Saturday, October 02, 2010

Self Promotion, the Argument For

Since we've gone back and forth on this blog about the effectiveness of author self-promotion, I'd like to point out an interesting discussion going on. Catherynne Valente has this lovely post that makes a lot of sense to me, personally. It is apparently a reaction to something Sarah Prineas said over here.


Kelly McCullough said...

As you can probably guess I'm with Sarah here, especially when we get to the "write the next book" bit. Cat's great and she's done some amazing marketing stuff, but because of the way the book biz works there's really no way to know whether her sales are because of something unrelated or because of the push.

Correlation =/= causation which is one of the hardest lessons there is to really learn about statistics. Far and away my best sales to date were on a book I did almost zero marketing on because life ate a ton of my time just then. Worst were on the book I pushed the hardest. Second best sales were on the book that came out about the time I decided marketing at the authorial level was pointless and stopped doing it.

My experience is the polar opposite of Cat's but there's no way to tell if that has any real meaning either because, again correlation=/=causation. I think that the main thing doing a marketing push does is give the author the illusion that they have some real control over their sales, which may be an important sanity saver.

Eleanor said...

I am avoiding cleaning the bathroom right now, so I read the Prinneas and Valente posts on self-promotion con and pro. (This says nothing about their posts, which are interesting. However, I read them right now, because of the looming bathroom.)

I tend toward Kelly's analysis. This does not mean there aren't people who do self-promote successfully. However, you need to look at who you are and what you feel comfortable doing and how much spare energy you have.

I have seen people print up bookmarks and postcards, do their own book tours, start blogs and websites. Most of this does not seem to have much impact, and it can suck a lot of time and energy, not to mention make you feel really uncomfortable and frustrated.

I think cons are worth going to and making friends in the field can help. I have certainly been helped by friends. Beyond this, I am much less sure.

Do things that make you feel better about yourself and feed energy into you.

tate hallaway said...

Well, I particularly liked the bit where Cat talks about how she's the kind of author where it matters if she sells one more book or not...

I'm definitely in that camp.

Kelly McCullough said...

But that has nothing to do with whether self-promotion works. It matters to me whether I sell one more book as well. I just believe that the best way to do that is to write the next book, not to do self-promotion. Better use of time and effort in that not only does it draw in more readers, it gives them more to read.

Douglas Hulick said...

Coming at this from the "impending" side of the equation, I think that Cat over-states it a bit. It felt more like a justification for her approach rather than an argument about whether it is worthwhile in the bigger scheme of things. I would be much more interested in talking about the latter, but as Kelly points out, that's kind of hard to do since everything is seen through tinted lenses, as well as in hind-sight.

IIRC, Cat hits multiple cons (as in, most weekends) every year with the express purpose of marketing and selling her books. I may be mixing her up with someone else, but I seem to recall tales of station wagons and boxes of books and the like. I certainly could be wrong. But the point is, I think that, in most cases, that kind of guerilla selling is more about giving the writer a sense of control than it is about drastically impacting numbers (although, as in every case, there are exceptions).

Ditto, to a smaller degree, some of the other authorial marketing attempts. I think that if you are comfortable blogging and tweeting and being all over teh webz (or the con circuit, or what have you), then it can't hurt, and may very well help. However, if that isn't your thing, then I think forcing it hurts more than helps, especially if it becomes apparent this is just about you banging your own drum most of the time.

Certainly, if all the marketing puts off or negatively impacts you getting out your next book, then it's a bad thing. Readers may like you recipes or pet update or the like, but they like your next book even more. And the last is the one thing, as a writer, you must deliver to them.

I think the best most author marketing can hope for is indirect/unintended benefits. Making friends and connections that help get the word out; having a great gig on a fun panel, so some people actually write down your name; getting a regular following that not so much builds readership (we ain't none of us John Scalzi here), but that keeps that reader interested in the 51 weeks between finishing your last book and being able to buy your next.

It's not so much marketing as maintaining a presence that I think is the most valuable use of the internet for most authors. And it's one I think more of us can readily achieve.

lydamorehouse said...

I've bought a book because I liked someone's web presence. Specifically, I found her YouTube posts of her cat hillarious.

So that sort of thing works some times.

I think, too, this has a lot to do with one's personal confidence. I don't tend to believe my books will sell themselves because, quite frankly, they haven't.

Tyler Tork said...

Just wanted to let you know that you have at least one reader outside your group. :-)
I've been swamped with work so no time to heckle you guys at the moment.

Tanya said...

I follow and read the books you guys put out. Though I personally like writing and pub tips in the blogs. And pics from space!