Friday, April 17, 2015

Catch 22

I caught a psychological break this week and I needed it. One of my Poisoned Pen pals, the charming Tina Whittle, introduced a stunning topic to our newsgroup. She offered a post from Delilah S. Dawson's blog, whimsydark, entitled, "Please Shut Up: Why Self-Promotion as an Author Doesn't Work."

In it, Dawson discusses the oversaturated state of the book market and the futility of book promotion. She pretty well covers all the social media outlets. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because I have an academic book coming out next spring. This book is important to me and it took an awfully long time to write. I don't intend to write another one. The research was mind-boggling and I want to do right by my publisher, University Press of Oklahoma.

The main point Dawson makes is that we are just sick of folks begging us to buy their books. I have made the point in a couple of blogs that once we read a book, we either love the author, or are not interested. In the first case, we read everything they have ever written. In the second case, we never read one again. All the promotion in the world can't persuade a reader to read that second book.

Even before self-promotion was regarded as a matter of life or death I was aware of how obnoxious a lot of it was. Dawson reinforced what I had already suspected: some of the best writers rarely promote and the most fiercely aggressive promoters offend nearly everyone.

But there's a problem. A classic catch 22. I believe we owe it to our publishers to do our best to get the word out. That being a very simple message: we have written a book, we hope you will read it and here's where you can buy it.

I am humbled and deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be published by a press held in such high esteem. It has an reputation for excellence in producing books about the American West. I have a point to make about 19th century blacks on the Kansas Frontier. I'm giving a lot of thought to making people aware of this book.

But thanks to Dawson's timely post, I won't drive myself crazy thinking up new approaches. And I won't drive readers crazy either. But just for kicks, I would love to hear from all of you.

What was the most obnoxious promotion by an author?

Here's the link to Dawson's post:


Eileen Goudge said...

I have long suspected this to be true. Recently my suspicion was confirmed when a friend who's head of PR for a publishing company reported they couldn't move a title whose author had over 250,000 Twitter followers. My strategy is to use social media with the emphasis on "social," and simply hope for the best. A time machine would be nice :)

Charlotte Hinger said...

Eileen--isn't it rather comforting to not be weighted down with guilt everyday? I have spent far too long telling myself I'm lazy.