Promotional Interventions by Erik Therme
When Aloi offered me the chance to guest post, I was more than happy to oblige. After all, it was another great opportunity to promote my debut mystery Mortom. Since its February release, I’ve done bookstore signings, read to creative writing classes, participated in book fairs, and done multiple interviews. In August I’ll do my first radio spot, and in October I’ve been invited to co-host an author panel on writing. But more importantly, do you know what else I’ve done?
Completely neglected my next book.
Promotion, as I continue to learn, is endless and addictive. There’s always one more book blogger to contact; another web promotion to pursue. I still haven’t emailed all the independent bookstores in Alaska. And what about that heap of flyers I had printed? They aren’t going to hang themselves around town. And don’t get me started on posting to classified ads. I’ll have to clear my schedule to attack that project.
My name is Erik. I’m a chronic promoter.
I knew I’d have to market my book to be successful, but I had no idea it would consume my life. To make matters worse, some people argue that promotion is a waste of time, and the best way to sell more books is to simply write more books. I agree to an extent, but I also believe there’s a reasonable balance. I just can’t seem to find it.
Chronic promotion is a real issue, but fortunately there is a real solution. The next time you bump into your favorite author, ask them how the new book is coming. If their gaze flits to the pavement or they grow sheepish, it’s time for a promotional intervention.
STEP 1: Offer to take them for coffee. If you’re feeling extra generous, throw in a pastry to sweeten the deal. They’ll appreciate that. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of authors are not millionaires. Okay, I confess that I roll in a 1998 Jeep Cherokee with 200,000+ miles, but I’m one of the lucky ones. And yes . . . last month my royalties did cover the cost of a replacement mouse pad and a ream of paper, but still—I’m not one to brag. We’re all friends here.
STEP 2: When you sit down with your author, don’t let on that it’s an intervention. Keep the conversation light and get them to relax. Tell them how much you enjoyed their book. Quote from the work, if possible. Use phrases such as ‘you rock’ and ‘wow, I wish I were you.’ Use their ego to your advantage as you work on lowering their defenses.
STEP 3: Once you have them completely at ease, lower the boom. Be firm and persistent. Tell them it’s time to move on to the next project. Do not negotiate, and do not be swayed by arguments such as: “I’ll stop after X amount of copies have sold” or “One more week and I promise I’ll be done.” If they refuse to listen, it’s time to bring out the big guns.
STEP 4: Look them straight in the eyes and say: “Don’t-be-THAT-guy.” They’ll know who you mean. Everyone knows “that” guy. The guy who can’t let go of the past; the one who constantly has to relive his glory days, whether it was scoring the winning touchdown, or the time they met the president. Whatever it was, it’s in the past, and it’s time to move on. Tell your author there’s a reason why people aren’t “liking” their Facebook posts anymore. There’s a reason their spouse’s eyes glaze over when they talk about the book, or why their kids leave the room when they enter. The party’s over, and their book has overstayed its welcome. But also let them know there is hope.
STEP 5: The final and most important step: Don’t bother with generic statements like: “The world needs your next book” or “Think how happy your fans will be.” It won’t work. Remember, you’re dealing with a promotional addict, so you must appeal to their addictive nature. Instead, remind them that once a new book is written, THE PROMOTIONAL CYCLE CAN BEGIN AGAIN. Give them a moment to let this soak in. When you’re dealing with a promotional addict, obvious solutions are often overlooked.
Ask them what they’d rather be doing: wasting their time trying to find fresh (and usually obscure) ways to market the SAME product . . . or spending their time creating something NEW to fixate on.
With a new book, the entire process can start over.
All those book bloggers they’ve already contacted? They’d be happy to consider a new book. The hordes of (sometimes shady) websites that offer paid book advertising? They’d love to take your money again. And don’t forget about the dozens of laundry mats in the surrounding area—they’re begging for a new flyer for a new book. And the best part? Friends and family will be thrilled to be annoyed by something different. Everyone wins!
The important thing to stress is that the promotion cycle can continue indefinitely . . . as long as they allow ‘breaks for writing’ in between. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, but once your author accepts this, they will move on.
Remember, once you read an author’s book, they are your responsibility. It’s your job to nurture, encourage, and never—ever—give up on them.
Unless their next book stinks.