1. Don’t take a paragraph (or a whole post!) to apologize for not posting to your blog recently. They didn’t notice your absence. You have their eyeballs for a few seconds now. Don’t waste their time with throat-clearing or they’ll click away because you don’t have anything to say.
2. “Cover reveals” don’t attract anyone but the people who are already into you. They might not hurt. I’m saying they don’t help. Find a topic that matters to you and your readers instead. To spin an old quote, mere familiarity breeds contempt, but commonality makes friends.
3. Character interviews may be interesting to a few people, but only after they’ve read your book. It gets no new readers. Character is revealed through dialogue and action within the book. In promoting a book, it’s boring without narrative content and context.
A better suggestion:
Soon I’ll interview author Mark Rayner for the Cool People Podcast. When I asked him what he’d like to talk about, he didn’t say his characters, publishing or his writing process. He wants to talk about the themes of his book. I’m looking forward to a cool interview about the singularity and how technology affects all our lives, for good and bad. It’ll be less about him and and his book and more about readers. Then they’ll want to buy The Fridgularity, his funny, smart, entertaining novel.
4. Lose long dedications in ebooks. I’ve done this because I have much for which to be grateful, but it cuts into the online sample. Stick it in the back or put a link to it on your author site. Active links to your websites and other books will expand your circle. Your inner circle will understand.
5. The Table of Contents in your ebook doesn’t have to be in the front. That’s inertial thinking from paper publishing. For fiction, at least, stick it in the rear of the book. They can get to it on their e-reader, if they want it, by hitting “Go to”.
This is especially egregious when you have a long, dark poem as a TOC (as I do in This Plague of Days). It’s something else that cuts into the length of the online sample if it’s up front.
6. Do not complain about the demands of marketing your books. That’s telling readers that trying to reach them is a burden and they are unworthy of your time.
I’m still seeing this. Any potential reader who’s done manual labor, worked retail, been unemployed and/or worked for a boss? Yeah, they all hate you when you complain about being a writer. We have the best job on earth. Even if we aren’t getting paid for it yet, it’s still that awesome.
Instead, do what’s fun for you in otherwise unproductive time, after you’ve hit your word count for the day. If a Twitter account in the voice of your character is fun for you, try that. Unless your character is amazingly funny, profound, unique or wanted for spying by the NSA, it probably won’t pay dividends, but at least you’ll be having fun.
Connect on Facebook with people. My most meaningful interactions probably happen there. Since a reader helped me identify how my Facebook settings shut people out, I’m interacting with more people.
You can even go out and meet people in the real world. I understand non-virtual, human interaction is still a thing. I read about it on the Internet. It sounds dangerous, but you can sell paper books that way.
7. The demands of the work drain our energies so we talk too much about being a writer knocking back coffee. I’ve done it, too, and it’s cliche. Time to say something new. Something about wrestling elementary school teacher-dragons naked maybe. Hm. Gotta work on that metaphor so it sounds less fun.
8. Cramming too much information on your business card doesn’t work. Trying to cram the whole story on your book cover doesn’t work. Any promotional stuff that is too long doesn’t get read. Get your graphic design and white space to do more of the work for you.
The British Special Boat Service’s former motto was “Not by strength but by guile.” Good news! We’re writers! We have the resources to use guile. Writers and small publishers don’t have enough money to attack with strength.
9. Speak with. Engage with readers. Do not talk at readers so much. Talk less about you. Talk more about them. (Nice jammies you’re wearing today, by the way, and I especially like the lacy, red bustier…sir. Better turn off that laptop cam.)
10. Talk more about what you love and less about what you hate.
People enjoy reading about what people hate, but they don’t like the hater or even believe them. For readers to get to know you, they want to know what you’re for and what you read and what you think. Or that you think. Talk about what matters, both to you and to them.
Some writers steer clear of religion and politics for fear of offending.
Sounds like a quick way to be irrelevant and bland.
As a writer, your ability to communicate makes you important to any heavy discussion. You can even contribute as a human being. Your thoughts on violence, poverty and all the ills of the world are far more important than your little writing career. If someone doesn’t read your book because you’re a vegan, for instance, do you really think you’re missing out on a thoughtful and fair review from that person?
Kids are starving and you’re really worried about losing a few reactive sci-fi readers because you’re for X and they’re for Y? Really? Surely the kids are worth losing a few bucks, aren’t they?
I’d rather express my politics on Facebook from time to time. I’d rather win more readers I like. I don’t have to have readers who agree with me about everything. However, I don’t write books for dumb people. Trying to be liked by everyone is chasing a goose into an acid factory that’s on fire. We may be poor and desperate for readers. That doesn’t mean we have to be pathetic.
But yes, it does matter that reasonable readers generally like you. (So follow the Wil Wheaton edict and “Don’t be a dick.”)
I don’t want people to be excited to read the next This Plague of Days. I want them excited to read the next book by Robert Chazz Chute, no matter if I’m writing about zombies or Shakespeare or my funny assassin. Most readers tastes are very genre-specific, but if they like you, they’ll try your other stuff.
I’ve read all of Stephen King’s work except for The Dark Tower stuff. But I did try it. That’s all anyone can ask. After that, it’s down to individual tastes.
So be nice. Be authentic. Be committed to The Good.
And write good stories. Tell the truth through lies. Bypass prejudice and reach their minds by making them laugh first.
Writing good stories will get you more readers. Write great stories and that will come. Or maybe it won’t, but the writing and the stories matter. It matters much less than starving children and nuclear proliferation, but be fully in this world as you create better worlds.
To be heard, we must have something to say that matters to readers.
- Self Publishing tips. (scarletnortonduperre.wordpress.com)
- Do You Have to Write Every Day? (getitwriteblog.wordpress.com)
- Toughen up (questforpublishment.wordpress.com)
- Writing is Easy. The Rest is Hard. (lisenminetti.wordpress.com)
- The Future of Publishing: Dispatch from the Frankfurt Bookfair 2013 (aktwo.wordpress.com)