05
Nov
10

Polite self-promotion

First off (and fitting, considering the meat of this post), my second novel, The Spirit Rebellion is now officially launched. Hooray! I have a post up on my blog with some reviews and gory details about how the book came into being (spoiler: it almost didn’t), so check it out if you like that sort of thing! Book 3, The Spirit Eater, launches December 1, so if you’re waiting on the series, you won’t be waiting long. Orbit is generous like that :D. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can see all my books and read sample chapters here).

So, the Spirit Thief has been officially out for a little over a month now. Truth be told, it’s been a hard 30 days for me. I do realize how ungrateful I sound when say that, and please know the difficulty had nothing to do with the wonderful readers who’ve bought my book or the wonderful people who helped me get it out there. As always, my problems start and end only with me.

The month has been difficult because I’ve been struggling to overcome a fear I didn’t know I had: a fear of self promotion. If you had asked me (and several people did) a few months ago “are you looking forward to promoting your book?” I would have (and did) answered an enthusiastic “of course!”  After all, I wrote the damn thing. Of course I think it is wonderful and amazing and worthy of reading, else I wouldn’t have missed playing all that Warcraft to write it (and rewrite it and query it and rewrite it again). Why wouldn’t I want to shout to the world how awesome I think my book is? After all, I’ve never exactly been a shy, retiring flower.

And yet, for a forward, confident person, I’ve suddenly become tongue tied on the subject of my own work. For example, when The Spirit Thief launched, I went to the bookstore to see my book on the shelf. It wasn’t there, so I asked the stock guy and, after checking the computers, he said it was in the back. He offered to go get me one, but I declined (I didn’t want to take one away from my home store where I’d told people it was going to be) and then… I left. I left without saying anything, and the whole time I’m screaming at myself,  “Rachel, tell them you’re the author, ask to see the manager, see if you can set up a signing, PROMOTE YOUR BOOK.”  But I just couldn’t, and I didn’t know why.

This rocked my world on a pretty fundamental level. I’d just failed at the most basic new author task, and I couldn’t tell you why. But then, after lots of emo-face thinking, I figured it out. In some ways, I’m a very southern girl. I was raised to think that bragging was the height of all rudeness (and, hence, evil). That a truly worthy deed will gain notice on its own. Self promotion is, in a sense, a little like bragging. You’re telling people about your accomplishments. And there lay the problem. If I’d told that book seller “hey, I’m the author, want to get together and do something promotional?”  I don’t think I would have been out of line, but I would have been calling attention to the fact that I’ve written a bo0k and asking for special treatment because of that, which set off all kinds of deeply rooted warning bells.

So I find myself in a dilemma. If I promote my book, I feel like I’m being rude. If I don’t promote my book, I increase my chances of sinking into oblivion and ruining my career. That can not happen, and so it’s time to get over myself. Gotta put on my big girl panties and put myself out there. But, you know, politely.

So here’s my question for you: what kind of book promotions caught your eye? What did you most enjoy? Web ads? Blog posts? Contests? Let me know in the comments (if you don’t mind, that is).


55 Responses to “Polite self-promotion”


  1. November 5, 2010 at 10:50 am

    I’m horribly shy about self-promotion myself, so I hope to get good tips.

    I do want to tell everyone that Spirit Thief is great fun! I highly recommend it!

  2. November 5, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Thanks so much, Deb! I did a big hand out at DragonCon, and I think that did some good. It was really hard to track, though. I wish people would say how they heard about the book when/if they bought it. Hmmm… I suddenly have more sympathy for those stupid questionnaire things companies want you to fill out!

  3. November 5, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    The #1 place books get added to my reading list from is “The Big Idea” on Whatever.

  4. November 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I know! I love that feature so much! I’ve actually sent Scalzi a request a while ago and recently sent a follow up since I hadn’t heard back one way or the other, so fingers crossed I might get to be a Big Idea-a-teer. That would be so awesome. We’ll see though.

  5. November 12, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    I happen to like The Big Idea from Scalzi but mainly because I like the feeling of connection to the writer that I get from that. I really love sample chapters read by the author via podcast. For example getting a chapter or two onto podcastle would fit or hell even a short interview to promote yourself and your work.
    I think that a couple of early Spirit Thief chapters read by you or fans posted on orbit your site or magic district….

  6. 6 Beth
    November 28, 2010 at 1:25 am

    I’m always looking for new books I might like. Scalzi’s Big Idea is a place I like to look. Jim Hines’s First Book Friday is another. That’s where I actually heard about The Spirit Thief, and it intrigued me so much that now I must read it. Other than those, it’s usually word of mouth from my friends who read, and sometimes from their reviews on Goodreads.

  7. December 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    I bought the book because my daughter is part of the Magic District group and she has “suggested” I buy the books promoted here.

    It was a VERY good idea–I’m about halfway through it and enjoying it thoroughly.

  8. 8 Jim Mount
    December 29, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Think of it this way…when you finish writing, no one will know how good your work is. If your last name was Heinlein, you wouldn’t have a problem. But you don’t have that history. So you’re giving people a little nudge to try your work. It isn’t really self=promotion, it’s more of an opportunity to connect. Be assured, if your work is no good, no amount of advertising will sell it. Keep telling yourself that. Instead of self-promotion, think of it as a chance to meet your audience, your fellow enthusiasts, your fellow book lovers. You can also think of it as a chance to learn from them, what they like and don’t like (in general, not necessarily about your work). So the self-promotion becomes research for your next book…or for some other work. And like all learning, it’ll make you a better writer.

