Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Permission to not Make Videos, Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise Go Viral, by Jess Lourey

image Authors, like any business owner in a competitive field, are expected to promote their products. It has always been this way, the need to set yourself apart from the pack and carve creative time out of the haunch of the promotional beast. Just ask Charles Dickens, who literally collapsed while on book tour. I don’t know if the pressure for authors to promote is stronger now, but I do know it’s more varied: Facebook, Good Reads, signings, blogs, blog tours, videos, Twitter, phone-ins to book groups, appearances at conferences, newsletters, is there more? Probably. And I’m probably not doing that, either.

You see, two years ago, about the time August Moon, the fourth book in my series came out, I gave myself permission to pare down my promotional imageobligations. I did this with a great deal of guilt shaded by jealousy as I watched my fellow authors promote circles around me. At least at first I did. But now, I revel in this tiny bubble I’ve chosen for myself, feeling only a twinge of guiltosy when I hear about new promotional breakthroughs for writers. It’s for sure the next best thing, let’s call it Twitbooking, but it’s not for me.

I’ve brought my focus back to writing. I blog monthly on the awesome Inkspot, I save enough money to attend one conference a year, and I set up a dozen or so signings in my region and happily show up for TV and newspaper interviews when a new book comes out. All that extra time that I used to spend desperately riding the next promotional fad I’ve channeled into volunteering for MWA (SinC is also a great place to invest some time, as are many other local and national writing outfits) and the rest goes right back into writing, or my kids, or my boyfriend.

That’s my balance. And each book sells better than the last. That might be because I’m building an audience with the series, or it imagemight be because my writing has improved as I’ve made more time for it. Either way, I’m happier, and so are the people around me. To those of you who promote across the spectrum, I applaud you and I send some spare energy sparks your way to use when you feel overwhelmed. To those of you who are scrambling to do it all and who find you just can’t, I give you permission to stop Twitbooking and redirect that energy into being the most amazing writer you can be. We’re all in this together, I believe, and we all have to find our own right way.

There are many good ways to promote a book. There are also many good ways to write a book. Problem is, they both take time. What is your balance?

27 comments:

Keith Raffel said...

Jess, it all makes sense, but I sure did love seeing you out here at M is for Mystery in San Mateo when you were less balanced.

Lisa Bork said...

Jess, I applaud your choice. I didn't even wait for permission to make the same decision.

And I found your books on my library shelf years ago without any promotional assistance. They have all the best writers there :)

Jess Lourey said...

Keith, you're someone who always finds time to support friends and writers, and I'm forever grateful you took the time to hang with me during that tour. I promise to come unbalanced again in the future.

Jess Lourey said...

Lisa, you're a sweetheart! But how'd you fight the pressure to promote right off the bat?

Lisa Bork said...

Jess, I tried a little of it, found the results to be less than stellar and the effort unenjoyable, and then listened to my aunt, a huge reader, when she said, "Be patient. Readership will grow in time through word of mouth recommendations."

Jess Lourey said...

She is wise, Lisa. It seems, from the outside looking in, that a handful of promotional efforts pay off big for a handful of people in the same way that a handful of slot machines pay off, but that if you write good books, people will always find them.

Alan Orloff said...

For my book (since it was my first book and I didn't know any better), I didn't want to say "no" to any promotional opportunity. So I didn't, and I think I spread myself a little thin, at least on the writing front. Did any of it do any good? Who the heck knows? I think I might be saying "no" to a few opportunities when the next book rolls around.

Lois Winston said...

I learned something with my first publisher. If the publisher isn't behind you with support and promo, there's little an author can do to overcome that. Yes, some authors who get no publisher support have been blessed by the Buzz gods and have seen their books skyrocket to the top of various bestseller lists, but they're few and far between.

As writers, our first job is to write the best books possible. After that it's all about priorities. Sounds like you have your priorities set correctly, Jess. Good for you!

Jess Lourey said...

I did the same thing, Alan, only I did it with my first three books. I didn't say no to anything, and strung myself thin financially and time-wise. Sounds like you're learning much sooner than I. Promote smarter not harder, right?

Jess Lourey said...

"Blessed by the Buzz gods"--that's great, Lois!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Good post, Jess. As authors, we have to make decisions that suit our personal needs and stick to it. I think most of us jumped in at first to the point of near drowning.

I've cut way back on store book signings and those I do are only local or dovetail with another event. I'd rather do a few focused speaking engagements that reach more people and result in more sales. I set my promotional calendar 6-9 months ahead and stick to it, even if it means turning down opportunities. When I first started out, I booked every weekend and never said no to a request. Now I only book a couple a month and not both Saturday and Sunday.

I Twitter, Facebook and Blog, but limit it to 15-20 min a day max. And I've stopped joining new networking groups and have left several others.

I've learned to weigh the value of an activity before agreeing to it. It was a hard but valuable lesson.

G.M. Malliet said...

