Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Attempt to Dip my Toe into the Pool of Self-Promotion

(Full disclosure: I am not in any way an expert on marketing or publicity or social media.)

But I know, as a writer with a novel coming out in little more than a year, that I have got to get up to speed and fast. The book industry is in a state of angsty turmoil over the rise of e-books. Marketing budgets are not what they used to be (if they ever were) and publishing companies are asking authors to do more of their own publicity. Unless you are already a celebrity like Julie Andrews or Snooki, I’m sorry to say that no one is going to send you out on a multi-city book tour.

The trouble is I don’t have a degree in marketing. And I’m hesitant to shell out thousands of dollars to hire a publicist. When I first got my book contract I talked to a good friend about the pros and cons of hiring a publicist. My point was that I was an intelligent enough person—I should be able to navigate the publicity waters myself. "After all," I said, "I don’t hire anyone to clean my house, right? And anyway, the few times I did have a Merry Maid come in, they didn’t even do that great of a job, etc. I can do this. I’ll create my own buzz. I’ll set up my own book tours, yadda yadda ya."

My friend waited until I finished then she said simply: “But DO you clean your house?”

Haha. She is a funny one.

Okay. Maybe she's right, but I am a stubborn (and cheap) do-it-yourselfer.
Unfortunately, I'm also reluctant when it comes to selling myself.
So that’s another hurdle.

Forget the time and money involved in self-promotion. I’m struggling with the idea of self-promotion itself. I’ve heard horror stories of writers slipping manuscripts under bathroom stalls to editors, tweeting spam links to their self-published book series, driving around with boxes of books in their car trunks and hawking them like they’re selling kitchen tools on an infomercial. Uck. I have a hard time even talking about my book. The worse thing for me about querying agents (besides the rejection that usually followed) was the pitch part. I just wanted to send them a letter saying: "Here’s my manuscript. Thank you for reading it."

As soon as I announced my book deal, I've had people asking me what my book is about, and I feel like a deer in the headlights. I know I should have a prepared ten second elevator pitch—a couple of snappy sentences that sum up my novel, but instead I stammer and fall back on my inclination to say: "Um, here it is. Puh-lease read it."

Which is probably not the best way to self-promote. There’s got to be a middle ground. Somewhere between having a filthy house and managing to keep it clutter-free without shelling out the bucks for a housekeeper.

In the spirit of do-it-yourselferism (and probably also as a way to delay actually self-promoting), I have been researching all aspects of book-promotion and gearing up to do whatever I can to help my publishing company Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster market my book. (Plug: It’s a young adult novel called Thin Space) Yeah. I know. I know. Not the best elevator pitch. I’m working on it.

But my head’s dizzy by all of the marketing things I must do. Just to give you an idea what I’m talking about-- debut writers that I’ve been studying

1. Set up and maintain a website
2. Blog
3. Vlog
4. Review and promote each other’s books
5. Tweet
6. Maintain Facebook author and book pages
7. Host contests and giveaways
8. Plan a launch party at a local bookstore
9. Create “swag” –bookmarks and postcards, etc., related to the book
10. Put together a press kit
11. Attend/speak/sign books at writer conferences and conventions and book fairs
12. Give talks and sign books at bookstores
13. Talk and/or teach writing lessons at schools or give Skype visits
14. Write discussion questions for students and/or book clubs
15. Give blog interviews or old-fashioned radio ones

And somehow they do all of this while writing their next books.

Just writing this list now kind of makes me exhausted and overwhelmed. Luckily my book won’t be out until Sept. 2013. And lucky too that so many writers are willing to share their ideas.

My advice: pick their brains at conferences. Follow them on Twitter. Lurk around their websites. Many of them share how they promote their own books—what works and what doesn’t. Start with writers in your genre or who have novels coming out with your publishing company. It also helps to attend workshops and take advantage of a professional organization such as SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

Hands down the best resource I’ve stumbled upon is Marissa Meyer’s (author of CINDER) NaNoPubMo blog series. For thirty days Marissa shared all of her research—work she was doing to prepare for her own debut book launch last year. If you’re a soon-to-be published author (or plan to be) stop what you’re doing and read every one of Marissa’s posts on the subject.

Go on. Do it. And while you do, I promise I’ll work on that 10-second pitch for my novel.


  1. Woo hoo! You can do it! I will help you. And here's the best part of all--your novel is sooo worth it. It is fantastic, everyone will LOVE it, and to a point, the buzz will begin with the first reader. Here's the thing, just don't forget to write. That is the most important thing. Use your talent. Be moderate in the other crap. And I have an idea on this front, btw. Remind me to tell you...

    1. Donna, it goes without saying that I love you. But I will say it anyway: I love you. Also, this book would not exist without your input and support and enthusiasm.