Let me start by saying that I actually suck at self-promotion. I do a bit of it, and I know a fair amount about what I ought to be doing, so I can speak with some authority about it at conventions and such. I have my blogs (including this one and SFNovelists, of which I’m a part) and my website. I do some blogging at Amazon.com, though not as much as I should. I guest blog at the sites of other folks, I answer my fan mail faithfully, and I have done some leg work in local bookstores. I used to have an author forum, where I answered questions from readers, but it’s kind of gone the way of the Dodo. I do signings and go to conventions, and occasionally I get gigs at writers’ workshops.
But there are also things I don’t do that I probably should. I’m on Twitter, but I only Tweet occasionally. I haven’t gotten the hang of the medium yet, and I think that a) I have better things to do with my time than tell people what I’m eating for lunch, and b) people really should have better things to do with their time than read what I’m eating at any given time. It is a weird phenomenon. I’m on LiveJournal and WordPress, but not on Facebook or MySpace. This is in no way a value judgment on my part. I know lots of people who love Facebook, and I respect that. But my fourteen year-old and her friends are on it, and the thought of being on there with them makes me queasy. My agent wishes I would get over this, and maybe I will, particularly if I do some writing under a pseudonym.
I also am not as aggressive in speaking to bookstore staff as I should be. I should approach staff in every bookstore I enter. I should introduce myself, offer to sign stock, and talk up my work. Doing this could have a notable impact on my sales, and it really wouldn’t be that hard to do. But the idea of it makes me uncomfortable. I’m not shy — anyone who knows me will tell you that. But I’m also not the kind of person who enjoys talking about my own accomplishments. It feels like bragging. Again, this is something my agent would probably like to change about me.
I could probably be more creative with my self-promotion. I could come up with something — anything — to use as giveaways. Magnets, bookmarks, postcards, little toys of one sort or another. Misty has done this very well. Kim Harrison has made an art of it. It wouldn’t be that hard to do, and it might do me a lot of good. So why don’t I? Well, because it would take away from the time I spend writing, or it would take away from the time I don’t write, which is my family/personal time. It would cost money. Not a lot, but some, and I don’t know if the money I’d get back in royalties and/or increased advances would be worth it. The bottom line, as I see it, is that if I were to do all of these things, devote all my free time to publicity — through preparing giveaways, or visiting bookstores, or increasing my online presence — this would only allow me to reach a relatively small number of additional possible readers of whom only a small percentage would actually buy my books. Would there be some change in my numbers? Probably. Would it make a huge difference? I really don’t know, but I doubt it.
I have a friend who has been hugely successful as a writer, an editor, and an agent. He says that the single most important thing a writer can do to improve his/her sales and further his/her career, is write the next book. There are stories of people who really made their careers through successful self-promotion. Raymond Feist is the name most often mentioned in this respect. John Scalzi is a more recent example. Both of them are accomplished writers who would have been successful anyway, but who made themselves hugely successful by taking extraordinary steps to get their names out. But these two, and a few more like them, stand out precisely because their career paths are so extraordinary. Most people who self-promote don’t see such dramatic results.
My point in all of this is NOT to discourage anyone from self-promoting. Far from it. I intend to keep on doing the things I do. And maybe I’ll even get myself to do some more. But I’ll only go as far as I feel comfortable going. Will I go on Facebook? Maybe; maybe not. MySpace? Probably not. Will I Twitter more? Don’t know yet. Will I be more aggressive in dealing with bookstores. I’ll try. But I won’t do anything that isn’t true to who I am, and I won’t sacrifice much more of my writing time or my family time to do these things. Some things aren’t worth sacrificing, even for success.
All of that said, please allow me to engage in a bit more shameless self-promotion. As we mentioned to you last week, we are hoping to get MagicalWords nominated for a Writer’s Digest top 101 writing websites mention. If you would care to help us out by nominating our site, please go to this site and nominate us. We’re hoping to compete in the “Genres/Niches” category. And yes, the deadline listed is January 2009 — we’re pretty sure that’s a typo.
Also, this coming weekend, May 29-31, Faith, Misty, and I will be appearing at ConCarolinas in Charlotte, North Carolina. Please come and see us if you’re in the area. We’ll also be signing books with our friend Gail Z. Martin, at the Carolina Place Barnes and Noble in Pineville, North Carolina this Thursday night, May 28, starting at 7:00 pm.
And finally, I have a new, really fun contest up on my website — www.DavidBCoe.com. So stop by the website, check out the contest, and maybe you’ll win a signed hardcover edition of THE SORCERERS’ PLAGUE, the first book of my Blood of the Southlands trilogy. And while you’re there, check out the site: There are maps, background stories, some of my old short fiction, and sample chapters from every book I’ve published.
There: I have shamelessly self-promoted. I feel better now….David B. Coe http://DavidBCoe.livejournal.com http://MagicalWords.net http://www.DavidBCoe.com