April Cruel

Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work.

by Delilah S. Dawson

Let’s talk about marketing, shall we?

Random AWP moment

Random AWP moment

It’s 2012. I’m sitting at a table in the front of the room, a microphone poised to capture my every word. At this local writing conference, I am considered a rock star. Everyone in the audience wants what I have–a three-book contract with a traditional publishing company. Their eyes are hungry, their pens poised over notebooks. We take a question from the crowd.

“How do I build a platform and make money with my blog?” a woman asks.

“Build a time machine and go back to 2005 and start your blog then,” I say.

Because it’s the truth. In this oversaturated market, the only ways to build a following and profit from it are to have been around for 5-10 years already or to already be famous. The woman sits down, unhappy with my answer. But no one else on the panel has a better one. Because there is no easy answer, no secret to building a following.

Scary, right?

It scares me, too.

From the very beginning of my writing career, I’ve been told that publishers want a writer to have a brand, a platform, a blog, a built-in army of fans. But that was 2009, and now it’s 2015, and that doesn’t work anymore. Book blogs become paid services, giveaways become chum pits, conference-goers dump purses full of business cards out in the trash to make room for more free books that they won’t read. It is virtually impossible to get your blog seen or your book discovered. We are glutted with information, and yet our answer to “How do I get people to buy my book?” is social media marketing, which is basically throwing more information out into the void.

Why?

1. Because Twitter doesn’t sell books.

It is a sad fact that if every one of my Twitter followers–which is 9,631, as of this post– bought my next book, HIT would hit the New York Times bestseller list. BOOM. Easy. One success like that helps an author with every stage of their career, raising their advances, giving them more bargaining power, and lending them a sort of street cred that even my grouchy Luddite grandfather understands and respects. Looking at my sales numbers, my followers are not following me for the purpose of buying my next book, and that’s totally okay. They’re probably there for my brownie recipes and #badscarystories. But the point is that whatever a publisher sees when checking my Klout score doesn’t necessarily translate into book sales. Whatever form of alchemy causes a person to click BUY IT NOW runs deeper than simply hearing the message every two hours as if the author is an insane cuckoo clock.

2. Because Facebook hides posts for blackmail purposes.

Back in 2007, Facebook was beautiful in its simplicity. The truth goes on setting you free here. . . .

5 replies »

  1. That’s why my blog and media add ons aren’t for selling anything. They are just for me to write and connect with people. I actually tend to dislike the really pushy bloggers who say buy my book…it drives me nuts. If I was going to buy your book it would because your writing speaks to me, not because you ask me to.

  2. Honesty, thank god! From someone who just took a blogging break because she felt inadequate and totally incapable of writing anything different or tangible with the glut of writers promoting their work on blog after blog…this post was a breath of fresh air.

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