Amused Authors

It’s the promotions, kiddo. by Tymber Dalton
March 17, 2009, 12:23 pm
Filed under: fiction, funny, writing | Tags: , , , , ,

I don’t want to come off sounding like a whiner here, so don’t take this the wrong way. (Ha, you think, no good conversation could start like that.) I hear some writers, especially new writers, complain how “hard” the writing process is.

Now, I know that I’m less than a year published in fiction, but keep in mind I’ve been writing most of my life, preparing for my current profession since before high school, and I’ve been a professional writer for over ten years (albeit non-fiction/journalism). My high school class twentieth reunion is this summer, so…(Please don’t make me publicly say it. *LOL*) You can do the math. I’ve been working toward this goal for a lot of years.

To me, writing is the EASY part, believe it or not. What a lot of people, writers and readers, don’t understand is that promotional activities are the hardest part of being a writer. There are a lot of misconceptions that you can get published with a “real” (in other words, “dead tree/traditional”) publisher and your job is done once the edits are turned in. Mmm, not so much. Especially not in today’s economic climate where publishing dollars are pinched so tightly they’re screaming, and big publishing houses are going through a lot of turmoil.

I mean, sure, if your name is Stephen King you can pretty much publish your grocery list and you’re bound to sell at least a few copies without lifting a finger because you’ve got shelf name recognition and a well-established fan base.

Before I continue, let me state that this dynamic of having to promote applies to non-fiction as well. The advantage to non-fiction is, depending on the topic (in my case, software tutorials) it was easier for me to locate and target the niche I was writing for. Fiction is different, because it’s harder to reach specific audiences. However, your reader pool is much larger and more flexible, so that’s also a bonus in a way.

What about the new writer? Especially one in e-publishing?

Think about it this way. If you opened a tiny shop, say a clothing store, on a back street that got very little foot traffic and you only sold one item of clothing, you’d likely make absolutely no money. If you sold a variety of items, you might start to see a little return business. But that doesn’t cure your foot traffic issue. So you put out a sign on the corner. That helps, but still, things are slow.

You might spend a ton of money on advertising, but here’s the thing, unless you carefully target your advertising to maximize getting your message to your most likely customers, you’re still throwing money down the drain.

So what do you do? You get creative. Maybe partner with other stores and have a “tour” for a weekend to encourage customers to come around to everyone. Run contests, start a page on Facebook and MySpace. Website. Run specials with interviews with designers of clothes you sell. (Oh, to break out of the analogy – any writer in today’s day and age who doesn’t have a public website, at least a basic one, is setting themselves up for failure, frankly.

Writers today MUST get creative. They also must put in sweat equity. If you think you’re going to get published in today’s world and do absolutely no promotions, you’re sadly mistaken. Sorry to burst your bubble, sunshine, but the real world doesn’t work like that.

If you’re published with an e-publisher, promotions are even more important. And yes, it is a lot of work. Some writers are tempted to turn this task over to promotions companies. I say do a lot of research before going that route. Not that they’re bad, but make sure you’re getting a return for your dollar. If they help you sell ten more books, but you’re paying them every last dollar (and then some) back, it’s not a wise investment. Also, I have never bought a book because it was advertised by a promotions company. And I know a lot of readers who feel the same way. (Ask yourself, what makes ME buy a book?) I have, however, gone out and bought a book (e- or otherwise) after an online chat with an author, or after seeing a good interview or blog post or email list posting by said author. I’d rather have contact with the author personally.

Get color business cards and bookmarks made. These are cheap and a great investment. You can get inexpensive items made like coffee mugs and mouse pads with your book cover for special giveaways. With all the companies out there, you can have them made just a couple at a time so you’re not spending a lot of money and people love to win things. Offer free stories, especially serials, on your blog or website. (Make SURE they’re well-edited FIRST! Otherwise, you’re shooting yourself in the foot, seriously.) Form a relationship with your readers, get them wanting to follow you and pick up your backlist and add you to their auto-buy list. Set up a newsletter for updates to let people know when you have a new release. (And do NOT spam them!)

If you’re juggling a “real” job with your writing career, you must practice wise time management. Take advantage of opportunities provided by your publisher like blogs, advertising  buy-ins, things like that. Set up a blog and try to update it with stuff other than just your writing promos. Don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to sell books.

You do, however, have to spend a lot of time and energy. Good luck, and happy writing.

Lesli Richardson (who also writes as Tymber Dalton) is a bestselling author with over twelve projects currently published or contracted, and more on the way. This is her evil day job. 🙂 You can find out more about her writing at: and


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I don’t find playing the mandolin or writing hard, it is just hard to make money at either one. In that sense, both are very difficult.

Comment by Dr. Tom Bibey

I love the writing process and even the research. The editing isn’t as much fun. The promoting, however, can be overwhelming. You made some great suggestions. Thanks.

Comment by amydetrempe

Dr. Tom – *LOL* Yes, very true. Finding the money sometimes means following the genres. Fortunately, some of the most lucrative genres are ones I enjoy writing in.

Amydetrempe – Glad I could help!

Lesli. (aka Tymber)

Comment by Lesli Richardson

Right on, Lesli. I’m often surprised at how few authors show interest in promoting their own work.

Dara England

Comment by dara11

Thanks, Dara! Yeah, it really boggles my mind that some writers think books sell themselves. *LOL*

Lesli. (aka Tymber)

Comment by Lesli Richardson

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