Why I’m not good at publicity

I’m not very good at publicity.

Not for myself, anyway.  Maybe I could sell other people’s books but I find the whole idea of talking about how wonderful I am to be pretty embarrassing.

It’s not because I’m modest. I’m certainly not humble. I like most of my books, even love some of them. But my record with publicizing them is pathetic.

I’ve had a website for more than a decade, but only had a nice one put together a few years ago. And I don’t know how long I’ve been doing this blog, but it only just occurred to me a couple weeks ago that, gee, I could put it on my own website, too. Duh.

I’ve done bookstores and panels and that kind of thing, often with other writers. And the one thing I take away from them is that we all seemed to be trying too hard, looking a little too bright-eyed. And then there are those awful solo book-signings where customers zip past the table, refusing to make eye contact lest—what? They’ll be grabbed by the long hook I have stashed underneath with the extra books? Glared at for not stopping? Seduced into my evil web?

Back when I had nothing to show for years of poverty but a few beautiful hardcovers, I went to conferences, put myself out there in the hustling world, built up credit card debt for travel, but hardcovers? “When’s it coming out in paperback?” they’d ask.

I truly believe that now, with e-books and all the other opportunities to sell quantities of books, it’s not only important to hawk our wares, but a good idea. The chance is there to become known. To sell, sell, sell. The field is huge but surely the lovely yellow daisies can be seen if we plant enough of them. I have no idea what that metaphor means. I’ll try again. No. I won’t.

Reviews are important, so we have to work on getting those. But recently I heard much to my shock that people are paying for them. The information came in at a slant and zipped right past my head. I don’t want to think about it, so I haven’t. I’m busy. Writing a book.

I got a close look at how bad I am at all this when my e-publisher asked for my mailing list this past week. There were huge numbers of people on that list I’ve never heard of. So I set out to edit it down, realizing I hadn’t looked at it for several years. Then I discovered I had no idea how to send anyone a mailing list. Then I discovered that while trying to edit it, I had consigned it to some far-off corner of the computer’s brain.

It took me two days to get a usable list to her. I’m exhausted. Will I sell enough books to pay for two days of hard, brain-rattling labor? But then, the only reason it was hard labor was that I haven’t kept it up because I’m bad at publicity.





7 Responses

  1. I’ve been publishing books since 1990 and refuse to do sit and signs. They’re a total waste of time. I’m an extrovert with acting experience and a good reader of my own work., I speak widely at colleges, universities, libraries, museums, et al. and enjoy it. But I won’t sit there like a mendicant begging people to buy my book.

  2. I’m better at one-on-one or small groups than I am at internet marketing. They say it’s not about sell sell sell, but about contact contact contact. Interact with readers, they say. Write reviews, blog, twit, blah blah blah, they say. Right.
    I’m curious about your publisher asking for your mailing list. I have lists for each of my various activities, and I wouldn’t dream of using some of them for commercial purposes. Think about it–if I started getting emails about Tupperware parties hosted by someone I knew only from a hiking group, I’d be offended. Wouldn’t you? It would go straight to spam.
    Good luck with the next book.

  3. Shelley, I first met you at a panel at some kind of conference. I met Janet LaPierre at a bookstore signing. These meetings were at least 25 years ago. So when I went into the publishing business w/ the Daniels 15 years ago, you and Janet were the first authors I called. (And over the years I’ve bought your books, even hardcovers!) So you never know when promotional activities will pay off. I think of it as sowing 100 seeds, and one or two will come up.
    BTW, just to set the record straight, we weren’t the e-publishers that asked for your mailing list!

  4. Meredith is right, of course. But sowing those seeds can take a lot out of you! And much as I know I need to update my website, other things keep getting in the way.

    Like the little tree sitting in our living room, still undressed. Now that’s a whole nother blog.

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