Monday, March 2, 2009

Self-Promotion & the Introverted Writer

I’d rather have dentistry without anesthesia then stand in front of an audience at a book reading. I taught a couple of classes in romance writing a few years ago, but I gave it up because public speaking was giving me nervous palpitations.

The introvert in me rebels at putting myself out there. It’s as if I’m standing naked outside a bookstore hollering, “Here I am! Buy my book! It’s good! Really it is! Honest!”

Can’t I just stay in my room and write? That’s what I really want to do. Why do I have to spend so much time on promotion?

The answer is simple. I can write the best book in the world, but if no one knows about it, no one is going to read it. Having people read and enjoy my books is my ultimate goal. Well, that and making a small fortune from my writing, but that’s a topic for another blog.

So self-promotion is a necessary evil. If you’re an introvert like me, what are the best ways of promoting? What gives you the most bang for your buck, and what forms of promotion are the best ways of selling books, without actually having to make a live appearance?

Lesley Anne McLeod (www.lesleyannemcleod.com), a writer of Regency romances, says that sometimes promotion is frustrating “like trying to get someone in another Universe to notice you.” She uses various introvert-friendly forms of promotion, such as creating book trailers, participating in online live chats, writing a blog, and having a page on MySpace. Of all her online ventures Lesley Anne believes her website is her most successful.

“I think the website is my best tool, and of it, the contest and the free stories are the best hooks for customers. Building my mailing list is always an aim of mine, and promoting the website wherever I can.”

What about buying advertising? I asked my editor and friend Judith B. Glad (www.uncialpress.com and www.judithbglad.com) whether paid advertising was worth the investment.

“I think the answer is yes and no. You do have to spend some money to promote, but you don't have to spend a fortune.” Jude says that when she was first published she bought some ads in Romantic Times. “I saw a tiny blip in sales with each review, but we're talking just a few more sales than the previous quarter, so who's to say that wasn't due to pure chance.”

Do bookmarks sell books? Jude says, “I think if you have books in paper, then having bookmarks to insert… is worthwhile. Having bookmarks for ebooks seems kind of contradictory.” Lesley Anne, whose books are available as ebooks, disagrees. “I really think bookmarks are worth while--just for getting the name out and about.”

Last year I attended the 2008 EPIC Conference (Electronic Published Internet Connection www.epicauthors.com). One of the workshops I took in was called “Promotion: You want me to do what?” put on by Sherry Wille (www.derr-will.com) and Susanne Marie Knight (www.susanneknight.com). Susanne had some interesting and mostly simple ideas about promoting online that suits the introvert in me:

Having a great website (of course).
Email signature line. Be sure to use it and vary it.
Reciprocal links: Share links with other authors and place on your “Links Page”.
Offer free excerpts on your website. You can also post them to lists that allow excerpts such as simplypromos@yahoo.com or romanceexcerptsonly@yahoo.com Be sure to create your excerpts in PDF before sending them out.
Write articles and post on your website and other websites.
Press releases: A lot of sites will post your press release for free. A couple to try are http://www.clickpress.com and http://www.prfree.com
Join forums, bulletin boards
Participate on author days on web groups. Try events scheduled by publishers and groups like ebooklove@yahoo.com and karenfindoutaboutnewbooks@yahoo.com
Start a blog and comment on other blogs you enjoy.

Hmm. I do a couple of those things but not all. It looks like I really have to step up my game.

So, in the name of shameless self-promotion I want to tell you that I have a new book coming out on March 6, 2009 from www.awe-struck.net called “Till September.” Check my website for an excerpt and review. Sign the guestbook on my website at www.janarichards.net and you’ll be eligible to win a download copy of “Till September”. I’ll make the random drawing for the prize on March 15, 2009. Next week I’ll talk about more extroverted methods of promotion.

In the meantime, this is me shouting “Here I am! Buy my book! It’s good! Really it is! Honest!”

If you’re published, what do you do to self-promote? How much time do you spend on it? If you are pre-published, do you have a website? Do you think an online presence is necessary for you?

Jana

15 comments:

Captain Hook said...

Interesting post, Jana. Though I must claim to being the complete opposite of you.

Public speaking is something I actually enjoy and am used to (though not because I'm published :(). When I was a kid, I was the only "handicapped" child in my school who was not in the special education classroom. So each new school year I would have to do an hour long speech with Q&A to my classmates to explain to them why having only one hand did not make me eligible for spec ed.

When I finally moved on to junior high school, I stopped doing it for my classes, but my little sister who had just started first grade started taking me in as her Show & Tell once a year. Since then, I've done speeches regarding my arm for various groups.

It was probably easier for me to begin with though since the word shy isn't in my vocabulary.

Karen said...

Hi Jana, I hope you had a wonderful warm holiday.

I'm going to comment as a reader today. I love free excerpts and free stories. I also think guest blogging and author interviews on blogs are helpful in getting a person's name out there. I've come across authors I never would have heard of otherwise checking out blogs. A professional looking website is mandatory in my opionion (for what its worth). I've been known to jot down names of authors I want to check out on a list and stick it in my purse for when I'm at the library or in a bookstore.

Great post, Jana, and good luck with your promotion. I off to your website.

Susanne Marie Knight said...

Hi Jana! Thanks so much for the mention in your blog. I'm very glad you found some useful tips on promoting from the presentation back in Oregon's EPICon. :)) And good luck with TILL SEPTEMBER's release at the end of the week. Cool!

Susanne

Susanne Marie Knight
http://www.susanneknight.com
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!

Janet C. said...