There are several networking groups I belong to that I keep meaning to leave, since I never visit them anymore. Twitter and Facebook, and once a month on this blog, are pretty much it for me, too.

Jess Lourey said...

I think you and I have similar personalities when it comes to promotion, Sue Ann. We want to do it all, be everywhere, not miss a chance to make the most of this amazing opportunity we've been given to be writers. I'm relieved that you've also made a conscious decision to find a balance. It lets me off the hook a little. :)

Jess Lourey said...

I hear you, Gin. I wonder, as a side topic, how many of us are members of networking groups or bookstore listservs that we don't necessarily want to be a part of but that we don't actively leave because it's not a priority or because we don't want to offend anyone.

I know I keep getting regular emails from an indie mystery bookstore that never returned my emails when I tried to set up a signing but I don't want to ask to be removed (no option for doing it automatically) because I don't want to get blacklisted.

Darrell James said...

I'm still in that "Never Turn Anything Down" phase. I'm wondering when I'll hit the wall?

G.M. Malliet said...

Jess - I have the same dilemma: I receive many many emails I just don't have time to read.

A side note: Even if you use the automatic opt-out option, they can probably tell it's you, if your email address is remotely like your name. Anyone know for sure?

Cricket McRae said...

Yay for balance! I applaud you, Jess. Recently I've been on the same page, taking a serious look at what promotion I've been doing and what has and hasn't worked. I've cut back on most of it, frankly, though I still spend a little time on Facebook and I blog. Funny, though: Now I'm blogging a lot more about how to keep balance in the writing life, which is good for me in the long run.

Keeping in mind the 80/20 rule, where 20% of your effort results in 80% of payoff, I'd rather spend the time -- and ENERGY -- writing.

Jess Lourey said...

Darrell, I think some people are natural promoters and they harvest as much energy as they put out there. Me, I'm too much of an introvert to get joy out of a lot of it. Maybe you're the publisher's dream, someone who feels energized rather than drained by promotion?

Jess Lourey said...

I bet you're right, Gin, but if the sender is using Vertical Response or a similar email organizing system, wouldn't they have to check the opt-outs to see the names? Otherwise, I could sneak out under the radar.

Jess Lourey said...

That's a good ratio, Cricket. Cheers to more writing!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Gin, generally people can tell who opts out of their newsletters and announcements, but they don't receive any specific notices about it. On my Veritical Response account I can go down my master list and see who has opted out, but that takes time. I can also remove them from the list, but don't because I want to make sure I don't accidentally add them again down the road.

Darrell hit a good point when he said he's still in the "Never Turn Anything Down" phase. When first starting out, I think it's important for an unknown author to put themselves out there as much as possible. Once a solid reader foundation is built, you can slow down and pick and choose. People can't buy your books if they don't know about them. And if they don't buy your books, in short order there will be no reason for you to be out there.

Terri Bischoff said...

Jess -
I'm glad you did promote like a madwoman at the beginning. Otherwise I don't know when I would have discovered your books. I still remember the package you sent to the store with the Nut Goodie inside. That totally tipped the scales in your favor :D

I'm glad you've found a balance. It fits you well.

Jess Lourey said...

Haha! Thanks for the perspective Terri. I forgot about the Nut Goodie bribes I sent out with May Day. If they are what cultivated our relationship, they were worth every penny.

So, I guess I'll add this to the promotional mix: I agree with Sue Ann, that with your first book, put yourself out there completely and don't turn anything down, to the point of making yourself and your family crazy. You have to strike the match for the flame to have a chance, or some other silly metaphor that makes clear you have to jump in before you decide the best way to swim. (why can't I stop metaphoring?)

And remember that everyone who looks at your book, readers and booksellers and reviewers alike--is doing you a favor. Candy and good manners never go out of style.

Kathleen Ernst said...

It *is* all about balance. But Old World Murder will be my sixteenth book, and I still do everything I can to promote. I don't enjoy it all, I've certainly gotten smarter about promoting, and I do say no when I need to. I gave up a teaching gig this spring, and do very few school visits these days because they are largely more stress and work than they're worth (in many ways--the kids are always great!) Still, I work very hard at promotion.

I do this in part because if the series doesn't do as well as I'd like it to, I don't want to wonder if I could have done more. And in part because at the moment I'm supporting myself and my husband with my writing. I need all the help I can get.

I do strive for balance, and not just between writing and promotion. In life, too. It's an ongoing journey!

Interesting post, Jess.

Jess Lourey said...

That's very awesome that you're making a living off of the writing, Kathleen, and enough for two! I think that's a goal of all of ours, and you're there. Hats off to you!

Carol Grace said...

Thanks Jess, for saying what I want to say. Enough promo, more books.
Life is too short for Tweets and Twitter.

Jess Lourey said...

"Life is too short for Tweets and Twitter." Perfect sum-up for this discussion, Carol. Thank you!