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I’ve been studying the self-promotional methods employed by some of the hundreds of writers I’ve encountered here on Live Journal, and at various conferences, writing/critique groups etc, with a view to finding out what works, what doesn’t and why.

 

Here’s a quick list of some of the unsuccessful methods used on me by other writers, or as I like to call it “Things to be filed under ‘D’ for 'Doesn't work':

 

#1 The “Because I said so” approach.

Being told, “I’ve a book out. You should buy it” (by someone I’d just said “hello” to a conference).

 

#2 The “You don’t know me, but I gave you a present, now buy my book” approach

This includes people who turn up to their first (and often last) writer’s group meeting armed with bookmarks, fridge magnets etc.

 

#3 The “Throw candy at them, that’ll do the trick” approach

Being told, “Catch!” as a promotional bookmark/postcard (with candy attached) is tossed to me from six feet away (after a writer’s group meeting, from a complete stranger).

 

#4 The “Leave a promo item on their chair” approach

Sitting down at a pre-conference lecture to find a piece of candy – it may have been a cookie – at my table, with the name and book title of one of the other attendee’s novels printed on the wrapper (at a conference, from someone I’d barely spoken to the previous year – everyone else got one too).

 

#5 The “Drive-by networking” approach

Seeing a message on a Yahoo Group or online community notice board from a new member, saying, “Hi, my book [insert title] got published. Check it out [insert web-address]”.

 

#6 The “Throw enough mud at a wall” approach

Getting a junk e-mail from someone I hardly know, telling me (and from the looks of it, every other person on their address list) about a book signing in another state. Sometimes, only my address is on the email, but the wording of the invitation makes it obvious it’s spam.

 

#7 The “Nice shoes, now buy my book” approach

Having someone butt into a conversation to tell me they liked my accent (which, incidentally, no-one ever comments on back in England), and then proceed to tell everyone around the table about their new book and why we’d love it, before moving on to ‘network’ at the next table (at a BEA conference).

# 8 The “If I wait long enough, maybe someone will ask me about my novel” approach

Not having the faintest idea that [insert author’s name here] has a book out. (I know several writers who haven’t told me they’ve got a book out – I assume they’re concerned about seeming pushy)

 



Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the people who tried the above methods are decent folks, and some of the approaches might even have worked if they’d focused more on something I like to call ‘The Writer’s Balance’.

 

“What the heck is Writer’s Balance?” you say.

 

Well, I’m glad you asked – otherwise this next bit would seem redundant. The Writer’s Balance is the ratio between self-publicity (letting people know where they can find you and their work) and self-promotion (making them give a dang).

 

In my opinion that should be one part self-publicity to ten parts self-promotion. This is excellent news for us writers because, if we can get the promotional bit right, we won’t have to take such an in-your-face approach to the publicity side of things. Case in point, I’ve just finished Jim Hines’s Goblin Quest. I doubt I’d have read it if I didn’t know and enjoy his blog.

 

Does that mean everyone will want to buy our books? Of course not. The most you should hope for from good self-promotion is to have someone pick your book off the shelf. After that, it’s down to the novel itself and that potential reader’s personal taste.

 

Next week on The Fine Art of Self-Promotion I want to take a look at the most underused and/or misused promotional tool at a writer’s disposal, online journals.

 

In the meantime, how about you?

 

Have you tried or encountered any of the above techniques? Did they work?

 

In what other unsuccessful ways have people tried to sell you their book?



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Comments

lavericknine
Oct. 20th, 2009 04:47 am (UTC)
I dream of going to a writer's conference someday. I don't really want to put myself out there as a writer, but even if I want to get into editing I think it would be a great experience. It also sounds like an exciting event to me. I'm a bit of a nerd, I have gone out of my way to attend a few anime cons. But people I've seen at those are around my age and younger. So I don't feel like I'm standing out among a bunch of professionals (we're all just fans).

I haven't been able to go to a writer's conference yet. That's partly because I haven't put in the effort, I'm somewhat afraid of doing so, I'm also not sure how they work and I have school and such.

From what you posted here, which was very amusing and enlightening, it sounds almost dangerous to attend one of these. I don't know that I would mind the fliers, but the sudden conversation hijacking sound awful (and the throwing things...). For me, the best way to get to know about a books is by word of mouth: reviews, interviews, if I read their blog, and of course what other people refer me to.

Heh, I bet it gets old hearing about your accent. It's not a bad thing, a British accent sounds refined to American ears. I wanted to learn to speak with a British accent, because I think British people speak words more clearly. American accents are gross. Do British people like American accents or do they just sound Yankee?
jongibbs
Oct. 20th, 2009 09:56 am (UTC)
I love conferences. You meet great people and learn lots of new stuff about writing. Sure, some misguided authors try a little too hard to sell their work, but they're nice folks too.

As for accents, I like them all, though I do have my favorites - my native Geordie (which I've long since lost) and South Wales in particular.

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















 











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