January Theme: A Balancing Act

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.


  1. So true, Marcia! Some people really love the promotional aspect of book publishing, but for me, my heart is with the written word. Marketing is just a tool to help keep me doing what I love.

  2. Without writing there is nothing to promote. Great blog post, Marcia. You'll be back on the promotion merry-go-round when the next book sells!

  3. As a newbie to this business, I hear "experts" saying we have to build a brand. That with all the books being published, we have to be visible. And this is supposedly true whether the author is traditionally published or self published. I'm with Marcia. How do you do it? And if you do, will it make any difference? No author wants their published book lost, spline out, in the dark recesses of a book store, or unranked with a million other ebooks on Amazon. So do we write and ignore marketing, or build a brand and then write, or try to do both? Somebody please figure this out and let me know. :)

  4. Marcia,
    Love the Ratfink trailer - I hadn't seen it before! :) Awesome blog, too! And so, so true. I've attended one of your school visits and MORE teachers should take advantage of your wonderful presentation! What an awesome motivator for kids to see real people - real authors who are so successful! Hopefully you'll get snapped up by a bunch of schools this year!!!

  5. So, so true, Marcia. LOVE the point you make at the end of this post. And I love the term "splatter strategy."


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