I have to confess I’ve done very little to promote my two books. I didn’t even have a website until two years after my first book came out. With the publishing world telling authors they have to promote themselves, why didn’t I print postcards, make bookmarks and do mass mailings? A lot of it has to do with random advice, organization, PG-13 content and the Barnes and Noble young adult section.
1. Editor Advice: Shortly before my first book came out I heard an editor (not mine) answer “What’s the best thing I can do to promote my book?” with “Write your next one!” It was her opinion that a lot of promo stuff—blogging, message boards, mass mailings, etc can eat up writing time with no guarantee that you’ll get significant results. I’d already noticed how much keeping up with my live journal flist was eating into my writing time, and in both of the bookstores I worked in letters and bookmarks from authors often went directly into the garbage, so I plowed ahead with book number two and crossed my fingers UNINVITED would find an audience. (A friend went to deliver free bookmarks to a local indie only to be told that they didn’t want them as they have a line of bookmarks for sale.)
2. Organization: Being organizationally impaired to the extreme also kept me from doing a lot. Just the thought of writing a promo letter, researching who to send it to, addressing envelopes made my head spin. And I’d seen a friend go to extraordinary means to promote her book—mailings, postcards, letter campaigns, posters, bookmarks, blogging, and being a member of one of the debut book groups which ate up huge amounts of her time—only to have the big chains not stock her book. It didn’t seem fair, but it also drove home that a lot of a book’s success is out of our hands.
3. PG-13: I also couldn’t shake the fact that even if I did send out letters, how would the recipients feel about me plugging my book containing sex, drugs and underage drinking? Despite the fact that the book in no way glorifies these behaviors, I let anxiety about possible disapproval keep me from telling the world about my book. (Getting a great review from School Library Journal and having ALA nominate UNINVITED as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and then have it make the final Popular Paperbacks for Young Adult list took away some of my anxiety about the content. I still get slammed in some reviews for my “dirty” book by adults and Twilight lovers thinking UNINVITED is another vamp romance.)
4. Fate: Before my first book came out, I was in a Barnes and Noble and looked at the sheer number of young adult novels being displayed. I remember wondering how my book would have a chance of standing out in the sea of beautiful covers. I realized that even if I spent a lot of time promoting my book, I could only reach so many people. For better or worse, I decided to leave the success or failure of my books mostly to fate. Instead of planning a huge promotional campaign, I decided to take that editor’s advice and concentrate on building a body of work. UNINVITED and REVEALERS are selling steadily—over 50,000 copies in the last year—not blockbuster numbers, but good enough to make my editor happy.
5. So what did I do? I decided to tackle promos that were easy without taking up too much of my time or stressing me out. I joined Fangs, Fur and Fey, the LiveJournal group started by author Melissa Marr. I gave away ARCs and books on my blog, I participated in anything my publisher asked me to like the Pulse Blog Fest or interviews. I finally have my website up and running and with book number two not being quite so edgy, I’ve happily accept several invitations to talk at libraries and an upcoming book festival.