C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Combat the horrors of self-promotion (with fun)

Recently an article appeared in The Weeklings that was picked up by Salon. It was called The Horrors of Self-promotion by author Sean Beaudoin. I felt sorry for the author and, I admit, a touch of impatience, too. His problem is not unique. Most of us suffer hypothermia from a lack of limelight heat. I have the feeling he doesn’t read this blog. Alas. His best marketing so far was complaining about marketing and getting picked up by Salon. I don’t know how many more times that will work since I’ve seen this kind of story on Salon before. Repeatedly!

So, to solutions:

You know that rule about writing a book that states: If you’re bored, readers are bored? Same goes for self-promotion. Find a way to get them invested. Yes, give stuff away! Reward them for being helpful. Helping others helps you and never hurts. (That link will show you how to get stuff by reposting a video from my author site.)

Joanna Penn calls authors helping authors “coopetition”. That sums up why I do podcasts with authors, for instance. Besides, we’re in a lonely profession. It’s fun to talk to like-minded people like Hugh Howey, Jessica McHugh and Armand Rosamilia.)

If you hate Twitter, you won’t use it right. It’s supposed to be a fun, social discovery tool. If you hate Facebook, maybe it’s not the place for you. Those are supposed to be friends and fans you’re hanging out with. These are platforms to discover cool stuff and have conversations. I often can’t converse for long, so usually I choose to tweet useful information. (Follow me @rchazzchute and I’ll prove it.) However, there are plenty more options, both DIY and getting assistance.

We’re writers! We’re creative people. Find a way to have fun with promotions!

1. I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating: The writing comes first. Social media is for in-between times that would otherwise be unproductive. Most of my tweeting happens from my iPod for that reason. If I’m at my desktop, I’m writing and revising Season Two.

2. For most authors, working with a publicist doesn’t make sense. However, if you really hate promoting books, maybe you should consider how you can farm it out. Can’t afford a publicist? Start with Fiverr.com. My buddy Jeff Bennington has a post about that here. Need more? Outsource or get an intern with whom you can teach and share. Contact your local college or get on Kijiji and find someone who needs experience in your subject or business.

(Please note: It’s not an internship if they aren’t learning anything. Interns don’t do laundry and are not slaves. They learn writing skills, gain publishing information and an important, perhaps first, entry for their resume. That said, if you’re predisposed to go this route, you’ll probably learn tech skills from them, too.)

3. Work with the platform that suits you best. Every day someone repins the cover to my book Self-help for Stoners on Pinterest. I do no other promotion for that book (since I still don’t have time to get it out from under Bookbaby’s distribution yet.) It’s passive, but the word spreads and it sells despite my lack of effort beyond Pinterest and Vine. (Vine’s discussed in #10.)

4. Some people over-correct and fail to promote at all. Maybe that’s shyness, although most authors who make a point of telling you how awful social media is are snobs. Mostly, they’re really complaining about a personal time management issue. We all have the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day. Use it right, don’t complain and reread Item #1. 

5. Some authors are snobs about social media because they’re tired of all the bad promotion that happens on Twitter. They need to exercise more patience, but they aren’t wrong, either. (See my post below, Book Marketing Top 10: When Less is More and tweet to content, not sales links!)

6. Don’t go into denial. Someone said their readers don’t hang out on social media. One in four people worldwide are on social networks and more than half of North Americans are on social media. That number will only grow. If your readers aren’t on social media (Amish people and older people who frequent Renaissance fairs), you better go to them. Get a booth by the guy who sells beer but calls it mead. Compensate somehow because otherwise you’re hurting your discoverability. Go where readers are, electronically or in person.

Readers have hungry minds. Therefore, they are so on social media!

7. Write another book. Too often I speak to nice people who believe their one book should find its audience organically. However, even organic plants need water. More books give your readers more opportunities to discover your awesomeness. Do not deny them your awesomeness. That way, madness lies.

8. I’ve recently posted about the many advantages of the Author Marketing Club and the tools they make available. With their free submission tool, you can harness the power of book promotion websites without hammering your own audience repeatedly. If you’re only tweeting to your followers, you’re doing it wrong. First, write stuff that’s useful, funny or retweetable. Then get on Triberr and expand your reach.

