Over the last few weeks the planets have lined up and made some changes. I’ve suddenly gotten more time to write my novels due to other commitments coming to a halt (don’t you just love it when someone else’s “cashflow problems” become yours?), I’ve embarked on writing a new series on crime thriller novels called The Lukas Boston Stories that I’ll self-publish, and we’ve had some guests staying who are IT and web design experts – so they took on the role of giving my website a new look and migrating it across to my domain, too.
All this equated to a spring clean of what we all call our Authors Platform and it’s been a real eye-opener. Most of us know about doing Facebook, maybe blogging regularly, contributing to forums… and you tend to approach these things piecemeal as you discover the benefits. But when you’re looking at this stuff altogether like I did during the revamp you get a much better idea of what’s involved – and it’s a hell of a lot. I know there are some writers who simply whack a book onto Amazon and it sells without any promotion, but the general rule-of-thumb is that if you want to be successful at this writing bizzo and self-publishing, you need all kinds of extra skills to make sure the world knows your novels and ebooks exist. Even if you have a free ebook or a 99 cent ebook published you need to let readers know. How you let them know is obviously important, but the devil is seriously in the detail too and it can be time-consuming and daunting.
However, I’m so very glad we can do it. Back in the good ol’ days of traditional publishing (I’m sure that one day we’ll consider them “good ol’ days” just like many Russians today still believe the era of Josef Stalin’s rule was the best of times) when a book was published you promised to be available for two weeks of promotions. I even managed a couple of TV talk show appearances, but mostly it was radio interviews over the phone. Some things don’t change – it was vital that you instantly sounded interesting or the producer would be cutting the line. Like the first sentence of a blog or facebook post now needs to be attention-grabbing. After that two weeks, life returned to normal and your book sales were again at the whim of bookstore browsers. It didn’t occur to many of us that continuing some kind of promotional campaign would be beneficial. That wasn’t our job. We were supposed to write. To be fair, I don’t recall any publisher suggesting I get out there and promote myself either. It’s not how things worked.
You might even say it was a mixture of apathy and ignorance that invented the mid-list author. After all, if you were good enough to be published, surely you were good enough to be a best seller? Plenty of authors have complained that a lack of advertising dollars were the only thing between them and super-stardom. Someone else was supposed to make us really famous.
What we should have done is throw ourselves at the task of self-promotion with all the application required today – except can you imagine doing it without the modern internet? Writing endless snail-mail letters to book clubs and libraries, cold-calling radio stations to convince them you’re worth an interview, creating “author profiles” in prominent bookstores by… hmm, standing in the corner and shouting about yourself?
So for those writers today who think the grindstone of self-promotion is something new, and maybe an onerous task, it really isn’t and you should be grateful that it’s a job that can be done these days so easily online. Sure, a lot of us hoary old trad-published authors didn’t have to do it, but we should have, and it would definitely have been a nightmarish task. Nowadays we’ve got so much more influence on how successful we can be – assuming, of course, that at the end of all things considered you’re actually a good writer. Blog about yourself, brag about your writing and blag a bunch of awesome reviews. It doesn’t sound like much of a business plan, but it is.