The Self-Promotion Jungle

In the changing world of publishing it has become a truism that authors must learn to promote their own work.  It is believed that legacy publishers do relatively little marketing of any but their most popular authors (though I know a mid-list author who is very happy with her publisher’s efforts on her behalf), and that small publishers just don’t have the budget to do much.  Independently published authors obviously must shoulder the entire burden of letting readers know that their books exist.

There’s a wealth of information about self-promotion from authors like Seth Godin, Steve Weber, Gary Vaynerchuck, Tim Ferris, M.J. Rose, and Chris Guillebeau.  All recommend using free social media (blogging, facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) as one leg of your promotional stool.

Free is good.  You’re running a business after all.  All other things being equal, the lower your overhead, the higher your profit.  Unfortunately, all promotional efforts aren’t equal.  Some things work better than others at getting attention and building a fan base. (Should you pay for advertising?  Hire a publicist?) Some may take more time or money, but produce considerably better results.  (Kris Tualla recently produced a CD with excerpts of all her books, audio readings, and videos as a give-away at a national conference.)  Or you may spend a bundle and not see any improvement in sales at all. (Promotional items like pens, bookmarks, and sewing kits are big business.)  But how do you know what works and what doesn’t?  What’s the cost/benefit ratio?

And don’t forget to count all your costs.  We’ve all heard the old saying, “Time is money.”  But even more important,  Time is your Life.  It’s finite. You don’t want to waste it.  That’s one reason Tim Ferris recommends hiring a virtual assistant – but only to do only what is necessary and effective.  It’s why Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch point out that the best use of your time is writing your next book.  Self-promotion is important, but don’t let it take the place of creation.

Otherwise, when your efforts pay off, and Ms. Reader consumes your opus with delight and looks for your next book, she’ll be disappointed . . . and she’ll go looking elsewhere for her next fix.

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