On Writing and Promotion

I don’t know a single writer who wouldn’t rather write than promote. That is especially true in this day of the ever-changing publishing landscape. Indies, and even authors who sign with small presses, know that part of our job is to promote our work. What so many who are trying to break into the business don’t understand is that signing a contract with a major publisher doesn’t remove promotion from their job description.

One of the biggest fallacies some still cling to is that traditional publishers will spend the big bucks to promote books that aren’t earmarked as best sellers. We see shows like Castle and read books where authors are sent on grand tours by their publishers and it is all on the publisher’s dime. The truth of the matter is, unless you are a best seller or someone who is being tagged as one, all you can really count on from your publisher in the way of promo is getting you into the catalog buyers for bookstores see.

So, whether you are traditionally published or going indie, you have to have a marketing plan. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill you can take to make you a marketing genius. What works for one author probably won’t work for another. But there are some things you can — and cannot – do to increase your visibility and appeal to readers.

Okay, okay, I know. I’m not the greatest at marketing. But I do try. Or maybe I should put it another way. I do my best not to piss off my readers with what marketing I do. I know some of my blog posts might do that, especially in an election year when everyone seems to be on edge. That is one reason I cut back on blogging for a bit. I needed to get my own perspective back.

Anyway, this post is sort of an add-on to what I wrote for MGC earlier this week and it is partly a response to something that happened to me yesterday.

For those of you who do Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen those authors who pepper your feed multiple times a day with tweets about their new work, or something they’ve just put on sale, or what they are writing right now. That quickly becomes, for me at least, like spam e-mail or the junk mail that clutters your physical mailbox. Do it often enough and I’ll start remembering the name and put it into the “annoying list” and think twice about buying anything from that author.

Mailing lists are the same. I belong to the mailing lists for several authors and I look forward to mailings from them because they are newsy. They give me information I’m interested in: where the author will be making an appearance and when, announcements of upcoming releases, etc. These e-mails come, at most, once a month unless there is special news to be announced.

In other words, they don’t turn into junk mail.

Fill my inbox up with multiple copies of the same promotional e-email, fill it up with e-mails that don’t give me new information that makes me want to buy your work, and you are failing in what you are attempting to do.

The biggest way to turn me off of your work is to sign me up for your mailing list without first asking my permission. That ranks right up there with adding me to Facebook groups/pages without first asking. It shows that you don’t have enough respect for me as a fan or, frankly, as anything else to ask if I’m interested. It is also the surest way to get on my shit list.

Promotion is supposed to encourage people to buy your work, no matter what your medium is. When it does the opposite, you have failed and you need to step back and look long and hard at what you are doing and ask yourself if you screwed up. If the answer is yes, you apologize and then change.

I think the problem is that there are those of us who look at adding people to groups or pages or lists without permission is like making a cold call. For those of you who haven’t had to do this before, it is going through a directory of some sort and calling businesses or people who might be interested in your services and then trying to sell them on it before they hang up on you. The problem is, most businesses are used to this sort of thing and take it in stride. They tell you “thank you but no” and, if you understand your job, you move on to the next call.

Now think about how you feel when you get that cold call just as you’ve sat down for dinner. You resent it, in all likelihood. You remember if that person or company continues to call or if they push to try to keep you on the phone. If you’re like me, you remember those calls and they move to the end of the list of who I’d call if I needed the services they offered.

In other words, treat your readers and those you want to become your readers with the same respect you want to be treated.

Now I need to get off the internet and figure out my next marketing plan and finish writing the next book. In the meantime, why not check out my Amazon page?


  1. There’s always something, and the rules are always changing.

    Back in the day, as a small machine shop owner, marketing meant delivering a tool list and getting face time with a larger company’s buyer.

    When the online sword community starting kicking into gear 12 to 14 years ago, it meant getting swords out to cutting parties, taking them to martial arts events and taking them to knife shows. Reviews were big tools too.

    When resurfacing this winter, restarting as it were, I found out that Facebook has changed the rules. I started like I used to do, and suddenly discovered a month ago, that I might now have more of a market than I have capacity to fill. Interesting.

    So now, I’m quietly trying to see if I can mix some writing marketing in without coming off as a spammer.

  2. “I’m working on X and it’s Y of Z done” updates are fine. As is news, “Hey, I finished X and it’s $HERE.” But ‘Buy W! Buy W! Buy W!” is a turn-off. “X is done, and if you like, you want to at V and W.” is NOT a turn-off. The more “shove it down your throat” something is, the more enjoy-that-hoof-to-the-nads I become.

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