The days when an author’s only job was to write books and leave everything else to the publisher are long over if they ever existed at all. I learned that long before I had any aspirations to become a professional writer. If this is a revelation to you, sorry for the spoiler, but it’s time to face reality.
The reality is, authors have to wear many hats: writer, publicist, marketer, spokesperson and advertiser. Some publishers are able to help out with some of the aforementioned activities, but the truth of the situation is, most publishers have limited dollars to spend on a single book’s promotion. That means it’s up to you, the author, to promote your book. When you think about it, who better to do so than the individual who wrote it?
The question becomes how to do it?
In the old days (let’s call it pre-Web 2.0) authors could do television, newspaper and radio interviews. An author could go to schools, libraries and bookstores to do signings. Publishers might have money for advertising, but those were the majority of available choices.
The Internet brought a few more alternatives. Writers could blog and create web pages and publishers could do the same. Advertising went online. The problem was getting people to see what was out there. Search engines could be tweaked to make it easier for people to find the material, but the key was getting them to look for it.
Then along came web sites and applications that we would now recognize as Web 2.0: MySpace, Instant Messaging and Skype, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Second Life, podcasting; authors could interact with readers in a way they never could before. Even with all the Web 2.0 technology, the same old problem are still there; for people to find you, they need to know you exist.
That isn’t a big problem for established authors. Their fans will always find them because they know about them. For a first-time author or even worse, one who isn’t yet published, the challenge becomes one of discovery.
The same questions come up that you would have asked in the old days. How do you let people know about you and your books? Who should you talk to? When should you start talking about yourself and your work?
In other words, new technology, same old problems.
A new breed of author is using the social aspect of Web 2.0 (or social media) to involve existing fans and entice new ones. Podcasts are one medium where authors are sharing their expertise to the masses and gaining audiences for their books. Books are being podcast to get new followers. Facebook groups and MySpace pages have sprung up to reach readers in different ways.
With all the new tools at an author’s disposal it should be easy to gain readers, shouldn’t it? I suspect if you asked any podcaster if the amount of effort to self-promote has gone down they would probably laugh.
The truth is, Web 2.0 is not a magic bullet to success. Any of the people who have achieved success because of it have done so with a lot of hard work. The real benefit of it is with that hard work you have the opportunity to reach a global audience. You are able to connect with the people in a profoundly personal way. The possible downside is that you will share more of yourself than you would have in the old days. For some, that is a scary thought.
The question then becomes, how do I help people to find me? For you social butterflies out there the answer may be terrifying. Just like in the old days, you have to reach out to strangers and say hello. Oh sure, you can start with people you know and be introduced to others through them, but eventually you need to take the plunge and say hello to someone you don’t know. I said it was scary, didn’t I?
Just keep in mind that the person on the other end of the connection is probably shy too.
There is one more thing to ask yourself. When should I start networking via social media? My own suggestion is start immediately. So what if your masterpiece is still an idea in your head. Making friends takes time and social media is all about connecting with people and making friends. When the day comes that your first or fifteenth book is coming out, your friends will be there to congratulate and support you.
Now with all the wonder that is Web 2.0 (or social media), should you forget about the traditional methods of promotion? Not at all! I personally believe that the new tools are there to enhance and supplement the tried and true. Making a living as a full-time writer is difficult at best. I know several authors who supplement their living with school visits, conferences and teaching. For most people that means tapping into the local market. To properly access that market you need to use more traditional methods of promotion.
Make sense? It can be pretty daunting, I know. The best way to approach it is in baby steps. Pick something you know and work forward from there. If you know someone who is already doing it, get him or her to show you the ropes. You’ll be glad you did.
What methods are you using to promote yourself and/or your writing? I’d love to hear from you.
Just got a rejection back for ‘Summer Camp Secrets’. It’s only the second rejection so I have plenty more to go before it finds a home :). I’ll be sending it out again in the next day or so.
Editing is going well on my fantasy novel. I’m more than half-way through the major edit.
Have a terrific week and a fantastic holiday!