Monday, August 11, 2014

Auntie M's Guide to Greaseless Self-Promotion

"You know what's great about writing?  The marketing.  I tell you what: nothing makes me want to leap out of bed like the prospect of spending hours and hours flogging my book and talking to a whirling virtual maelstrom of indifferent strangers about how amazing I am."

Said nobody, ever.

Obviously, this whole book-pimping thing has been my personal ground zero for awhile now.  And you wanna know something?  I'm actually having a pretty good time.

Yes, I do worry about whether my friends and family aren't rolling their eyes and thinking "man, will she EVER shut up."

Yes, I have dropped a significant number of balls through technical incompetence, disorganization, and social burn-out.

But if you are trying to figure out how to promote your own work without acquiring that sort of filthy, greasy, need-to-brush-your-teeth feeling that you get when you have to leave off crafting beautiful, deathless prose and take up carnival barking to get people to look at it ...I got some ideas.

1. Don't make it all about you.  Make it about them.

My Auntie M is amazing at this.  (I'm staying with her for a few days just now - you may remember me waxing blissful about her place at this time last year.)  She's kind of like everybody's professional mom: when you come over, she is ALWAYS thinking about what you might like to do, or eat, what would be fun for you, who you might want to visit with and how to arrange that.  She is simply phenomenal.

And I think that's a good way to look at your own work, too.  It's so easy to feel gross when you're  looking out for #1 and trying to boost your own bottom line.  But if you believe in your own work, and think about the people who will enjoy it, then it gets easier to make your efforts about YOU helping THEM.  Sometimes that will involve you connecting them with your work.  Sometimes that will involve discussions about other people's work, or the big ideas and issues in your genre.  Rarely should it be a one-sided monologue.  But if you keep your focus on the other person, rather than yourself and your product, it is so much easier to leave feeling like you did something good for somebody - and leave them feeling like you are simply phenomenal.

Or at least, that's how I'm telling myself I suckered two dozen people into showing for a
9PM Saturday night reading - and 'phenomenal' doesn't begin to describe them.
2. Figure out where and how you shine.  Then be there.

Auntie M's secret mutant power (aside from awesome mom-ness) is people.  She wants to hear about your job, your hobbies, your spouse and kids and friends and relations.  She wants to know your whole life, and help you with the parts you might be struggling with.  But she also knows that the really important stuff can be hard to talk about in a group  So she has a real knack for putting herself in situations where she can have some one-on-one time with you: in the car, at a restaurant, going for a walk around the lake or through the park or to the corner store.  Those are the places where she can use her empathy-powers to the max, and give you her whole attention.

And you know, I know a lot of writers who are frustrated by all the work they're expected to do these days: social media and advertising and blog tours and the whole nine yards.  After this past month, believe me - I totally, TOTALLY feel that.  But the up side is that there are now so MANY ways to connect with people that you can focus on the ones that work for you.  Full confession, y'all: I am never going to be a Twitter superstar.  My brain-waves just don't oscillate that way.  But I am a *bad-ass* public speaker, a pretty good blogger, and I think I'm shaping up to be a fairly entertaining podcastee.  So I'll hold down the fort on Twitter, but most of my effort is going into blog posts (here and elsewhere) and getting my fabulous self in front of as many live humans and active microphones as possible.  And I'm enjoying it!

3. When you can't do it for yourself... do it for your posse.

Okay, so I'm traditionally published.  That means I have an agent, an editor, and a publisher, all of whom have a financial stake in this book's success.  But I also have people like Auntie M in my life, who have a huge emotional investment in this thing.  She's been cheering me on for years, raving to all her friends and coworkers and book-club buddies about her niece's great new novel, buying a whole box of copies for me to sign before she gives them out - I mean, really going the whole nine yards to help me make this thing a winner.

This is not only a map of my first week's sales, but also a remarkably accurate
picture of my social network's geographical distribution.

And I know not everybody has an Auntie M (cuz she really is one in a million, so statistically it just doesn't work.)  But I also think it's pretty rare for any of us - trad-pub or indie or whatever - to get to the finish line without somebody backing us.  Probably a whole slew of somebodies.  And although it's taken me a dickens of a long time to realize it, these backers really aren't just doing it to be nice, or to turn a profit, or because they feel obligated.  They're doing it because they are really, actually excited and proud and happy to see this big, long, slow-as-snail-snot project finally come to fruition.  So even when it's hard to feel like YOU deserve to be up on stage, it's really, really easy to feel like THEY deserve to see a return on their investment, and use those feelings of gratitude and indebtedness to push you forward.

So that's what I know about self-promotion so far.  Think about your readers.  Think about your strong suits.  Think about all the people who have helped you get this far.  Then get your ass out there and sparkle.

Now you go feed those hogs before they worry themselves into anemia!

1 comment:

  1. Tex, you may have the "pinky rating" for Grammaticats, but you're going to need an "Auntie M rating" for blog posts like this one. From the very first time we sort of e-met last year (after you won DL Hammons's WRiTE CLUB and SO rightfully so!), you have been nothing but the soul of encouragement to other writers, including me. But never forget—you yerself,ma'am, are an amazing WRITER, 'cause if you weren't, all the gratitude and "other-centeredness" of your marketing efforts would fizzle. (Okay, if the book were no good and you named it "The Worst Big Whorehouse in Sixes" you might get some additional takers ...)