Do I want to sell my books? Yes.
Is promoting important. Definitely.
Am I willing to promote? Absolutely.
Do I know a sure-fire way to get the job done? Nope.
Since plunging into this business I’ve happily gone on cross-country tours, visited more schools and libraries than I can count, had videos of my books made, and published teaching materials correlated to core content and standards. I’ve done keynote speeches and facilitated workshops for teachers and writers, and reached out to them using social media. I’ve done it all while leaving a trail of signed books in my wake.
My most effective promotions involved school visits and having my books featured in Scholastic’s Book Clubs and Book Fairs because those strategies directly reached the targeted audience. Less effective have been splatter strategies (“Hey all my Facebook friends, did you know about my upcoming signing?” “Hey all you teachers on my mailing list, would you like content activities for my books?” “Hey neighbor letting your dog poise for refreshment in my front yard, would you like to see my newest title?”)
Yesterday, a writing buddy and I discussed how promoting books has changed over the past twenty years. My friend does it all to the nth degree, sometimes spending up to ten hours a day promoting his writing. All of it is good stuff, and I’m often tempted to jump in and do more, more, more.
Should I have a fan page on Facebook? Use Twitter? Hire a publicist and bankroll giveaways. Offer to pay my own travel expenses and ‘donate’ author visits?
Then I pause and ask myself one simple question: What is my return on this investment?
When I crunch numbers I often discover that when it comes down to the bottom line there were rarely noticeable spikes in sales directly correlated to my personal efforts. What’s worse, I realized that all that promotional activity often derailed me from doing the one thing I’m supposed to be doing: writing.
Is promoting necessary? Yes, it’s part of the job. But I’ve seen many writers get so lost in the process of promoting that they forget about writing.
This is the beginning of a brand new year; a time many of us make resolutions, goals and intentions. Yesterday, my writing buddy and I took time to step back and remember that, first and foremost, we are writers and that often the best way to promote our writing is to follow one book with another…and another…and another…After all, when people ask me what I do for a living, I don’t say I’m a promoter. I say I’m a writer.