December 4, 2014 by Nathaniel Tower
In order to be a writer today, you also have to be able to promote your work. Long gone are the days where your job is to do the writing while someone else is responsible for spreading the word. This is true whether you are just trying to make a name for yourself or if you have several big publication credits to your authorial name. Heck, even a big book deal doesn’t exempt you from the promotional machine all writers have come to know.
In part, this has always been true. Big name writers have always done book tours and readings. However, in our modern day of social media, most writers have to spend a great deal of time interacting with readers. Most of the time, this interaction is done to generate more readership. Just take a look at your Facebook and Twitter pages. How much time do you spend talking about your writing as opposed to engaging in meaningful interaction with friends. This isn’t to say that talking about writing can’t be meaningful interaction, but there is a fine line between over-promotion and fostering discussion.
It is rapidly becoming the norm for writers to take on a larger share of the promotional tasks. From securing their own reviews to paying for their own ad costs, writers these days don’t have it easy. Add in the fact that the average writer has a large cast of online friends who are also spreading the word about their own books, and you can quickly see this is an equation in which a lot of promotion translates into few sales.
With all of this in mind, it’s easy to lose sight of being a writer and slip into the soulless machinery of non-stop promotion. When you hit this point, you lose on a great number of points. Here are some signs you are on the verge of becoming a soulless promotional machine:
1. You never have time to write anymore.
Has promotion gotten in the way of your writing? If you find you are spending all of your time trying to get people to buy your current book and no time working on the next one, then you might be on the wrong track. Don’t let your writing suffer because you want more book sales. At the same time, you can’t just ignore your latest published effort while you work on the next one. It’s all about balance.
2. You’re losing friends at a rapid pace.
Have you noticed your friend count is dwindling? While you shouldn’t obsess over the number of friends you have on Facebook, it’s usually pretty obvious when a large number of people decide to un-friend you. If all you do is promote your book, that’s exactly what could happen. Facebook is one place where you can promote your writing, but that shouldn’t be all you do there.
3. You’re losing more followers than you’re gaining.
Take a close look at your Twitter analytics and your Facebook author page data. If you are losing a lot of followers and fans without gaining many in return, then you are doing something wrong. Over time, people will stop following you. This shouldn’t be a concern unless you notice your total number of followers is dropping. Again, this shouldn’t be an obsession, but you do need to pay attention to the results of your efforts. Book sales aren’t the only measurement of promotional success (or failure).
4. Your promotional techniques are being wholly ignored.
Remember how awesome it was when you first announced your book deal and 400 people “liked” your post? Well, what about the latest posts about your book? Are you still getting comments and likes? If people aren’t responding to your promotions, then you are either overdoing it or doing it the wrong way. Try something new, or maybe try scaling it back. Focus on the promotions that actually work.
5. You’re getting mad at your friends who aren’t buying your books or leaving reviews.
It’s a sad day when artists start making accusations against their friends or fans. When former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach released a solo album earlier this year, he shamed his Facebook fans for not buying the record. Album sales paled in comparison to the number of fans he had on Facebook (the record sold just 4,000 copies when the singer had 800,000 fans). He (incorrectly) assumed that every Facebook “fan” should buy his album. News flash: most of your friends won’t buy your book. Don’t ever get mad at a friend for not buying your book or not leaving a review on Amazon. Your friends are not responsible for making your book into a bestseller. If they have a “job” on Facebook, it’s to be your friend.
6. You have no clue what anyone else is doing anymore.
If social media has suddenly become all about you and your book, then you aren’t using it the right way. Yes, you should promote your book. Yes, you can talk about your book on social media. But if that’s all you do, then you aren’t going to find any success. If you’ve become so obsessed with self-promotion that you don’t even know what your friends are up to (hey, I didn’t know you had a new baby five months ago…), then you need to reevaluate your social media presence.
Promotion is tough. If you want people actually to care about your writing, you need to be three things: a writer, a marketer, and a person. Of the three, the last one might actually be the most important.
How do you balance promotion, writing, and being a person? Share your strategies in the comments.