Are You a Writer or a Promoter?

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.

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16 Responses to Are You a Writer or a Promoter?

  1. Melissa Keir says:

    Interesting post. I think that even those of us who are marketing savvy are struggling because what worked yesterday…doesn’t work today. The constantly changing market makes it a challenge.

  2. Mary Ingmire says:

    It looks like the financial burden of promotion is on the author. Assuming all the promotion is worthwhile, how long until a book starts to make money?

    • Maris Soule says:

      That’s the problem, Mary, not all promotion is worthwhile but we don’t know what works best for each and every book. As for how long before a book makes money, that depends on costs.

  3. Jacqueline Seewald says:

    More and more I’m resenting the demands made on writers to promote and publicize our writing. My husband asked: “Aren’t publishers supposed to do that?” Well, they used to, but less and less, although they do get most of the profits.

  4. Diane Burton says:

    Good timing, Maris, as I’m in the middle of promoting my latest release. I’d rather be writing the next book in the series. But…if I don’t, who will know about it?

  5. So timely, Maris! I am also facing the dilemma of having time to write, or promote, but not having time to do both effectively. I believe my time is better spent writing the next book or short story, but as Diane said, if you don’t promote, who will know about your work? Frustrating.

  6. That article in AG bulletin nailed it. Sometimes I feel I have so much to do as a writer that I’m frozen in place. I don’t know what to do next. I should be writing but I also have to design and order PR materials, set up readings and book signings, schedule events and spent a lot of time driving to things, write and post and read blogs, and more. The PR side of this writer’s life is a full-time job. And I have no idea if it works. Would I have as many sales if I did nothing? I don’t know.

  7. Constance Bretes says:

    I agree with you Maris. I spend too much time promoting myself and others. I try to limit my promoting on line for 1-2 hours in the mornings only. Doing book signing events are few and far and thus far, I have only one library interested in having me do a book signing event. The book stores around here won’t do a book signing event for an e-book, even though I have swag to give away. My next book, I’m going to send to a different publisher to see if I can get it printed and maybe I’ll pick up more sales that way. I would rather be researching and writing anyday then to spend oodles of time on promotional work. Great post.