February 22, 2013 by Nathaniel Tower
One of the most difficult tasks as a writer, perhaps even more difficult than writing, editing, submitting, or getting accepted, is the art of promotion. In today’s publishing world, whether you self-publish or are lucky enough to catch a break with a bigger publishing house, most of the promotion is on you, the writer. So how are you supposed to do it, especially when there is so much else on the plate?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring different aspects of marketing and promotion. A few weeks ago, I opened a survey about writing promotion to try to get a better idea of the impact of promoting on social media (thanks to everyone who has taken it; if you haven’t, click here to take it). I’ll share those survey results pretty soon. First, I’d like to share a success story.
Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Alex M. Pruteanu, author of Short Lean Cuts and Gears: A Collection. Through the release of these two books, Alex has had the opportunity to learn a lot about promotion and marketing. He’s also had a fair amount of success. Here’s what he has to say about promotion.
Describe your general promotional/marketing strategy.
Since I self-released “Short Lean Cuts,” my promo/marketing strategy was basically to take it to social media: Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Goodreads. And also, word of mouth from within the independent writers’ community (interviews, reviews, re-tweets, shares, etc.). There is still an imbecilic stigma about self-publishing, and there are many useful marketing/promotional avenues closed to books that are self-published (for example: my local indie book store won’t take a self-published book; not even on consignment). This is the 21st century, and there are wonderful tools out there for people to use—if they know how to use them properly and professionally. I often hear the usual glib argument that self-publishing introduces a ton more shite into the system so to speak…people who believe that must be short-sighted, closed-minded, or are parroting old-school philosophy; there is plenty of shite being introduced daily by the Big 6 houses into our lives. There is even more shite being introduced by independent presses. People who go on about an abundance of crap being self-published are probably the same people who watch reality shows on Bravo and excuse them as “guilty pleasures.” I dismiss those people as ignorant and biased. There is good material being self-published out there. My book is among that batch, I’m very confident.
Did you anticipate such good sales numbers?
I anticipated better numbers…probably because I’m either insane or an unrealistic dreamer. For an independently released book, however, the numbers are great. But in the grand scheme of things, as in: my hoping to one day make a living off writing fiction, sales are dismal.
How often did you promote?
It’s tricky promoting on social media. You have to try to not be a nuisance and turn off people by constantly promoting and prodding. But on the other hand, people’s attention spans are complete horseshit; often times they don’t read or don’t understand or…I don’t know, something doesn’t connect. In the past, I’d provide direct links, for example, on my own site (http://swine.wordpress.com), Twitter, Google +, Fictionaut and various writers’ groups on Facebook, as well as my own page, and I’d still be asked where and how could my book be purchased. So, it’s a tricky balance promoting on social media. There’s a middle ground there between becoming an insufferable parasite of a spammer and a tech-denying curmudgeon who refuses to even touch a laptop. When I have stories published in various journals or literary magazines, I’ll usually promo twice the first day it appears, then come back two more times during the span of a week, as a reminder.
Other than social media, how did you get the word out?
I did a few interviews, which linked to the Amazon page where “Short Lean Cuts” could be purchased, and basically just word of mouth from people writing emails or mentioning the book to other people.
Did you plan to target an overseas audience, or did that just happen naturally?
Most of the writing I do, I try to push out beyond the borders of this country. That is to say, I keep in mind more of an international scope when I write; I think being an immigrant writer contributes to a sort of a “default” like that. I’m not interested in documenting anything local, whether it’s language or customs or even countryside. I like to explore subjects that can be identified (and hopefully enjoyed/liked) by readers in both the States and outside. I don’t want to be known as an American author. I just would like to be an author. That being said, I probably cannot shake the immigrant experience, or the Romanian culture, so I’m sure I will fit neatly into some sort of label or stereotype. I’m also lucky that there is an overseas contingent for my work, and that they support me here in the States.
What would you recommend an author do right before and right after a book release?
Stay lucid, stay sober, stay sharp; keep working to promote the book. I once read that the Big 6 publishers actually pay writers to not write. That is to say, once their books are out, they get paid to go out on the road for a couple of years and work to get the book sold, thus keeping them away from any sort of creative writing whatsoever. That’s actually accurate and I would turn that into advice—as ghastly as it may seem to a writer. The work is merely beginning as the book is released. If one decides to self-release, or is released by an independent press, one needs to realize that there is a long road of promotional work ahead; a road that must be travelled if one wants to have any kind of successful sales.
Is the book still selling? What are you currently doing to promote?
“Short Lean Cuts” was released in September of 2011, so there are still a few sales per month here and there, but nothing really substantial. Right now I’m in the middle of promoting my newest book, “Gears: A Collection” (Independent Talent Group, Inc.). “Gears” is the culmination of 7 years of writing short stories, and 2 years of publishing them. It’s a pretty expansive omnibus of 70 short stories/400 pages of fiction. 59 of the pieces have been previously published; 11 are new. Promoting “Gears” has nearly become a full-time job. Between social media, interviews, pending reviews, local work trying to get copies into indie bookstores, readings, and AWP coming up in Boston, I feel I need an extra 12 hours in the day to do this. By the way, people coming to AWP can purchase “Gears” ($15) from the book fair; it will be on the Manarchy Table, which is being run by Lazy Fascist Press. I’ll also be doing a couple of readings off-site on Thursday, March 7 (7 pm) for Connotation Press, and Friday, March 8 (2:30 pm) for Meg Tuite’s and Anna March’s “Heat-themed” event and will have copies of “Gears” with me, for anyone who wants to snag them.
Thanks for chatting with me Alex. I’m looking forward to picking up copies of your collections.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more interviews and articles about writing promotion and marketing. If you have any input or ideas, please comment below or email me.