Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Promoting your book? Think about something other than your book!

I subscribe to a number of special-interest newsletters. Things like Gothamist (news about New York City) and Apartment Therapy (living in small spaces/painting!/cleaning!).

Sometimes I follow people on Twitter who have interesting things to say. That's how I found Untapped Cities.

Their about page says:
Rediscover your city. Untapped Cities unearths New York City’s most unique and surprising places, stories and events for the inquisitive reader. We are a community of over 600 passionate contributors, interested in what’s hidden and unnoticed, and how our history informs city life now and in the future.

Hidden and unnoticed?
Count me IN.

And because I subscribe to Untapped Cities, I saw this delightful, innovative book promotion idea:

Take a Book Walk Through the Financial District with the Author of "Holly's Hurricane"

Obviously this isn't suitable for every book. Sci-fi fantasy comes to mind. Dystopian thrillers either. But think of the success of the Sex In the City tours (of course, that was after the TV show, but still!)

As writers and agents thinking about promotion, we tend to focus on what we know best: book reviews, blog tours, book store readings.  But think bigger.  What do you know about that other people will find interesting?  Most likely you're going to need help on this because 87% of the writers I work with underestimate their Interesting Quotient by about 100%.

Keep your eye peeled for what other authors are doing. Write down what they do. You don't have to do the exact same thing; use their ideas to inspire you.

I always remind my authors when we're doing something using the brainstorming model: write down everything you think of. Don't self-censor. Don't judge. Just write.

(We usually do this when we're pulling our hair out over titles and sub-title, but it's a useful tool for other things as well.)

Don't neglect the basics when you think about promotion, but don't limit yourself to just the basics, either.



21 comments:

E.M. Goldsmith said...

This sounds like a fun way to promote. Now I only need to write a good enough book to get an agent, a book deal, and then off to the promotions I will run. But first things first - a finished excellent debut, a hotshot agent, and a sweet book deal. Why is this so hard?

Amy Johnson said...

My mind is aswirl with ideas. Thanks, Janet.

This reminds me of author Amy Krouse Rosenthal's "The Money Tree" video on YouTube, and other videos by her. Watching those videos made me want to read her books.

Colin Smith said...

Elise: It's hard because if it was easy everyone would do it. :)

My main concern right now is finding people who care enough about anything I have to write anywhere. As evidenced by my meager blog views, dwindling Twitter followers, and empty ko-fi jar.

Hmmm... today's #vss365 prompt word is wallow. :)

Lennon Faris said...

This is the kind of thing that's super fun to imagine up before agent/ book deal happens, but not so fun to *have* to think up in a time crunch. A good excuse to daydream, right?

Colin! We've GOT to work on your presentation. You are a good writer, but no stranger would know that from listening to you. Start selling yourself like you're the next hotcake, and NOW, so when your book comes out, people will really believe it. Go, friend!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin If you want people to believe in you, YOU must believe in you first. You are a hell of writer my friend. I know you know that. Let others know you know it.

Colin Smith said...

Lennon and 2Ns: You guys are too kind! I know I can write. I have confidence in my abilities. My problem is no-one else cares enough about what I write to pay much attention--at least in ways that make it clear to me people are paying attention.

As I see it, there are a LOT of good writers out there. And there are LOTS of places you can go to read good stuff. It's not enough to be good. You have to stand out. You have to draw an audience to your work. And that's where I'm struggling. It's the same question non-fiction writers have to ask: why should you read me and not the thousands of other people? My big Catch-22 is the fact that the only places I have where I can advertise my writing are the places few people seem to care about: my blog and my Twitter account.

Anyway, I don't mean to hijack the blog... but if you have any suggestions... :)

Lennon Faris said...

upends coffee over Colin's head

Colin, seriously listen to yourself, friend:

"one else cares enough about what I write to pay much attention"

"the places few people seem to care about: my blog and my Twitter account"

Think about the way you promote other people's books. Would you ever, EVER say those things about THEIR work? even if it was true?

First step: stop putting yourself down. Human psychology says people get excited about things that other people are excited about. Focus on the people who like your stuff, and promote that to the world.

offers paper towel

E.M. Goldsmith said...

*swats Colin with a bushel of kale*

That should soak up some of the coffee dripping from your head, Colin. You will stand out when you finish a full-length book, get an agent and book deal, and follow some of this blog's excellent promotion ideas. You are a great writer.

