I had the pleasure of being one of the authors featured last weekend at the Luling Friends of the Library’s Meet the Authors event. It was held at the Luling Oil Patch Museum, a wonderful place to visit by itself. I had a fun and successful day visiting with friends who stopped by, meeting new people (authors and fans), and selling some of both my new novel (Born Rich) and my first novel (The Case of a Cold Trail and a Hot Musket).
The ultimate experience, however, reminded me just how important marketing and promotion is toward any venture, including selling books and putting on events. For authors, self-promotion and marketing are critical, regardless of whether they are self-published or traditionally published (unless you are an “A-list” author—think Stephen King or JK Rowling—you are unlikely to get much marketing effort from a traditional publisher). A personal blog (like this one), email newsletter, Facebook page, Twitter account, web page, etc. are all excellent and useful ways any author can use to reach new fans and keep existing fans up to date.
There is, however, a fine line between over- and under-doing certain types of self-promotion. First, trying to promote via too many mediums can be daunting for any author — it’s difficult coming up with that much new and different information, impossible not to be at least somewhat redundant between mediums (was that Tweet just a short version of the blog?), and hard to update regularly while still having time to accomplish new creative writing. Sending daily Tweets, updating a Facebook page, writing a regular blog entry, etc. takes much more time than one might think. Second, it’s easy to overwhelm fans, who likely already receive more emails and Facebook notices than they can read in a day. The last thing an author wants is for fans to block, defriend, delete, unsubscribe, etc. in an effort to stem the flow.
Authors should pick one or two mediums that work for them and then be consistent and very good at them. I have found that I can manage a blog entry a week. I just can’t get into Twitter. And anything I might write on an author’s Facebook page (although I do have one “parked” and ready) would likely be redundant with the blog. So here is where I’ve chosen to focus my primary outreach efforts.
I do recommend sending special announcements via email — a new book release, a signing at a bookstore or library, an appearance at a Meet the Authors type of event, etc. I collect email addresses when possible from those who have purchased my book(s), or even expressed a strong interest. But I’m well aware, from studying my own inbox, if email announcements are too often people will simply delete them, or worse, create a spam filter with my name in it! Another great way to self-promote is through clubs and organizations. I’m a member (and past President) of the Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime chapter. They publish a monthly e-newsletter and are happy to include announcements about members’ accomplishments and upcoming events. Friends and family can be an additional way to “spread the word” but is less reliable and can ultimately make you a pariah. So tread with caution in eliciting help from those who love you.
What about helping promote events such as the Meet the Authors I was at last week? If you are participating in an event as an author, and the event isn’t doing a lot of its own promotion, what can you do? As mentioned above, send an email to your own list. If event organizers have not posted flyers around the street or area where the event is taking place, offer to help. Check the web pages for the local Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Office, and the location where the event is scheduled. If there is no information listed, call or email and ask what you can do to help get the information online as quickly as possible. Post in every appropriate group and page on Facebook (and if you still refuse to join Facebook, you are doing yourself a disservice in communicating with fans and potential fans — Facebook reaches 10% of the entire world’s population. Think about those numbers for a minute).
It can be frustrating to be a part of an event that isn’t doing a lot of its own self-promotion. But remember, most of these events are put on by volunteers, and often it is just a handful of dedicated and hard-working souls doing 99% of the organizing. Any additional help is greatly appreciated, and can have a dramatic effect on attendance, a win for the event AND for you.