Last week I received my Authors Guild Fall 2015 Bulletin. In it one article echoed the feelings I’ve had this year. Roxana Robinson, AG President, wrote “Should Writers Be Performers?”
Her point, which I feel is true, is that over the years publishing houses, large and small, in order to help their bottom line, have been cutting back on their publicity staff and advertising budgets. Nowadays only those writers who receive big advances (because their books are perceived as blockbusters) will get promotional support in the form of dollars and staff. Other writers must provide their own publicity, either through their efforts or by hiring a professional pr person.
Anyone who has been in this business for twenty or thirty years has seen this trend. Writers year by year have been encouraged to do more to build a platform: be active through social media, create street teams, do readings, buy ads, do blog tours, run contests. The list goes on and on.
The problem, as Ms. Robinson states in her article, is writers are writers. They not trained in advertising or merchandizing. Promotion is the opposite of writing. And while a writer is busy promoting a book(s), the writer is not writing.
Writing requires the writer to have time to develop characters and situations, alone time when the writer can let the story play out in his or her mind until it takes form as a manuscript. Most writers like working alone. Few are performance artists.
This past year I have spent hours (Days. Weeks.) trying to promote the two books that came out in June. From January through August I appeared on several other writers’ blogs (and I thank each of them for inviting me to do so). I paid for a boost on Facebook. Paid an assistant to get me on blogs and get me reviews. I drove miles to talk to book groups. Attended two conferences and spoke on panels. Ran ads in newsletters. Tweeted. Made and gave out Tray cards with information about my books. Visited bookstores with the hope they would carry my books. I did everything I could think of to promote those books.
What I rarely did this past year is write. Well, I did write a lot of blogs and ad copy, but no new mystery. And I have no idea how beneficial all of my promotional efforts were. I’m hoping I sold more books than I would have if I’d done nothing, but I really don’t know what worked or didn’t work.
Roxana Robinson’s article in the Authors Guild Fall 2015 Bulletin ends with: “It might be better if the publishing houses let writers do what they’re good at, which is writing, and if they did what they’re good at, which is editing and producing and promoting the books they have bought, believe in, and support.”
I totally agree.