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I’m worried. Really worried.

About how self promotion has become not only expected but required. The more the better. I recently heard a small-press publicist say their writers should invest more than their advance on promotion. Two years ago it was suggested that I start blogging, attend conferences, get involved in more online groups and online events, give talks at libraries, travel to small towns and speak, consider making a book trailer, have online contests, maybe a writing competition, join more organizations, enter my books in more contests, do a monthly newsletter, put together a mailing list, visit more bookstores. I’m sure I’ve left out a few things. The argument for all of this is that publishers have no idea if any of it helps, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Wrong.

The few who agree with me about the futility of self promotion usually say it takes away from a writer’s writing time.

That wasn't my problem.

It took away my leisure time. I’m exhausted, and I’m afraid it’s going to take me a very long time to recover.

It wouldn’t be so bad if my efforts had mattered, but we are all just kids at our individual Kool-Aid stands, holding up our signs, begging people to stop and buy. And on every corner is another Kool-Aid stand serving up another version of cherry-flavored anxiety.

Our family and neighbors shuffle over. But mainly we just stand around and drink our own stuff and go check out the other stands to see what flavors they’re selling that day. And while we stand there delivery trucks go by taking Kool-Aid to stores all over the country.

The national decline in reading isn’t our fault, and we can’t fix the problem by opening a Kool-Aid stand.

I’m giving myself permission to write. Just write. And maybe enjoy life a little bit while I’m at it.

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I've been worried about this for a long time. It seems like a good way to get burned out. There's just never any down time. And yet I'm afraid not to do it because it is so expected these days.
I don't even know how to relax anymore. I'm going to have to learn how to do it. Right now it feels awful and weird when I try to do nothing for even a minute or two. That's just wrong! I wonder what would happen to book sales if all writers quit self promoting. Of course that would never happen, but I kind of doubt it would have much -- if any -- negative impact.
The thing is, I'm really not convinced that self-promotion makes a bit of difference. For all the heavy-duty self-promo folks out there, I see very few that have books in my local bookstore. Just because I've seen a book or an author mentioned ad-nauseum on blogs, listservs and forums, doesn't mean that the booksellers are picking up the titles - at least not where I live or in the major metro areas I visit. I'm not saying do nothing...I just think hyperactive self-promo probably isn't an effective use of a writer's time and energy.

Relaxation is not an extra. It's not an optional "it would be nice...one day" kind of thing. Down time is an absolute requirement for good physical and mental health, not to mention a happy & healthy imagination. If you can't relax...well, nothing else goes all that well, including the self-promo stuff. There's gotta be a balance somewhere. Doesn't there?!
angie, i don't think it does any good. that's always been my very unpopular opinion.

and that's what so tragic about the whole situation. people are giving up leisure time, family time, money, plus doing mental and physical harm to themselves -- for nothing. and many are burning out for good in the process. writers usually get really mad when i say these things, but it's something i firmly believe and something I really worry about.
This is so much on my mind. Just read an article that the decline in book buying and reading is expected to continue through the decade. What will authors be expected to to next? Peddle their assets (read asses) with prospective readers? Yikes!
i think very few writers will be able to wear so many hats without burning out fairly quickly.
and there are always new writers willing to do everything and more until they burn out.
Brava, Anne - you are my hero for saying this. I've been anxious about what would happen if I get published in the next few years - how would I work promotion and the kids? I'll probably handle it in much the same way I handle writing. Not as much would get done if I didn't have kids, but I'll probably find some ways to work them into it, and they'll know I still love them.
i wonder if we'll reach a point where writers start refusing to do all this draining stuff. i worry that those writers will be labeled as lazy and difficult... no team player. but i think we have to start sheltering our creativity.
Oh, I've been labeled those things since high school. I'll fit right in with the "new" group of writers!
I have no problem with doing book signings, with doing interviews when asked, attending some conventions... but in moderation.

