I was sitting an RWA chapter meeting last month when the older woman beside me said, “I didn’t think I’d have to do so much promotion. I thought the publishing company took care of that.” She sighed. “Things have changed.” I just nodded but in reality, I wouldn’t know how things used to be. I started writing in 2006 and my first book was published in 2011. All I know is how things are “now.” And “now” means the author is responsible for the majority, if not all, of the promotion that goes in a book.
First, let’s handle some reality. Promotion = book sales. Sadly, no. I wish it were true but no ads, videos, postcards nor bookmarks have ever prompted me to buy a book from an unknown author. Ink pens? I have dozens from different authors. Some of them I’ve never heard of and I’ve never looked them up to see what books they have out there. We have to bear that reality in mind as we spend precious earnings on SWAG.
This is a serious problem, at least for me. I have very limited financial reserves that I can spend on marketing/promotional items. And let’s be honest, I need to be smart with what I buy. Right now, I’m in the process of buying promotional items for “Promo Alley” at the 2014 RT Convention. The challenge is making my “stuff” stand out from the other author “stuff” lining the halls. There will be ink pens, notepads, bookmarks, and excerpts filling every table. I remember plastic wine glasses (for a book that took place in Napa Valley) and plastic bowlers (Don’t remember what book it was marketing). Chip clips and refrigerator clips littered the table tops. The thousands and thousands of dollars spent on book-related promotional material just for that one conference astounded me.
But here’s the problem…I can’t remember one BOOK being hyped nor did I run out and buy a book because of a piece of promotion. There was a marketing company that had some big refrigerator clips that I loved. I know the name of that company to this day, but individual books? Nope.
So what’s the answer then? If promotion doesn’t sell books, what does? Is promotion a necessary evil?
It is, but it can’t be the be-all to end-all for an author. Authors have to produce well-written and engaging books. In this growing digital world, an author needs to have fresh material there for a reader to buy. When print was king in the fiction world, it did take time for edits to be mailed back and forth, and the print format to set up, and the books printed and then more time to get the books into brick-and-mortar stores. But in this digital age, the time between writing and publishing has been drastically reduced. The best way to “market” yourself is to produce another book for your readers to buy.
Bottom line is I believe successful author marketing is a complicated formula of personal contact with readers (think Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs, etc.), repeated exposure to an author’s name (pens, jar openers, nail files, etc), well-written books, and fresh material.
Then there’s the one sure-fire way to be successful…the right book at the right time. And that’s something we can’t control.
What’s your opinion on author promotion? Have you ever bought a book because of a postcard or book trailer or ink pen? Have you ever bought a book from an author you met and liked just because you met and liked her/him? (And the reverse…have you ever dropped an author from your autobuy list because you and met and disliked her/him?) What’s your favorite SWAG to collect at a conference?
Leave a comment and I’ll chose one person to win a jar of orange-scented hand-cream that promises to carry you away from the snow.
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Cynthia D’Alba was born and raised in a small Arkansas town. After being gone for a number of years, she’s thrilled to be making her home back in Arkansas living in a vine-covered cottage on the banks of an eight-thousand acre lake. She started writing on a challenge from her husband in 2006 and discovered having imaginary sex with lots of hunky men was fun.
To send her snail mail, write to: Cynthia D’Alba PO Box 2116 Hot Springs, AR 71914
Her latest book is a novella, TEXAS FANDANGO, book 3 in the Texas Montgomery Mavericks series. Here’s a little more on that:
Two weeks on a beach can deepen more than just their tans.
Texas Montgomery Mavericks, Book 3
KC Montgomery was eleven when she met the love of her life. Of course, seventeen-year-old Drake Gentry didn’t know she existed, but that didn’t stop her girlish fantasies from growing and changing over the years.
Now, after enjoying a front-row seat to his breakup with his latest girlfriend, she’s been handed an all-grown-up fantasy come true—two weeks at the Sand Castle Resort. With him.
Drake most definitely noticed KC a long time ago, but the timing’s never been right. Now that he’s facing a lonely vacation that was supposed to be for two, it seems only natural to accept KC’s offer to fill in. And as far as her terms go… No strings. No expectations. No holds barred. Drake is no fool—he’s all over it.
But once they’re back in Texas there are invisible strings still hanging between them. Strings labeled attraction, affection…even love. And the more they try to untangle the knots, the tighter they’re bound together.
Warning: Beware of sunburns, whirlpool sex and sand in delicate places.