  9. 9 Allen Edwards
    January 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    No primary postings in over two months … it’s always sad to witness the death of a good web site/blog.

    Sigh.

  10. January 29, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    If you had asked me (and several people did) a few months ago “are you looking forward to promoting your book?” I would have (and did) answered an enthusiastic “of course!” After all, I wrote the damn thing. Why wouldn’t I want to shout to the world how awesome I think my book is? After all, I’ve never exactly been a shy, retiring flower. Of course I think it is wonderful and amazing and worthy of reading, else I wouldn’t have missed playing all that Warcraft to write it (and rewrite it and query it and rewrite it again).?

  11. March 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I bought your book because I read about it here.

    And I read about it here because my daughter also posts to Magic District.

    (But I haven’t read it yet. At the moment I seem to be too busy to do much reading.)

  12. May 2, 2011 at 8:10 am

    I’m struggling with this very thing myself. I have even less to show for it though, being unpublished. I know that a ‘presence’ can help to sell a book. But, like you, I’m a Southerner and on some level, I feel it rude.

    Still, I hope your book is doing well and I think I’ll try to get my hands on it. Consider this bit of self-promotion above to be successful. :)

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  15. 15 Meagan
    January 4, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Rachel,

    When I’m looking for new books to read, I tend to follow my recommendations on Goodreads.com. The recommendations are based off of books you’ve read and rated/reviewed (very similar to Amazon’s recommendations, based off of the things you’ve previously viewed/purchased).

    So for me, the cover, and the blurb on the back of the book, are extremely important. The advertising here is the most important to me. I’d say at least 60% of the time it is what sells me the book.

    Reader reviews are also extremely important to me. Most reviewers that obtain ARC’s will post their reviews on Goodreads, as well as their own personal blog/website. Then, I can “follow” their reviews on GR and learn ahead of time how well a book “performed” and whether or not it met (my) trusted reviewers expectations. I’d say 30% of the time they sway my opinion on whether or not to purchase a book. The last 10% is probably whim. :-D

    I also religiously check the blog of Ilona Andrews because they regularly post snippets of upcoming work as well as bits about their daily lives (mostly humorous) and posts on writing/publishing. The teasers keep me excited about what is forthcoming from them and serves to regularly keep them in my thoughts. It doesn’t have to be a long snippet. Something quick and punchy, usually humorous dialogue or the setting up of a scene. Enough to send me squeeing for more. Since they post often, at least 2-3 times a week, – if not more – I get a regular infusion of their “writing voice” in every post. They also post other promotional things, such as recommending to their readership of books they think we might want to check out. They’ve led me to a few books that I would otherwise not have read. You might consider checking them out (with an eye toward the type of content they post on their blog), because of all the author’s blogs I’ve read, theirs is the one I keep going back to. There is no other blog that I follow like I do that one. I also buy all their content, pretty much without fail. So, they have to be doing something right.

    I do urge you to call up that local bookstore and set up a promotional signing. It’d be good for you and the bookstore. Maybe a reading at a local library too? Maybe a Q & A at your favorite local coffee shop? Maybe find and get involved in any local writing groups?

    Obviously for me though, most of my content advertisement come in digital form, since I live in such a rural location. Anyway, hope that helps somewhat…

    Meagan

  16. 16 Jeff
    February 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I’m not an author so I don’t speak from experience on the topic, but I think I can speak from a logical point of view here. When you write a book, getting congratulated and told how wonderful it is, would naturally be what your hoping for throughout the painful process of writing, editing, and finishing. Everyone desires appreciation for their efforts at some level, and I agree you really do not want to ask for it, for that act will debase any positive feedback you receive afterwards.

    However, as a new author there is another part of your job, after you write, edit and publish your book. You must sell your book, and potentially your brand. When you enter a bookstore and set up a book promotion with the manager, remember you are not promoting your self, you are promoting your product. It would be no different if were selling paper towels, or home made cookies.

    If you really struggle with these discussions yourself, consider finding an agent, (be it a professional, or a trusted friend or family member) who can do these things for you. If we can’t get your book prominent shelf space in your home town book store, how well can we do further away.

    Good luck. I really hope to see you succeed.

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  21. July 6, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Hey!

    I’m not a Spambot – I promise. :)

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this as a young writer who is working on his first ‘big work’ and I agree with your sentiments – it’s hard to know of you are being rude or if you are being helpful. A few things I have picked up from authors that I have talked to about it at small conventions:

    1) Goodreads.com is a great way to get the word out about your book. Make sure you are listed there.

    2) Don’t be afraid to politely ask a reader for reviews. Unless you are George R.R. Martin, then you probably could use a bit of a bump in the listings. It’s OK to ask, politely and occassionally, for reviews. I’ve seen many web authors do this via their blog or in the ‘feedback’ part of the website.

    3) Do ask people what they think and chat with then genuinly when you make appearances related to your book. I go to several small conventions and I’m always excited to chat with the authors.Some enjoy this, some don’t. The ones who enjoy it and are friendly, I tend to buy more from. I really liked the first work of one of the gentleman I had read (he was a Nebula winner) and wanted to chat with him during a dead moment at the art faire he had a table at. I waited patiently for my turn and was ignored. Soooooo I didn’t buy the sequel and took him off my reccommended list.

    Anyway, I think your post is inisightful and accurate and your commentors had several good bits of feedback. Thanks for your thoughts.

    ~SE

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