Short fiction is great for some things - but making money is not one of them. Think of it as fun and keep doing it. No writing is wasted.

Write that book. That is your way to getting the acknowledgement you crave. Once you have a book on the shelves, people will pay even more attention to the short fiction. Don't worry about blog and twitter followers - you're doing the right things - keeping space occupied so an agent can check you out. It will make the process of propelling your book promotion easier with that established space. And it keeps you practicing.

Most writers go through periods of doubt and despair. My pug's last blog post complained that I was suffering a bout of discouragement. It'll make that success all the sweeter. Just keep on going. Don't give up.

This is hard, but it is not insurmountable. Look at all the blog readers that have found success over the last few years. Some of us are simply slower than others. And you have a bunch of kids, day job, and lots of demands on your time. You are doing amazing.

Yeah, it's hard to be patient and persistent at times. There's little we can control. We can't make the market demand what we write. We can't control an agent or editor's moods which might put us on the chopping block because the agent's latte was cold or the subway broke down two stops short of their office. We can only keep writing.

Just remember there is no such thing as a failure who keeps trying. It's all you can do. And boy, that is hard.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin
Nike Dory Nike Dory Nike Dory......

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Colin... I have tremendous respect for you as a writer and as a human being. You know that - I've told you as much via private correspondence.

I'm wondering if there's too much focus on gaining a following before you've even finished your ms. There are discussions about getting your social media ducks in a row before querying, but is it taking away from getting to "The End."

I have several real life friends who had no blog, limited FB followers, zip activity on twitter, all while working on their mss. After their books were complete (and after they found an agent and the books were published) is when they started a blog and amassed a following.

We're all behind you. We all believe in you. You need to believe in you. But you also need to get to The End.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...


Colin - you said "My problem is no-one else cares enough about what I write to pay much attention--at least in ways that make it clear to me people are paying attention."

You never know who is paying attention or when they'll show up to your words. Maybe someone enjoyed your story and made a note of your name to see what else you wrote. Maybe someone mentioned your blog to a friend, who will then check it out. But you won't necessarily ever know those things happened. Just because it's easier today to comment, email, message or whatever that we like something, doesn't mean we always take the time or have the time to do it.

Have faith, Colin, that your work is out there doing what it's meant to do. :)

Colin Smith said...

Wipes face

OK, OK, I hear you... but lest I be misunderstood, I'm not looking for lots of people to say "Yay Colin we think you're OSSUM!" Writers write to be read. I'm less inclined to write if no-one's reading. As you say, Elise I have a lot of demands on my time, and frankly I'm not one of those writers who will clear space to write. I really enjoy many of those other demands. But I also enjoy writing. It's one of the few things I do that I think I'm particularly competent at, and can offer the world by way of a positive contribution. It's also one of the few things people might actually pay me to do! But as I look at the span of years I have left on this planet and try to steward well that time, I need to know up-front that time spent writing articles for my blog (which, if you notice, skews very non-fiction, so it is along the lines Janet talks about in her article) as well as working on fiction is time spent on something people actually care enough to read. If no-one's going to read it, I may as well do something else.

Put another way: I take time every week to prepare for my Sunday School class. And I take that time because I know there will be people sitting in a room on Sunday morning who look forward to what I have to bring. I want them to hear something that will edify, encourage, and help. That makes the time spent preparing valuable and worthwhile.

This is what I want for my writing. And maybe I'm asking the impossible. Maybe that's too high a bar. But I know of other unagented, unpublished writers who have a large blog following, lots of Twitter followers, and all the other markers of an interested and engaged readership who may well buy their novel whenever it comes out. So I have to ask myself: What am I doing wrong? And I'm open to the fact that there are things I should be doing that I'm not... so I'm genuinely asking the question! :)

Wow... this is getting a bit real. I hope this conversation is useful to others. I don't want this to be all about me. :)

BrendaLynn said...

