I've been thinking a lot lately about book promoting. I have also been thinking about Betty White, good recipes for baked tilapia, and why some people say "reoccuring" when they mean "recurring." But none of those latter topics seem like a good enough subject for a blog...not yet, anyway.
See, when I was a little boy growing up on the banks of the Ohio River, I dreamed of being an author. And the one thing that never crossed my mind in any of those fantasies was book promotion. Back then, it never dawned on me that an integral part of my life as a writer would be hawking my books. And certainly, back in those days of rotary telephones, remoteless TVs, and sending letters through the mail, that there would be such things as Facebook, Twitter, or even more exotic stuff like viral marketing and SEO.
But now it seems like I could spend all day promoting my work via Yahoo Groups (which seem to have several groups for every genre), social networking, blogging, and website maintenance. All day...by that I mean no time for eating, sleeping, reading, exercising, TV, movies...and yes, even writing. There are promo opportunities galore for writers...and all of them can be done right from the comfort of one's laptop. You can literally post excerpts, synopses, good reasons to buy books, and much more 24/7.
But is anyone listening? For example, I belong to several Yahoo Groups, some for horror readers, some for fans of gay fiction, some for fans of ebooks, others for just fans of books in general. Now, if you're one of the uninitiated and you're unaware of these groups, you may be surprised to know there are hundreds of people posting every single day to these groups...and my experience has been that most of the people doing the posting are authors. You post news about your new book, latest review, or whatever, and a thousand other authors are posting right after you, with news about their books.
Is anyone listening?
I happened to notice a writer friend I very much respect and admire--and who is very successful in gay fiction never posts to these groups, doesn't Twitter, shamelessly neglects Facebook and even its sad cousin, MySpace, yet that author's books and readers continue to grow in number, eclipsing even those writers who are blogging and twittering their little hearts out. So I asked her: what's the story? She told me that she long ago came to the conclusion that for her, social networking and chatting up Yahoo groups and the like didn't ever make an appreciable difference in her sales. In fact, she said, once she stopped doing those things (more out of lack of time for it than anything else), her books continued to grow in popularity. She attributed it to two things: the first is having a quality product, or a good, well-written book that people wanted to read; and the second to word-of-mouth, which would follow naturally from having a good, well-written book that people wanted to read. The other things she mentioned was publishing frequently. Gone are the days when writers can wait years for their next book to come out--we are a short-attention span society. And she thought keeping her name in front of readers with regularity made all the difference in her book sales.
Food for thought.
I have been trying lately to evaluate what I should and shouldn't do as an author to let people know about my books. I do blogs like this one. I have a website. I Facebook. I Twitter. I send out regular messages to Yahoo groups, but I wonder: who is reading this stuff? And are they reading it and going on to buy my books?
One thing I have concluded: promotions don't sell books. Books sell books. Give a reader a story they want to read and it will sell. I have published enough to have a handle on what has been successful for me and what hasn't been. Horror? Somewhat. Quirky humor? Eh, not so much. Thrillers? Kinda. Romance? Bingo! Romance readers have to be the hungriest readers out there...and they seem to put their money with their mouths (or should that be eyes?) are.
I guess what this blog is all about are two big questions:
1. If you're a reader, how do you find out about new books? What compels you to buy a book?
2. If you're a writer, what kind of things work best for you to promote your work? Or is it more about just having a quality product and making it available?
I would love it if either, or both, of those groups would take the time to leave me a comment and let me know what gives.