One reason many of us resist doing more to market our books is that marketing efforts take our time away from doing the thing we love best, which is writing itself. “But I don’t want to drive two hours each way to a bookstore event where nobody will even come!” we wail. “I don’t want to go at my own expense to set up a deserted booth at some book festival where I’ll look like a monument to pitifulness!” we moan. “I want to be at home writing!”
So I’ve tried to find ways that I can promote my books by doing exactly that: staying at home, in my nightgown, cup of Swiss Miss hot chocolate at the ready, and writing.
Example number one:
Some years ago a sixth-grader named Erika wrote a fan letter to me, and I sent her back a standard form letter that I have on my computer, which I personalized for each child. Erika wrote back thanking me for my letter but telling me that her friend Sarah had told her that the letter I sent was just a form letter from my computer, and could I send her a real handwritten letter so that she could show it to Sarah? I did. Erika wrote back, sending me a woven bracelet she had made and asking for a photo. I sent the photo with another handwritten note. Then Erika wrote to me, “Can you come to my school?” I replied, “I love to go to schools! Check to see if your school would like to host an author visit.” Erika wrote back: her school would love for me to come. She then wrote, “You can stay at my house! It’s much nicer and cheaper than a motel!” Well, apparently now it was time to get in touch with Erika’s mother, which I did. The rest of the story is that I flew to Burlington, Vermont, stayed at Erika’s house, had the loveliest school visit of my career, and keep in touch with Erika to this day.
What does this have to do with promoting our books, you may ask? Well, I wrote a short article about my visit to Erika, sent it off to SCBWI, and they published it in Kite Tales. As a result of that article, I was invited to speak at an SCBWI conference in Oklahoma.
Example number two:
Two other authors in my Boulder writing group, Ann Whitehead Nagda and Phyllis Perry, were chatting in line with me at a movie theater one day when it occurred to us that we had all written books that resonated in some way with math or science (mine was a chapter book about a third grader struggling with multiplication, 7 x 9 = Trouble!, followed by the sequel Fractions = Trouble!). We hit upon the idea of asking the Colorado Communicator, newsletter of the CC-IRA, the Colorado Council of the International Reading Association, if they would like an article co-authored by the three of us about using fiction to make connections across the curriculum. And, indeed, they would. As a result of that article, I was invited to give a talk to a literacy conference at a university in southern Utah.
So be alert to the ways that you can promote your writing by doing just that: writing! (I’m promoting my writing right now by writing this blog post!). Best case scenario: it will lead to more sales and recognition for your books, or to rewarding connections with others in the field. Worst case scenario: at least you are spending time doing what you love: writing.