I just signed up, Colin. Is it too late to chime in that your writing is OSSUM?
There are two separate issues here. DO YOU and HOW TO.
“I think,” she said hesitantly, knowing full-well that she was out on a limb (and that she shouldn’t use adjectives and cliches), “I think it’s all a numbers game until you have something to advertise. In the last six months I’ve put a fair bit of time into building a social media presence. If my book doesn’t publish, have I wasted my time? Whacked creature that I am, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve had some laughs, learned some lessons, been inspired, angered, and confused. I’ve finished a book and, at a minimal financial cost to myself, am swimming with the sharks. And then there’s the writing. I wrote a sentence yesterday that was close to perfect. You know the feeling. It made my day. Maybe just having a good time is enough.”
As for How To, building a presence does have its tricks. Hashtags, humor, how-ya-doing. I just had a quick boo at your Twitter account. It would be pretty easy to doll that baby up for a night on the town.
Do not grow weary in doing good...

BrendaLynn said...

Ok I’m embarrassed but not enough to type that over again. Adverbs, you ninny.

Colin Smith said...

Hey, Brenda! Thanks!! And all y'all y'all y'all.

I have written a few novels. Been in the query trenches a few times. I'm at this point in my writing life after seven years of working on writing, trying to figure out what makes a good story, trying to figure out what it is I want to write, and studying Janet's blog. I know some of you have been at this way longer than me, but we're all in this with different motivations and for different reasons. What unites us is a desire to communicate well with words. Whether fiction, non-fiction, poetry, picture books--whatever. The point I'm at right now *deep breath* is to question everything about my writing. Do I have a good novel in me? (Yes, I can write a novel--but one that's worth writing?) Is fiction my thing? Should I just stick to theology? Or something else? I'm not considering giving up--I'm trying to find my strength and my audience. These are not questions I expect anyone here to be able to answer. Since you've all been so generous and patient with your comments, I just want to tell you where I'm at. And again, I'm open to any help as I work through these thoughts. :)

And Brenda, I'd love to hear your thoughts about how I can doll my Twitter baby up. I've about run out of ideas. :)

And Janet, sorry for hogging your blog for writer therapy! You're such a gem of a shark. I hope this is helpful at least to some of the lurkers. Maybe you find yourself in a similar position?

Colin Smith said...

BTW, my email address in in my Blogger profile if anyone wants to offer their thoughts privately.

BrendaLynn said...

Hair straight back today, Colin, but I will DM you by Monday.

MA Hudson said...

Colin - even if Jane Austen were to rise from the grave and start posting tweet-length fiction, I'd probably scroll straight past.
I'm not on twitter for fiction. I'm just not in that headspace in those moments. As for blogs - there's just too many out there for me to spend much time on.
A novel, though? Ahhhh, now that's my relaxo time. That's time I specifically set aside to dive deep into another world and luxuriate in an immersive, satisfying story.
I'd focus on getting a novel in tip-top shape and then hit the query trenches again. Workshops, book coaches, books on writing craft (Especially 'Writing the Breakout Novel') - do whatever it takes. We're all here waiting to buy your novel.

Colin Smith said...

MA: Thanks for the vote of confidence! :) Yeah, we all have our media preferences. I've been writing my blog for about seven years, and for me it's an outlet for my writing while I'm still unpublished. I guess that's why I see it as one barometer (not the only) of whether there's an audience for what I write.

Which brings us back to Janet's article today... kinda... :)

AJ Blythe said...

Colin, if I could banish anyone to Carkoon I would be sending you post haste, banished until you've used the shrivelled lima beans in the old silo to spell out on the bare fields of Carkoon "I'm an OSSUM writer" 4273 times.

Everyone's said it all (because Reiders rock), but we all know you can write. Worry about who is reading after you've published the thing you want everyone to read. If lots of followers pre-publication was a measure of success I'm doomed. Thank goodness it isn't.

I bet when you do publish you'll find success because you'll have a buncha us talking about it.

On-Topic...that's a very cool idea. I also love the idea of a group that rediscovers a city. Would be fun in a city like NY.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

As writers, we do lots of research. (Fr'ex, I know far more about distilling brandy than any Mormon should know. It has led to some very fascinating conversations with a few home distillers... who are then fascinated in how I handled this topic in my book. P.S.: said book came out two weeks ago.)

There must be ways to capitalise on the research we've done, to use it in other ways. Become fascinating to people in some way, and they'll also be fascinated that you're an author. They'll have that fascinating connection already, which will increase their interest in your book.

I love the idea of tours. I never thought of that. Wouldn't work for me, for reasons, but surely other ways of tapping into people's interests will. Many a non-fic article has been written from the research originally done for a novel. I'm planning on several workshops at the local library regarding audiobook production.

I am open to hearing further ideas. Y'all are a smart bunch.