Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The expanding world of the author

Vicki’s post of yesterday is timely, and it’s also a wake-up call to anyone who is, or aspires to be, an author, specifically those who are also not “media personalities”. By definition, that’s most of us poor, ink-stained wretches.

The reality of our situation is that we’re now, generally, responsible for our own promotion.

Traditionally, promotion revolved around media interviews, advertising and meeting the reading public via book signings and readings. You can certainly go back to Dickens’ time to see that he was doing the same sorts of things we do, on a grander scale, certainly, but basically the same. Also traditionally, publishers helped with all these things. They still do, as a matter of fact, but only for the “headliners” in our profession, i.e. those people who attract media attention. For the rest of us it’s, “Hire a publicist,” or “Set up a book tour.” As for advertising, it’s, “We don’t have much of a budget, but we’ll do what we can.” (Not much.)

Now, I’m not complaining. I understand why this is happening. Media attention costs beaucoup bucks (unless you’re Sarah Palin), and publishers need to focus their resources on where they’ll get the most bang for their promotional buck. If they were to spread around the dollars evenly between their authors, they’d soon be out of business. It’s a fact of life with which we have to live.

This is where social media like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, et al, come in. Like Vicki, I’m not sure whether it’s all worth it in the long run. It’s tough to know how much notice we actually get. Here’s something we’ve both discussed: how many books have we actually sold because of all the blogging we’ve done on Type M? It’s impossible to know. If an author is really going to work all the social media outlets available, a lot of time is going to have to be invested. At that point, we come to the age-old promotional question: is it all worth it?

My conclusion is yes. Why? I have two reasons. First, if you do it well, it certainly can’t hurt. Second, it’s free. Good promotion costs dearly and the results are never guaranteed. I’ve gone that route before and it was money poorly spent. Even with a good book promoter, I got poor results. As a matter of fact, I could have done it better.

So for us “midlisters”, we need to hit the bookstores and work the social media. Both are cost-effective, as in free — or nearly so.

But there are also some other avenues that are worth exploring, and I’ll discuss those next week. Stay tuned...

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