Friday, June 29, 2012

Promoting Your Book Isn't Hype by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

It's common sense business.

Lately, I've seen several blog posts and comments from authors suggesting that platform building and marketing is all a bunch of hype. The controversy centers around whether it is the responsibility of the author or the publisher, and the marketing ploys that take advantage of people without really helping, as well as concepts that cause authors to overburden themselves with unrealistic expectations.

I believe there is value on both sides of the argument, but we can't lose sight of the facts and our ultimate career goals as writers.

Let's take the first issue, who's responsibility is it?
I believe it belongs to both the author and the publisher. It's a fact that publishers do less than they use to do and many admit it. The fact that this is happening doesn't mean it's right or fair. Yet, it's our new reality, and we must learn to deal with it if we choose to be published authors.

Let's look at who has more at stake if the book doesn't succeed. Is it the author or publisher?

The publisher will lose money, and even that is something they can recoup in a better selling book. Therefore, they may decide not to publish future books by that author. Authors are easily replaced and new voices are rising up each day.

On the other hand, the author will lose money, credibility, and possible career set-backs. Readers don't look for publisher names on books. They look for author names. It isn't the publisher's career at stake, but the author's career. We are left to work with the resources that are given to us, and if the publisher isn't going to provide the necessary marketing and promotion, and the author wants the book to do well, it falls to the author. Complaining and resisting won't change the facts. It is, what it is.

Marketing ploys are in abundance and some of these are hype, but not all of them. Authors have to learn to weed out the bad and weave in the good where it can fit into their busy lives and schedules. Platform IS important. You can put a million dollar budget on your book, but if all that money is being spent on cold-calls, cold-ads, cold-announcements -- meaning none of the people have ever heard of you, it's a waste of money. Having a platform changes the game. People in your platform/network have heard of you, feel like they know you, feel that your work and your word has credibility, and they are more willing to pluck down their hard earned money for your book.

Concepts that overburden authors with unrealistic expectations ARE real. Authors feel overwhelmed, scattered everywhere, and they lose focus. You can't be expected to do everything, and no one is expecting you to. Some of us are our own worst enemy. We hear a few things and we automatically assume we must do this, that, and the other without sitting down praying about it, and fitting into our schedule logically and strategically. I've mentioned it before, create a Marketing Plan. It will help you focus on the needs that you need to be doing today, as you work toward your goals for a higher platform tomorrow.

When I find myself starting to complain and I'm feeling overwhelmed, that's when I need to sit down, pray and re-evaluate where I've lost my focus.
  • What new things have I taken on and allowed into my schedule that wasn't planned?
  • Am I comparing myself to others--way too much? 
  • Am I spending quality time with God and seeking Him about my burdens, essentially turning it all over to Him?
  • Did my editor/agent really say this or that had to be done or did I assume it just because they mentioned it would be a great idea. Do I need to get clarification?
  • Am I being impatient, expecting results now that in reality are going to take a year or several years to accomplish?
Have you caught yourself in the midst of some of these cycles? Do you have other coping skills you can offer and share with your colleagues?


Heather Day Gilbert said...

Very helpful post! Sometimes you feel like you're checking off all the boxes in your platform-building, BUT you forget to ask God first.

Lately I've realized that commenting/debating on other blogs is basically a time-waster for me (fun as it is!). It's not something that's really profitable, since most people are already solidified in their opinions before commenting.

Better to throw my efforts into writing and blogging, not to mention maintaining my household! Thanks for this reminder!

sally apokedak said...

But Heather, I would have never gone over to your blog if you didn't comment, and, yes, even argue, on blogs. There are a lot of people who comment on blogs to say, "Yeah! Amen! Good post!" And I never go check out their blogs. But people with strong opinions interest me. So I subscribed to your blog because you have strong opinions but you aren't mean when you express them. I wanted to follow you. I wanted to keep up with you.

But back to the post at hand:

Yeah! Amen! Great post!


Sorry, I can never find a reason to argue with J Hudson Taylor. She's too logical and helpful.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Heather, Glad my post was helpful and a good reminder. It can be time consuming to comment on blogs, but if you limit your comments to relevancy then it will be worth the time. Networking and connecting with people is a better platform builder than splashing news announcements all over the place. I think you've got the right idea as long as you keep things in moderation.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Sally, you bring up a great point. Sometimes the best way to "meet" someone is in the comments of a blog post. That's where opinions really are revealed and resonate with others.

And thank you! Sometimes I do wonder if I'm being logical! I have too many opinions for my own good.

Kimberly Rae said...

Thank you! Things have changed and we have to change with them. Wonderful reminder, though, that ultimately God should be in charge of not only our results but even our daily schedule. We don't have to be involved in every opportunity out there--better to focus on the few things that work well for us than scatter across lots of things that aren't really effective.
Great post!
Kimberly Rae

Amy Sullivan said...

Most of the time, I am fine with platform building/marketing/promoting we should do. However, where I get stuck is how much?

How much is too much? How much is too little?

I'm still figuring those questions out. I know it's a balance and different for everyone, but what does it look like for me?

Thanks, Jennifer. I always look forward to your posts here.

Rick Barry said...

Thanks for another good post, Jennifer. Although no author has the time/energy to pursue every possible marketing strategy, each of us can certainly pursue some of them.

Hint for writing friends: This year I discovered home school conventions. They'd never been on my radar, but these gatherings pull in thousands of parents and young readers looking for wholesome books from vendors. I did a guest appearance at one in Indianapolis and sold 56 novels. In May I did the same in Cincinnati and sold 76 more. It was fun, profitable, I made personal connections with readers, and got invited to another speaking event. Marketing doesn't have to be dry business! Still living and learning.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Kimberly, That's a great point. Don't try to be involved in everything at once. Build up sections at a time.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...


As long as you don't give up on the balancing act, you'll settle into a schedule and something that "feels" right for you. Of course, as life happens, you may need to make adjustments, but that's ok. It happens to all of us.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Rick, Home school conventions are a great avenue to pursue. Terry has a client that works hard to tap into that age group for boys. In fact, more teens and young adult readers have picked up my books than I had anticipated while writing it. Young readers are tomorrow's steady readers!