What I see in this industry is far more serious than just the push for authors to self promote. I see people with their hands out at every level along the way, trying to take more than their share. People who read lists will be aware of the... mistreatment of booksellers at one upcoming convention. It isn't enough to dictate what gets sold and charge people to get in - they want a cut of the profits too. It's common knowledge that some distributors change the retailer discounts and give higher discounts to places like Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart, while making it impossible for the independents to afford to carry all titles.

And there is a fair degree of - for lack of a better word - sheer stupidity. The recent $1.25 million deal for a debut author is proof of that. The talk was publishers were buying bragging rights. We have big money being thrown at unproven authors.

And, of course, it's every man for themselves. All that matters is if *you* get your big slice, then who cares if there's anything left over, right?

Wrong. This is like hunting an animal to extinction when you depend on it for survival. Do we really think readers care how much of an advance a person got? Do we think they care why a book ends up on a front table or end cap display? What matters is, if the books that are there, that are catching their attention, are crap, they lose interest in books. It was well said by someone who'd worked in the film industry: when people see a good movie they'll go see another movie. When people see a bad movie they'll go do something else. It's the same with books. If you discover a great one, don't you want more? Of course you do. But if you read a bad one does it send you back to the next unknown author?

Look, obviously you write a book you want to sell it and pay the bills. But there is one thing people fail to understand. If you put your book in the wrong person's hands they may actually do you more harm than good. Authors get all bent out of shape about getting a person to buy their book, they never stop to consider that maybe someone who likes cozies and knitting will not take kindly to a book about a child rapist. And what's worse, if they're really offended they may have a fair bit of negative stuff to say on lists or forums.

See, people treat readers like walking wallets. Instead of considering their interests and helping them find what might be the best thing for them.

This is a week where I've had to shake my head. What else can you do? Even today, more spam through the message system here. Despite the fact we've had the over-promotion discussion so many times, despite the fact that the policy on promotion clearly states you aren't to use the message system to do that. And for crying out loud, there's an events section right on the front page where people can post about signings. And what these people fail to get is that they're preaching to the choir. Why do authors spend so much time jumping up and down, telling other authors about their books and events? It's ridiculous, and irritating, and it isn't productive.

You want to know what sells me on books? When I find someone interesting. Anne, you were such a kindred spirit and your blog was so interesting to me I knew I'd love your books. You did some promotion, yes, but it was never hard-core, in-your-face, excessive. I loved that you stayed a person instead of just being a product. Made me a big fan of yours.

When I go to conventions and hear someone on a panel who's funny and intelligent and interesting, then I go buy their books. A lot of my top shelf authors - Rankin, Bruen, Val McDermid, Simon Kernick, Mark Billingham, Laura Lippman, Cornelia Read, Stuart MacBride, John Rickards, Steve Mosby, Al Guthrie - none of them are hard-core marketers. Yet I've found them all.

Could it be the reason we're losing readers is because authors spend so much time on promotion the writing isn't as good as it could- and should - be? You have to wonder. Some of the crap I've tossed aside lately makes me think so.
i agree with so many of the things you said, sandra. loved this:

is like hunting an animal to extinction when you depend on it for survival.

and this:
when people see a good movie they'll go see another movie. When people see a bad movie they'll go do something else.

and this:
people treat readers like walking wallets. Instead of considering their interests and helping them find what might be the best thing for them.

and this:

Could it be the reason we're losing readers is because authors spend so much time on promotion the writing isn't as good as it could- and should - be?

i've definitely wondered about that.
Unfortunately Anne, I've learned that as much as you try to talk sense, the heavy-duty marketing types just won't listen. More than anything else I just want those people to leave me alone. I've had so many annoying emails of promotional stuff - none of which I signed up for - this week that it's really pissed me off. And one of those books was a book I already had a review copy here for.

I just moved it to the bottom of the pile. I need to get the bad taste out of my mouth so it doesn't cloud my judgment of the book. And if I can't get it out I just won't read it.

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