Hey, Jana - as usual a very insightful post. As a pre-published author, promotion is one of the areas I think about in the whole picture business sense. One of the reasons I decided to join the chicks was self-promotion, but a baby step (there was no way I was ready to start blogging on my own). I am thinking website - everything that I've read said it can't hurt, and when the time comes to announce a sale, well, I'll be ready (and even perhaps have a few followers).

I have a blog for you to check out - http://shrinkingvioletpromotions.blogspot.com/
I've only just come across it and am still going through the archives, but it looks interesting and helpful.

And for an introvert, I think you're doing a fabulous job promoting yourself:)

Janet

Jana Richards said...

Hi Captain Hook,
I wish I had your moxy. I'm not sure how I would have felt being taken to show and tell! Good on you.

I'm fairly comfortable with Internet type promotions where there is a certain amount of anonymity. I have done in person presentations about romance writing but it is definitely not my favorite thing to do. For me, any kind of networking or public speaking is something I have to screw up my courage to do.

Thanks for your comment.
Jana

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karen,
I had a wonderful holiday, but today it's back to reality. I'm trying to get used to the cold again. Sigh.

I agree with you about the free reads and excerpts. Recently I read a comment from a fellow author on one of the loops I'm on and she said she found that one of the things that brought traffic to her site were the free reads. I have several free reads on my site so please take a look.

I'm pretty happy with my website, but I worry that it's not as professional looking as I would like it to be. After all, I do it myself and I'm not a designer. I try to keep it as current and as easy to navigate as possible.

Thanks Karen.
Jana

Jana Richards said...

Hi Susanne,
Glad to see you here! I learned a lot about promotion from your workshop and from the EPIC conference in general. I wish I could have made it this year to the conference but unfortunately it didn't work out. EPIC is definitely a worthwhile group to be a member of.

Thanks for commenting,
Jana

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I definitely would not have been ready to blog on my own either. For one thing, blogging more than once a week would have been difficult with all of my other committments. But I think the main reason for me is the feeling of safety in numbers. It's good to know I've got someone watching my back if I get into trouble (which I frequently do with technology).

I'm going to check out the site you mentioned. Maybe I can find like-minded introverted writers there!

Jana

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Hi, Jana. I have a caution for writers to add to your promotion post. Authors should try not to change their website address or email addresses, if at all possible! I had to change mine, and it's a challenge. The change causes a lot of problems--everything from what the search engines find, to reviews with the wrong links, to having to change all your bookmarks, business cards, etc. etc. Think carefully about your host and your domain name and stick with them. You'll save yourself a lot of time and trouble, and keep your name and brand in front of people much more easily.

Good luck with your new release, and thanks to all the Prairie Chicks!

Lesley-Anne

www.lesleyannemcleod.com

Jana Richards said...

Hi Lesley Anne,
Glad you could join us!

I agree, changing a web-site name would be a nightmare. Luckily, mine is just my name. The website template company I signed up with provided me with a '.net' address, but I also purchased the '.com' address and 'pointed' it to my website. That way, no matter if someone looks for me under janarichards.net or janarichards.com they can still find me. That was a little hint I picked up at last year's EPIC conference.

Thanks again, Lesley Anne, for your insights on promotion. Your help, as always, was invaluable.

Jana

Anita Mae Draper said...

Jana, I read your post first thing this morning and answered it... or so I thought until I just checked and nope. So much for sleep-working.

It's a great post. I can't speak in public unless I know the people are my friends and won't throw bad fruit at me.

I was raised that you don't brag about yourself which in effect, is what self-promotion is. My blog changed all that. It must've because my titles tend to lean toward, 'I Won!' or 'I'm a Finalist' etc now. :)

Thanks for the links, Jana. I'll be checking them out.

Capt Hook - loved your story. My youngest son took his oldest sister in for show and tell a couple times when she was home because she'd been to India and New Zealand. At least that's what he said but we knew it was only because she's 20 yrs older than him and she'd moved away before we moved here so no one believed she existed.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Oh I forgot - Woo hoo, Jana!!!

A new release - it must be so exciting!

Um... you're doing a post on self-promotion, girl... where's the photo of your new cover? LOL

Suse said...

Hey Jana, welcome back to the Great White North. Congratulations on your next book launch.

I don't have too much trouble getting up in front of people anymore after teaching for 23 years. Although my audience is a captive audience, so maybe if I had to get up in front of people I would want to buy a book of mine, that might be a different story.

I think a website is still the most important form of promotion. When I hear of a writer or a book I want to check out, I usually look for a website. I don't have a website yet, but only because I can't figure out what I want to focus on.

I also think business cards are easy to carry around and handout.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
That's exactly how I feel about self-promotion. You don't want to brag or be the centre of attention. How Canadian of us! You got over your shyness but I'm still working it.

Promotion is like another job on top of writing. People who know a lot about this stuff say that if you spend 5 days a week writing you should probably spend 1 day on promotion, or about 20% of your writing time. I'm not sure exactly how much time I spend on promotion but at times it can be significant.

Yes, I thought about my cover when I was in Texas, but by then it was too late. I promise I'll put it next week's post when I talk about more extraverted types of promotions.

Jana

Jana Richards said...

Hi Suse,
A website is probably a writer's best promotional tool. I guess the main focus of my website is to sell my books so I have direct links to my publisher where they can be purchased. Also, I want readers to get to know me and my writing so that's why I offer free reads. I hope if they like the free reads they'll come back for the books.

A publicist who spoke at the EPIC conference last year said that a writer wants to leave as many 'tracks' in the Internet as possible. You leave tracks by having a website, by blogging and by leaving comments on other blogs, by doing interviews and by participating in other on-line promotional activities. Hopefully if you leave enough tracks, readers will find their way to you and your books.

Business cards are good, but I find I really only use them if I go to a conference or something like that. I'm not so good at giving them out during my regular life.

Cheers,
Jana