Sunday, July 15, 2012

Big news! and: pity the poor introverted writer.

First, as always, the news.  I am excited to announce that I'm now a contributing author at Indies Unlimited.  I've been following this website over the past few months and have been quite impressed by the depth of knowledge about writing and indie publishing, as well as the world-class snark, the contributors there display.  So I was very grateful when the Evil Overlord himself extended me an invitation to join them.  I understand I will be receiving payment in spoonfuls of gruel, which is more than one typically receives for online contributions, so I'm pretty pumped!  But seriously, I've agreed to contribute a blog post each month.  I don't know yet when my debut staff post will hit teh intarwebz, so watch this space.

In addition, I'm continuing as a monthly contributor to the Indie Exchange through December.  It shouldn't be a problem, as it appears I'm hardly ever at a loss to come up with 500 or so words on something-or-other on the spur of the moment (to which those of you who have been following this blog can attest, for good or ill).

All this stuff about guest blogging actually segues nicely into this week's post, which is about promotion.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who has been traditionally published for years and is now going indie for her backlist books, wrote a provocative post on her own blog recently about the difference between indies and trad publishing.  Within it was this piece of advice:
Publicity doesn’t work for books. It really doesn’t. All it does is get your name in front of a reader who might then glance at your book....So indie writers who promote their book instead of writing the next book are wasting their time. The more books you’ve written, the more books you’ll sell.
As you might expect, a lot of indie authors beg to differ -- including me.  While Rusch's strategy has worked for her, I think new indie authors have to spend some time promoting themselves.  Rusch is coming into indie publishing with a successful traditional career behind her; her name is already known, and her readers will likely be ecstatic to discover that a whole lot of her out-of-print titles are available again.

But before your readers can find you, they have to know what they're looking for.  That means that concurrently with the publication of a first novel (and the next one, and probably the next several after that), an indie author is going to have to drum up interest by getting his or her name out there.  The marketing phrase for this is "building your brand."  It means writing blog posts and doing giveaways and maybe even doing personal appearances.  At the very least, it means talking to people.

This is tough for many writers.  I'm speculating here, but I think it would be fair to say that those of us who gravitate to a career that locks us in a lonely writer's garret for hours at a time are probably introverts.  Interacting with other people tends to exhaust us.  We recharge our batteries by spending time alone.  So this whole idea of having to interact with people, to meet them and smile and flog our books without seeming to, is daunting, to say the least.  Rusch's advice sounds like just the ticket!

Not so fast.  I wouldn't trust the notion that an author -- any author -- can simply sit back and wait, and do no promotion at all.  Keep in mind that Rusch herself has a blog.  She's making sure you know her name, isn't she?

Rusch is right about one thing -- the more books you've written, the more you'll sell.  JA Konrath has talked about this numerous times on his blog: someone who reads and enjoys one of your books is likely to buy more of them.  Some readers (I'm raising my hand) will even search out every book ever written by an author they particularly like.  So the longer your backlist is, the better the chances that you'll sell more and more books as time goes on, and as more and more readers discover your work.

So I'm sorry to tell you that there's no magic formula and there's no promotion-free pass.  Keep writing, for sure, and keep turning out professional-level work.  But you can't quit building your brand.

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