Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Dammit, Jim, I'm an author not a marketing expert!


When I saw this week’s topic I immediately thought of Star Trek’s long-suffering Dr. Leonard McCoy who seemed, on a regular basis, to be asked to perform miracles above and beyond the call of his vocation as a medical doctor. You’d think fixing up the crew after they tangled with hostile aliens would have been enough, but no – everyone always wanted more from ‘Bones’ McCoy.*

I can sort of relate. When I first picked up a pen and decided I wanted nothing more in the world than to be a published author, I thought that was all I’d have to be. I would learn how to write, I would breathe life into all the stories floating around in my head and eventually, through the grace of several higher powers, I would become an author.

Now that I’m here smack dab in the middle of the publishing industry, I’ve learned the unfortunate lesson that, like Dr. McCoy, whatever you do is never enough. Rather than sitting in my drafty garret spinning yarns by candlelight I’m now required to wear many more hats than I originally planned. Authors today are expected to know how to reach readers in a lot of ways beyond just weaving words into entertaining stories. We're often expected to have knock-out websites, continually updated blogs, fun and fancy newsletters, exciting contests, book trailers, podcasts and a library of cleverly designed printed materials and promotional items for handing out at conventions and conferences where we’re supposed to meet and greet, teach seminars, model a host of costumes, give speeches and impress the socks off of every literary agent and managing editor we happen to run into.

Depending on who you talk to, you’ll discover that the importance of all these extracurricular activities ranges from one end of the spectrum – ‘Do what you can and most importantly write a good book’ to the other ‘If you plan to have a successful writing career at some time in the future, you should be promo’ing now before you even finish your first manuscript.’

Logically, the best place to pick on that spectrum would seem to be somewhere in the middle between remaining a total recluse and speaking only to your agent and starting an ad campaign for the book you’ve been thinking about writing since you were in grade school. There has to be a happy medium that allows an author to do what we do best, write, and to please the industry professionals who all seem to want us to perform marketing miracles on a daily basis.

Having tried a host of different promo options and marketing approaches, most of which left me with less money, less time to write, more stress and not a significant jump in sales, I have to say that on the promo scale of 0 to 10, I’m hovering at a solid three. Some may gasp in horror that I’m not striving for 11.5, but reasonably I think the best thing anyone can do is play to their strengths. Concentrate on the type of promo you find easiest and most enjoyable and ignore the pressure to become something you’re not. Promotion is important in this industry but not to the extent that it eclipses a writer’s time and ability to produce a quality product.

* Here’s a list of McCoy quotes and other related Star Trek catch phrases

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5 comments:

Jen said...

Ha! I knew from your blog post title what this would be about.

Too many hats spoil the soup...okay, that's not exactly right, but you get the idea.

Savanna Kougar said...

Dr. McCoy, so good to see him again.
Boy, you hit the ole' nail on the head.
Who has time to be some sort of wizard promo genius and also write that next novel?
Geez!
Not me!

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

And it becomes overwhelming, too, when there are so many options out there, not to mention the seemingly montnly article somewhere entreating authors who are intrinsically introverted to learn how to be extroverts. That one really bugs me because in essence we're being told to change who and what we are.

Savanna Kougar said...

Boy, I didn't see that article. That turns my stomach. I believe in overcoming challenges, but that's just sick!
And, if an author, actually did that I'm betting their Muse wouldn't be too happy, and their actual writing would suffer.

Skylar Masey said...

Jennifer~

Loved the title of your post!

{I think the best thing anyone can do is play to their strengths.}
This is so true! Did you see the article in the RWR, it told ways to use this concept. Darn, I can't remember which month it was. I think perhaps March or April.

All my days are running together :0)