By Bonnie Stanard
Promoting a book is a challenge. I've discovered word-of-mouth doesn't work very well, unless you connect to a “mouth” such as Walter Edgar or Oprah.
WORD OF MOUTH
Writers can’t count on friends reading their books. Some time ago prior to a Harry Potter book release, my friend Miriam could hardly wait to get her hands on a copy. Her enthusiasm prompted me to buy the book. I’m not sure I made it past page 25. Because I like Miriam (and we usually like the same things) you’d think she and I would have similar taste in books, but taste doesn’t add up like algebra equations.
Though I appreciate book signings hosted by independent book stores, the return on my signings has been minimal. As a professional courtesy, I’ve recommended the Beaufort Bookstore, McIntosh Book Shoppe, Indigo Books, and Fiction Addiction whenever the occasion permits. The advantage these stores have over Amazon and Barnes & Noble is that their inventory is vetted, and the staff is knowledgeable about their books.
Professional writer-advisors are unanimous—an internet presence is essential. I put together a website and opened Facebook and Twitter accounts. Inadvertently I set up two Facebook accounts and couldn’t get rid of one. And hashtag communication was inscrutable. I was in over my head and hired a media assistant. This time consuming and expensive effort had little if any effect on book sales.
At the recommendation of a friend, I committed $150 to an ad campaign with the website Goodreads. It’s an entertaining site for readers, but it was a waste of money and a frustrating experience for me. Because I found no “contact” menu option, it was impossible to get answers to questions or make a change to my ad copy.
I also peeled out a month’s rent to buy an Author Buzz bookclubbing package, which placed ads for my novel in several supposedly active websites for readers. As a promotion and part of the deal, I gave away over 25 copies of the book. If this generated activity, I missed the two or three extra sales.
Book festivals are fun, but the traffic is unpredictable. Book 'Em North Carolina was great two years ago, not so great last year (panel discussions can be good). The Cayce Festival of the Arts was busy, but I sold less than ten books. On the bright side, most of these events are attended by readers and provide opportunities to meet other writers.
This is not to say these efforts have been a waste of time. As I’ve said to fellow writers in our workshop, it’s hard to get our manuscripts accepted for publication, but it’s really hard if we don’t make submissions. Forget about the rejections and keep committed and professional. It’s the first step to success, and we won’t know if we can get to step two if we don’t pass the starting line.
Next month I’ll be a participating author on February 18 at the Amelia Island Book Festival and have sent in applications to the Pee Dee Author Expo in Florence (Feb. 11) and the Local Author Showcase at the Richland County Library in Columbia (Feb. 26). Mast General Store hosts book signings, and I’ve submitted an application but haven’t had a response.
Ambition doesn’t necessarily lead to success. I agree with Bill Bradley who said, “Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”