contacts, etc.) so I’m of the mindset you can do it yourself if you know what you’re doing. I did a post a while back, telling you step by step how to assemble a press kit. You might want to check it out.

      by Laura on September 26th, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    14. Laura, I remember the press kit quite well, thank you. It was excellent, IIRC. You have a background in journalism, though, right? For those of us who don’t, do you still recommend doing it ourselves? Or spring for the professional?

      by JennieB on September 26th, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    15. Hi, JennieB. Glad you enjoyed the book!

      I haven’t used a publicist. I’ve done it all myself so far and had pretty good results. I think the main reason you hire a publicist is for their contacts. The press kit isn’t that hard to put together–it just takes some time.

      by Sara on September 26th, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    16. Jennie, if you can come up with an angle to impress them (make them take notice) you don’t need the publicist. Go after every paper you have ANY connection with at all…where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school, etc.

      by Laura on September 26th, 2007 at 6:22 pm

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