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Promotion - why it's never too early.

On Paying It Forwards, and Backwards and Every which way

Some of my very closest author friends are bringing out their debut books this year. I also have many other author friends who have done the same thing over the last couple of years. Hey, I brought out my first book only last year. (Honest. I’m still a newby…)

One of the things I see – and did, to a certain extent – is promotion being left until the book comes out. It’s as if there is a belief that, until a product actually exists, promotion isn’t worthwhile.

I think this is very far from the truth (I think the argument applies to marketing, to an extent, but not to promotion.) The truth is that the day your book hits kindle, you want to have a lot of promotion already in place. You have a very small window to impress the Amazon algorithms.

My next book comes out in October. I have a list of promo activities in place, including two conventions (lucky timing, to be honest, but if it hadn’t been I’d gone off and tried to find somewhere at the right time), three interviews (all of which I’ve asked to put into October instead of now – I’ll tick over, annoying you all, in the blog and in existing bits and pieces, including a nice little interview coming soon), two guest blogs and no doubt a few other goodies – including a launch. I didn’t, in the end, go for one with Sunset, a bit worried I’d be launching to an empty room, but I will with Legacy and celebrate the end of the Abendau books properly (so, please, a couple of people turn up.)

‘But that’s you!’ I hear my shyer writing friends say. You talk all the time. You have something to say, and books to talk about and we don’t yet. I do sympathise: it is easier to fill interview requests when you have material to pull on. But I don’t think it’s a get-out-of-jail card.

Here are some of the things I think are worth looking at before the book gets launched (Bryan – this is your WWJD. Take notes!)

  1. Get some work out there. Don’t worry about pay –although that’s nice. People will be more inclined to take a chance on you if they know your writing is good. Pop a few short stories on a blog and promote it on your facebook or twitter, or whatever (see point 2). Get some followers. Release a 5000 word story in five parts and get five hits. Get it published on a site and use the double hit of their promo and yours.  Make it stretch.

  1. Get on social media. Somewhere, anywhere, people can find you. A facebook author page or a twitter account are useful for the end of interviews – keep up to date with me on @joz1812, just for example (go, follow me! I don’t actually tweet oodles and oodles so I won’t flood you, but I do put all my blog posts up and updates.)

  1. If you’re offered something, take it. Goodwill goes a long way- but only if you use it. If you have an interview given to you to fill in (Sue, I’m looking at you…) fill it in. Don’t let it sit in your inbox, giving you the evil eye and making you afraid of it – just go for it. Believe me, they get easier the more you do. Start with paper ones and then move up to ones you have to talk in – and then start with recorded ones, not live. By the time you’re on live anywhere you’ll have killed a lot of your fear.

  1. Communities. It is too late to join a forum when your book is out – you’ll always be an author potentially promoting your book, with all the attendant suspicion that brings. Get on forums and facebook groups before your book comes out. Get to know the forum and the tastes and you’ll know whether or not to promote your book. (One of my fav facebook groups is a Grimdark forum I joined to promote my book. Turns out my books aren’t a great fit for the readers, but I like the forum and still hang out there. And, what do you know – there’s been an awesome podcast derived from contacts there, and a couple of reviews. Plus, most important of all, a couple of new mates.)

  1. Blurbs. Look, this is hard and toe-curling, and I’ve done it three times now. (Now my publisher does it for me, and that’s lovely. But if I self publish again, I’ll have to do it again.)

Mostly, the conversation goes like this. Me, shuffle, shuffle, ‘would you give me a cover blurb? Please.’ Run away and hide and await (warm gracious, in my experience) response. 

I’ve been asked to do blurbs a couple of times now, so I’ve been at the receiving end of the request and I can say, hand on heart, it’s fine to ask. Writers understand. They might not always say yes – they might not have the time, or they might just not do blurbs – but they’ll never mind you asking. So if you don’t have a blurb, go and ask. They do make a difference.

  1. Pay it forwards. I can’t emphasise this enough. You think you’re pushed for time now, editing and preparing? You’re not. Once the book is out, you’ll find yourself inundated, whilst also trying to write the next one. Which is when you’ll realise that you need reviews and goodwill and promotion and you don’t have time to promote back.

The thing is, it’s easy to look at writers a little up the ladder from us and think
they’re doing okay and don’t need any help (I grant you, I doubt Mr King
needs me ra-ra-ing anymore). They do. They need reviews. They need people
to turn up at their events. They need support for launches, and openings for
promo (because, sometimes, after the novelty of the first book dies down,
promo options die out.) Help them, not because they might give you a leg up,
or because you want them to retweet your promo tweet, but because paying
it forwards is always a good thing to do. Call it karma, if you like. Call it your
generous act for the day. Call it whatever – I call it community and friendship,
and what makes the writing world go round.

But don’t call it promotion. Writers are not good to promote to. Really, if you want to find someone who has too many books to read – ask a writer. I have, at this point, something like 10 free books on my kindle from other writers. Some are exchanges because we liked the sound of each other’s books, some are just out and ARCS (advance review copies) which, if I like, I’ll try to review. Some are just freebies that people have put out to get downloads of. This, in addition to a TBR pile of books I’m dying to get to that occasionally grows into a lifeform.

There are loads of other things you could think of doing – blogs, building a website, etc etc, and I don’t think it matters too much what you do choose. But I think it’s vital to start doing something. Now, not on the day of release.