Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

As writers, our attitude towards self-promotion has a huge impact on our careers. Over the next few Mondays, I want to take a look at some of the ways authors and short story writers can successfully promote themselves and their work. 


Most people (myself included) find self-promotion difficult. I believe that’s because we’ve seen too many folks do it badly. This isn’t helped by the fact that when it’s done well, we don’t even notice it’s happened. 


If you’re not already convinced that self-promotion is vital for an unknown writer in today’s publishing world, here’s an excerpt from a 2006 article by Chris Anderson from Publishers Weekly which contains some scary numbers about book sales.


‘Here's the reality of the book industry: in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies. Those blockbusters are a minute anomaly: only 10 books sold more than a million copies last year, and fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000.’


As straightforward as these figures are, I like things even more simple, so I dug out the old calculator and did some number crunching with the above. Here’s what I came up with:


For every 25 books published, 24 of them sell less than 1,000 copies.


No doubt a good chunk of these are self-published, pay-on-demand, or non-fiction aimed at a tiny market. Nevertheless, that still leaves plenty of classically-published novels which failed to meet expectations.


Why didn’t they do well? I’d be willing to bet it’s because not enough people knew the book was out, and those who did know, didn’t care.


As I understand it, promotional budgets for new authors are minimal at best, which means responsibility for promoting the novel rests almost entirely on the shoulders of the author.


This leads to a scary, but invaluable conclusion. If a new author wants to be successful, it’s not enough to just write a good book, he/she has to learn and apply the fine art of self-promotion.


“That’s not news,” I hear you say. “Agents, authors and publishers have been saying it for years.”


You’re right, of course. The trouble is, judging from the figures above, not too many people are listening, and a lot of those who are, go about it in a way that has little, if any, positive effect.


Self-promotion is NOT the same as selling

I think a lot of folks confuse self-promotion with selling, when in fact there’s a big difference between the two. Although both have the same end goal, self-promotion is more subtle – and far more successful if done well – whereas attempting to ‘make a sale’ often results in both the writer and his/her potential customer feeling uncomfortable.


Good self-promotion gets better results

Here’s the good news. Proper self-promotion can lead to far better book sales – for short story writers it can mean more online readers, and sometimes magazine and anthology sales. It’s way more effective than the hard sell, and though it does require a more sincere and subtle approach, that too is good news, because most writers are sincere, decent folks.


In next Monday’s post, I’ll take a closer look at some of the things we writers can do to promote ourselves and our writing, and talk about what works, what doesn’t, and why. 


In the meantime, I’m curious. As a writer, what self-promotional things have you done in the last week?


Site Meter


Oct. 12th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
There's a problem with your thesis. I suspect that a lot of those forgotten books are missed not because of a lack of promotion, but because those books come out at the same time as any number of other books, and they're just lost in the publicity maelstrom. The real problem is that we're used to the idea of books being around for a while, and that if they go out of print, you just buy copies from the used bookstore. If the promotion isn't so good that it doesn't convince a reader to buy it right then and there, then it'll sit in the back of the (potential) reader's mind until something jogs the memory. By that point, the book has already flopped, and it's over and done.

I don't want to sound as if I'm bitter about my own sales, but I've been dealing with the same exact situation. It's bad enough that particularly in the science fiction business, you no longer have readers and writers but instead published writers and soon-to-be-published writers, and they're all trying to convince everyone else to buy their books while insisting on freebies from others. (This helps explain why so many of the wannabes completely lose it when they're asked to subscribe to the magazine that's been receiving their manuscripts: their interest begins and ends at the submission guidelines, and they cry the darkest crocodile tears about missed opportunities when said magazine goes under due to a lack of income. This also helps understand the insane entitlement issue where certain genre loudmouths, including a current Locus reviewer, whine about how society or just some deep pockets should subsidize a science fiction magazine just so they can continue to have a job doing what they want instead of what they're qualified to do.) This is combined with a lack of urgency to buy books before they're pulled, remaindered, and pulped. You want a particular magazine? Fine, but you'd better scoot before the new issue is out. We spent fifty years being conditioned to rush home to watch the latest big television show. Books, though? There's a reason why every bookstore owner has at least one tale of the idiot asking about what happened to the book "with the green cover, written by that girl" that was in the front window two years ago. Until that mindset goes, bookselling will continue to become less and less relevant, because the competition is better at fueling that sense of urgency.
Oct. 12th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)
Some may have gotten lost in the publicity maelstrom, but (at least in the way I'm thinking of it) self-promotion and publicity are different tools.

I agree about the shortened shelf-life of books. I wonder if companies will eventually embrace some kind of pay-on-demand system for their back-catalogues, rather than the 'I don't want to reprint it, but I'm still going to sit on the rights in case the author gets famous one day' approach, which seems to be how it's done at the moment. Or at least, make them available in digital form.

Thanks for sharing :)

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there

No longer in print but there are still some copies floating around out there



Books by my writer friends - compressed

NJ Writing groups - compressed

NJ writing conference - compressed


Latest Month

September 2019
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Paulina Bozek