In a saturated market, in a marginalized genre, in a subjectively critical world, how does one confidently go about promoting their work? The answer is indefinite, manifold, and something that novelist M.J. Rose has successfully implemented for her own books. Rose (www.mjrose.com) is the internationally bestselling author of eight novels--both Lying in Bed (on sale this week) and The Venus Fix will be released this summer. She also is a contributor to Poets & Writers, Oprah magazine, The Writer magazine and Pages magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in Pages magazine, Vestal Review and several anthologies, including The Best American Erotica and The Auntie's Book.
Rose also is the founder of the www.AuthorBuzz.com--a marketing service that puts authors directly in touch with readers, booksellers, and librarians--and runs the blogs Buzz, Balls & Hype and Backstory.
What advice would you give to someone confident in their talent, but unsure how to make others notice or care?
Johnny Temple publisher of Akashic Books wrote an interesting article for Poets & Writers about authors promoting their own work. It's worth reading. http://www.alternet.org/story/21792
"Calling upon writers to do more of their own promotional "dirty work" is by no means a suggestion that they alone must carry this burden. To be sure, it is primarily the publishers' job to market the books they take on. But in Theroux's "age of intrusion," it is unwise for any author to hand over the reins of her career to someone she doesn't trust. The ideal, of course, is to collaborate with an attentive and zealous publisher, but the reality for most artists in any medium is that little is guaranteed beyond one's own efforts. (Even close friends with "good connections" often fail to come through for artists.)"
There are a lot of questions: Should author’s self promote? Can we really do any good for our books or is it all a waste of time? Are we turning into hype machines and giving up our artistic integrity? What can we do that really works?
My take on Buzz is this: Self promoting works for some authors and fails for others. Some of us are good at it and some should never bother. Of course we all got into this because we wanted to write not promote. You have to start by learning what you can possibly do and then figure out if you want to do it. Do you have the energy? The time? The desire?
Douglas Clegg built his sales up from 20,000 copies per book to 100,000 copies per book by coming up with some ingenious on line promotions that exposed his work to new readers. Lisa Tucker, took a huge chunk of her advance, hired a publicist and took herself on tour as a result her book took off and she got kudos and awards and sold over 75,000 copies of her first novel. On the other hand I know just as many authors who have done everything right for their books but nothing happened. I knew Dan Brown back before TDC and yes he did self promote and no, it didn't make him a bestseller.
I don't know many authors who made the effort and were sorry afterwards. I do however know many who didn't make any effort, believed their publisher's would do it all and when it was all over, felt they'd make a big mistake by doing so.
But here's the thing: if you are going to look back and wonder if promoting your work would have helped, if you are going to regret that you didn't do some of the things you thought of, then you should do them.
But one thing we know: No one thing sells a book and makes it take off. A million little things do. And if you can do some of those little things, and you want to, there's just no reason you shouldn't go them. Learn as much as you can about all the options and then choose what works for you.
And have realistic goals. Too many authors are fixated on being bestsellers instead of staying alive.
I'm not saying don't have a dream. I'm saying don't chase the dream to the extent that you miss the day to day joy of writing and getting an agent and then getting a deal and then selling enough books to get your next deal and growing your career one smart step at a time.
When you look into almost every big author's past you'll see there were five, ten, fifteen years and sometimes as many books before he or she took off.
As for promotion. It is a new world. Because the old venues for getting reviews and press are shrinking. And because there are simply 100% more books being published than there were ten years ago.
So in 1996 there were 50% more place to get a book or poetry reviewed. There were 50% more articles written about authors. 75% more author appearances on TV shows. And there were only half as many books being published.
It’s become a cliché but it’s still true.
Writing is an art. Publishing and selling is a business.
Does promotion prepare the reader for what they experience in the book?
I think the goal of good promotion is to expose the reader to the fact of the book. It would be great if we could do more than that but the average person is being bombarded with advertising/promotional messages. Some say over 1200 of them a day. And for a name/title to register it has to be seen/heard more than 100 times. So I’d aim for some name/title recognition plus one message. Here’s an example for my new novel.
Lying in Bed is a great read and M.J. Rose has put a refreshingly clean face on erotic literature.- Tracy Zappala
If I can get that one message out there – a message that might make people stop and wonder – hmm – what do they mean – clean? Erotica? Then I’ve done what I’ve set out to do. Actually make a potential reader focus on my book for ten seconds.
What was your experience promoting and publishing your latest book, Lying in Bed? How was promoting this book different from the first book you published?
In 1998-1999 I spent six months, six days a week, six hours a day promoting my first novel, LIP SERVICE, which I had self-published. That effort led to such robust sales and such good buzz the book became the first novel self published, promoted and discovered online and picked up by traditional publishers.
Eight books later, I’m not spending anywhere near that kind of time on promotion or PR.
For one thing I have a terrific publisher and a smart and savvy publicist who know the market and are getting me a lot of on and off line interviews and book reviews.
But because I believe I am a marketing partner with my publisher I’m still doing some stuff on my own. But it’s very different.
In the last seven years I’ve done a lot of learning and innovating and tried to stream line the process. To that end I’ve created AuthorBuzz.com – the first marketing service for authors that for the cost of a post card mailing reaches 330,000 readers, 2000 booksellers and 10,000 librarians.
Authorbuzz.com only features four books a week.
You can be sure, this summer, Lying in Bed will be one of them.