Ok. I missed hearing Bonnie Raitt in town this past weekend so I’m hearing the faint sounds of “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About”
in my head. Still, it fits my topic and it’s been way too long since I took a deep breath and paused long enough to post something here. Maybe you’ve missed me =).
Most of my life, in one form or another, I’ve tried to keep myself cognizant of the difference between being one of the many or one of the few. I like the “one of the few” idea and have always striven for that. I’ve taught the principle to my children, to my students when appropriate, and hope to pass on the same emphasis to my clients. I love lemmings. I just don’t want to be a lemming.
If you’re reading this, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the internet environment and social media in general. The book publicity of the decade! Or at least the year. I admit, I’m still surprised at how everlastingly many authors there are out there hawking their books. I mean seriously, where do they all come from? I read literally hundreds of Tweets daily, many from these authors. I’ve watched some with curiosity piqued for one reason or another, but most of the time feel more disappointment than anything.
One in particular, who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons, first caught my attention with a catchy quote, so I followed him and watched with interest what he posted throughout the day. After a period of months, I gathered (okay, maybe I was a little slow on the uptake) that he’s got some sort of auto-post device and schedules things in advance. Then the same hundred or so posts ride a big ferris wheel and come back around every few weeks or so. None of which, I might add, inspired or even encouraged me (not for lack of trying) to go and buy his book. Or even to check it out at the library. What’s sad is that in the beginning, when I first saw him, I was curious enough to look further, but before I had the time to do that, I got bored with what he was saying and didn’t care anymore. But I bet he thinks he’s doing everything right. And I’m sure he’s a really nice guy. I believe this is where my son would say “epic fail.”
Point? If I had to pick a group to which I’d assign this fella, he’d be one of the many. The ones who tweet their way into a sale (i.e. me buying their books) are one of the few. Think about it. How many books have you been provoked to buy merely by coming across a tweet? Or two or three? Seriously.
Well, but that’s different, you might say. Is it? Really? Why? Who do you think is out there reading your tweets? I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes. And even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Let’s try something else. What’s the last tweet you read that made you want to Retweet? What’s the last FB status update that made you want to click Share? What is the last thing you heard an author say that you wanted to go tell someone else? It might have been anything, but chances are good it wasn’t, “Buy my book.”
I don’t propose to be a social media expert – that’s not what I do. There are plenty of others out there who are much better at it than I. However, anything that’s worth doing is worth doing well so I figure we all should take every available opportunity to improve our skills in whatever arena we’re in. And in this case, the general principle translates to book promotion at large. If all you do is go around calling, “Buy my book”, “I wrote a great book,” “You need to get this book,” you’re wasting your time and probably offending potential readers. OR if you hire a publicist who essentially does the same, same result. Bust.
If you want to be one of the many, there are logically many of them out there you can mimic. Go for it. But remember that they aren’t making much money if they’re one of the many and you probably won’t either. If you want to be one of the few who are breaking records, defying odds, and <drum roll> making money, then you need to be one of the few. The problem with that is that there aren’t many to follow, and determining who “they” are is tricky. In fact, they didn’t know for sure that they were one of the few until they became one. That means you’ve got to go out on a limb, or out into uncharted territory and even, gulp, be willing to fail a time or two before you find what works best for you.
I’d love to be the publicist who gave you a checklist with points A, B, and C and told you that if you do these things in this order you will arrive at destination D. But then I’d be one of the many and not one of the few because I’d be telling you what you want to hear, not what I know to be true.
When I started BreakThrough Promotions back in 1998, I did an extensive market survey of the book publicists I could find. I was shocked, and probably a little naïve, at the prices they charged and the little they promised. I was just looking to do a favor for a friend. So after much examination and surveying, I concocted what I hoped was a reasonable list of services and fees and determined I’d be the best book publicist I could be. It was not at all what I expected and I’ll be the first to admit I had some great ideas that bombed like those turkeys on WKRP (remember that show when they thought turkeys could fly?). Talk about on the job training!
There were bookstores everywhere back then. Nobody had ever heard of POD or “indie” publishing or ebooks. There was no such thing as Facebook or Twitter et al. A different world. Over the years, the industry has evolved in more ways than anyone would have believed back then. Is it any wonder there’s no “one size fits all” book promotion formula? The industry changes daily!
BUT what we don’t want to lose sight of is that people don’t change that way. People still basically want the same thing; we just use different vehicles to get us there. And a captivating story is still what people want, whether it’s presented on pages that are fragile and tearing with age, or on the newest version of a Kindle or Nook with a backlight for reading in bed. However advanced people become, they still won’t buy a book they’ve never heard of. So in that sense, the problems faced by authors are still the same. How do they get the word out about their books in a manner that encourages potential readers to buy? If I had a succinct answer to that question, my waiting list of clients would be around the world. So I’ll work with what I have.
Just keep these things in mind:
- What worked yesterday might not work today. What works today might not work tomorrow.
- On Twitter you may get more attention Retweeting or Replying to what others post than what you post yourself.
- Sending a press release announcing the release of a new book once is enough. Unless you’re somebody notable, it’s not really news that first time. Repeatedly sending the same release will repeatedly get you the same response. Include the info about your new book with a newsworthy release. Do something newsworthy.
- What you post to Twitter or FB doesn’t have to be big enough to make the front page of the Dallas Morning News, but should be at least mildly interesting or entertaining to those who are following you.
- While you have to budget your time and not stay on social media all day, you should hang around enough to interact with others by way of RT or Reply. Conversation, when appropriate, is a good thing.
- There’s comfort in being a big fish in a small pond, but the next level is always a bigger pond. Leave your comfort zone frequently and purposely associate with those who know more about it than you do.
- There are MANY self-proclaimed experts on the internet who talk knowledgeably about the industry and promotion. Most of them have developed a group of followers who sing their praises. They’re not all wrong. But they’re not all right, either, and it can be challenging to tell the difference. Beware of those who speak too emphatically – few things are carved in stone.
- On the internet, especially in social media circles, remember that it’s a lot easier to burn a bridge than to build one. Practice editing your words before you press SEND.
Here are some things I hope my posts will say about me:
What about you? Are your posts painting the right word picture of you?