9. Blog. I have many blogs (all listed here) and reach out to varied audiences (writers, readers, podcast lovers, polymaths, the morbidly obese and schlubs like me, just trying to get their shit together.) However, ChazzWrites is the blog with the highest Alexa score. I do them all for the fun of it. If I hated it, I wouldn’t do it. I suggest ideas and try to be useful and helpful. I often try to be funny. People who get my flavor and like the taste will click the ubiquitous links to my books. Or not. But if you don’t blog, there’s no way for anyone to get what you’re about except unconvincing sales links that mostly sound the same.

Should books sell themselves? Yes, in a perfect world. You saw the news feed this morning. Does this look like a perfect world to you?

Are there exceptions and can you do nothing and still be a hit? Sure. It happened to Hugh Howey. His success is quite organic and, of course, well-deserved. However, that’s not the way to bet. Hugh told me so himself on the Cool People Podcast. Unfortunately, the norm is that many deserving books are ignored. It’s not that many of them aren’t good or even great. It’s that no one has helped readers find them effectively. Yet!

Look, I know all you want to do is write. We all just want to write and be taken care of by legions of adoring loved ones and fans. It would be great if we all had robot butlers, too. We don’t. Grow up and find a way to have fun with your chores so they aren’t chores anymore.

10. Do something different. Twitter isn’t everything. I get love and attention using Vine, for instance. If you don’t know Vine, I wrote a book about it. Basically, it’s six-second video and it’s surprisingly fun and addictive. I can choose to post the videos only to Vine, to Facebook, to Twitter or even embed vines (videos) like these fun and/or disturbing examples. 

Find what works for you. Then go do that as much or as little as you can stand. But please, no more complaining. There’s too much fun to be had and too many options to enjoy to waste time complaining. Unless you get picked up by Salon. Then maybe that worked. Sean Beaudoin! Did that work? Are you feeling better? Let us know!

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute because “Robert Chute” is already taken by a Native American author and poet who surely wouldn’t want to be confused with a crime novelist and horror author. I was recently challenged about why I wrote a book with zombies in it. (Well…not the Romero kind. More the 28 Days Later variety.) Anyway, I justified my love over at ThisPlagueofDays.com with this saucy post. You might enjoy that post, too. Fewer links, more sass.

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Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. Useful as always. Sometimes it’s good to hear that all of that bashing one’s head against a brick wall is accomplishing something. Truth is, I know it’s accomplishing something. If slowly.

  2. danezeller says:

    Robert,

    Sean’s rant has its roots in that event where he turned away from traditional publishing to the tools of self-publishing. Just like you and me, he traded one roadblock for another. You think its hard to get a literary agent to read your book? How about getting your own measly novel to stand out from another 20 million books? We sometimes forget that little speed bump.

    It doesn’t help that we are awash in social media tools, web sites, advice, services, scam publishers and on and on. Every little tool, technique and method holds hope for us…but there are five hundred of them…no, a thousand. If I had any advice for Sean and his like, it would be to calm down on the tools.

    Essentially you’re saying the same. You’re still a writer (#1 above). Slim it down, do what you’re comfortable with, Your advice would be well taken.

    Thanks,

    Dane

  3. Chazz says:

    Thank you, Vince and Dane, for reading.

    You’re both right that this is a hard go and we’re kind of in winner-take-all mode (though twas always thus. A small fraction of winners props up the rest on any publisher’s list.)

    I was struck by something Joanna Penn said. She attended a conference and found that traditional publishers and traditional authors have the same problems we do (i.e. discoverability.) I’d say the difference is, independent publishers don’t have to wait so long to take their shot. In most cases, no matter how we’re pubbed or by whom, it’s up to us to turn the crank on our publicity machines.

    When I worked in trad publishing, frankly I was unimpressed with most of the publicists I worked with. Meanwhile, some authors do a bang-up job on it, but we all worry about the time lost from the keyboard.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, guys!

  4. Very useful collection Robert

  5. Another useful essay … I’m putting this with the earlier top 10, as a guide now that I am starting the marketing process.

  6. […] Combat the horrors of self-promotion (with fun) (chazzwrites.com) […]

  7. […] Combat the horrors of self-promotion (with fun) (chazzwrites.com) […]

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