Naturally I’d like it if tomorrow morning I get an email from my agent saying a major publisher loves my fantasy series and wants to send me a big fat advance. Counting on my fingers, though, I find that I signed up with this agent five months ago. The wheels grind slowly — but also, there’s a lot of competition. No, let me rephrase that ever so subtly: There’s a LOT of competition.
At some point, if nothing happens, I’ll want to consider publishing this series myself. As I muse vaguely about this rather daunting prospect, it occurs to me that I know very little about promotion. I know how to hire someone to make me a professional-looking website, but a website is just a bunch of 1’s and 0’s unless people aim their browsers at it. I can figure out how to get a book available on Amazon for Kindle, but availability does not translate to sales. If no one knows about the books, the books will not sell.
Hunting around on the web for beginner tips on author self-promotion, I found a couple of great blog entries from Delilah S. Dawson. Her blog is at whimsydark.com, and the post that I found revealing was this one. She quickly followed it with this one.
At a guess, Delilah is probably a lot younger than I am. I have never tweeted, so her observations about how to tweet (and how not to) … well, if I decide to tweet, I’ll know what to avoid. How I would get even one follower on Twitter (or why I would have even a speck of interest in following someone else) I have no idea.
The take-away in her essays, for me, is that, yeah, it’s a jungle. Standing on a soapbox and shouting, “Me! Me! Look at me!” is not only distasteful, it’s not going to be effective. And that’s a relief.
Some numbers posted recently on the SFWA forum by self-publishing authors suggest that it really is possible to bring in a six-figure income on one’s fiction writing. To be honest, I was surprised to learn that. I’m not in it for the money, though. I’m just hoping a few people will enjoy the complex adventure story I’m working on. I quite like the way Book IV is developing, and I’m encouraged that Delilah thinks the best thing I can do, by way of self-promotion, is to keep writing.
On the other side of the coin, the next item the Startpage search engine serves up is a site called author-promotion.com. Their service seems really quite peculiarly limited. For $475 they will feature your book in their newsletter (zowie) and in their e-newsletter, which they state goes out to more than 5,000 readers (are you trembling with anticipation yet?). They will use your book in their ads (bound to be a thrill), “or a copy of your book will be bought send out for additional reviews or donated.” (Say what?) Your book “will be recommended to readers online and are also promoted through [unspecified] Facebook apps.” They promise to post at least five book reviews of your book to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. (Favorable reviews? Reviews by someone who has actually read the book? Who knows?) You’ll get an interview — with whom, or posted where, they don’t say. You’ll be part of a book giveaway — books being given to whom, or on what basis, they don’t say. And finally, the piece de resistance, the cherry atop the hot fudge sundae, “Your book will be automated on every page of our website (which receives 100 clicks per day).”
This is not a joke. They actually expect you to be impressed with the fact that their site receives 100 clicks per day.
Now, it’s possible that some of this site’s customers feel they’re receiving value for their money. And just to be clear, I’m not for a moment suggesting that author-promotion.com fails in any way to provide the promised services. The lesson here, I think, is that one really does need to think about the difference between effective promotion and Internet whiz-bang.