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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.


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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The issue with authors sitting at table near the front of the store is the same one that I have with the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts who stand out the exit of major stores. If I stop and talk to them, I feel obligated to buy something. So I don't stop. A lot of people are like that.

But that also means that I never found out anything about the author either. His/her time was wasted because they made no impression on me and all of the others who did not stop. No impression means no sales.


it makes the reader feel trapped and uncomfortable. i really think a writer has to have fans at the store in order for a signing to work -- unless it's a group signing.
as a reader, i almost always go to a signings to get autographed books to give as gifts, but i have to be a fan first. i wouldn't just go to a signing. i'm also fortunate to live near Once Upon a Crime, and I completely trust the owners to put a book in my hand that I will end up loving. But I know that's a rare situation.
well, dang. my replies aren't going in the right place. my comment about book signings was in response to laura's post!
Kev, fantastic post. i agree with you on every point.

Looking at every person like a mark in three card monty game robs any enjoyment that you and the people you encounter can have from the interaction.

yes, yes, yes!

i think the old ways still work best. reviews, signings at the right stores, word of mouth -- I've also read books recommended by Ali!

i think one problem is that very few publishers are willing to build an author anymore. i'm not even sure it can be done anymore, because readers have less reading time and are much less willing to pick up books that aren't being hyped.

i also think that a lot of people who are doing heavy marketing go into it thinking it will just be for a year or two, then when they get their numbers up they can relax and hang out with friends and family again. unfortunately as soon as they slack off, that 1 or 2 percent increase in sales vanishes.
"i think one problem is that very few publishers are willing to build an author anymore. i'm not even sure it can be done anymore, because readers have less reading time and are much less willing to pick up books that aren't being hyped."

I think it can be done. Just wait for my upcoming interview with Steve Mosby and see what he says. Part of it is just being willing to recommend good books you read and talk about them.
I enjoyed this peek into your work, Margot. It's wonderful to hear from someone who loves books so much that she takes the concerns of both writers and readers seriously, and goes the extra mile to help everyone!

Do you freelance? ; )
margot, you are a treasure.
How about your boss? Really, I love the way you work. Your community is lucky to have you (and a library that's willing to support connecting readers and writers and books).
I've had similar experiences in the chain bookstores. I've also found Val McDermid's The Torment of Others in true crime. When the bookstore staff don't know the product they can't move it - it's that simple.
If I buy a book from an author I haven't tried before, it's because of 3 things:

Word of mouth, including discussion groups like this
Bookstore/convention browsing

I totally agree that no one should be obligated to publicize to a degree that interferes with their writing or their personal lives. (It's often the same thing, since writing is so personal.) At core this business is about writing and reading, nothing else. Lose touch with your personal life and you lose touch with your readers.

No matter what the advertising, a book must resonate with its society in order to sell millions. It isn't advertising that achieves that, it's the author's inspiration.

Of course, I'm in ebooks. When libraries start providing ebook CDs, then I'll address the established public.
Anne, you rock.

I've often wondered why authors who spend so much money to promote sales of their books don't take all that money and buy their own books? Think of the time it would save.

It seems to me the more we're saturated with advertising, the better we are at ignoring it. Have you clicked on any of the Google ads at Crimespace? Did you even notice they were there? (Sorry Daniel - but honestly, I don't even see them!)

As a reader, I don't respond at all (except negatively) to promotion. I buy books because other readers tell me they're good. No trailer, postcard, bookmark, bribe, or blunt instrument will do the trick. I might buy a book if I heard the author speak (about more than just Why I'm so Wonderful and You Want to Buy My Book) and they were interesting and the book sounded like my kind of book. But even then I'd never buy it without reading the first pages to make sure the writing style is at least not painful.
aww, thanks, barbara!

i'm used to being attacked for my unpopular viewpoint on self promotion!

i think some authors do buy their books to increase sales. i just recently heard of a small house encouraging authors to do just that. years ago people were able to get on the NYT list by buying their own books. :D


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