Have No Shame—
Promote to Stay Afloat
by Renee S. DeCamillis
I am a newly published author, and when I had set out over ten years ago to start taking my writing more seriously I had no idea that there was more than just the craft of writing that I needed to learn about. The all too common saying—I wish I’d known then what I know now—is hitting me hard now that I realize I had never learned how to get my name and my work out to the masses in this monster publishing world.
Yes, I majored in English Lit. in college, and yes, I went on to earn my MFA in Popular Fiction Writing, and I learned a hell of a lot about writing and literature, but nowhere in my studies to become a published author were there any courses on Promotions and Public Relations, not unless you were a business major. Somehow there seems to be this illusion among new writers and the masses of non-writers that once someone gets a book deal everything else is all set and the sales and the money and the movie deals—yes, many people do believe this; luckily I wasn’t one of them—will start rolling in.
The publisher will promote the shit out of your book, right? The publisher will send your book out to all the reviewers, right? The publisher will get established writers to blurb your book, right? The publisher will set up interviews for you, right? The publisher will arrange your podcast appearances, right? The publisher will arrange your book tour, right? The publisher will submit your book for all the award opportunities, right? The publisher will contact the book stores to get your work on their shelves, right?
Since it’s the publisher that has all the connections, and it’s the publisher that is in the business of making money, and it’s the publisher who wants their authors to succeed it almost makes sense to assume that all of the promotional work will get done by the publisher. What isn’t widely known to new writers, and it’s especially unknown to much of the masses outside the publishing world, is that most authors will not sign book deals with any of the Big Five publishers; they will sign deals with the indies. (Thank the Gods and Goddesses for indies!) Still, it seems reasonable to assume that even the independent publishers will do a lot of promotional work for the books they’re signing and selling. Coming from a mindset of—Since they’re indies, they’ll fight even harder to promote and sell more books—seems like common sense. But that is not at all how this world works.
New writers need to realize that most of the indie publishers don’t have the people-power to do all the promotional work that is needed to bring a book the recognition it needs to generate sales and find more readers. Of course the publisher wants the books they publish to sell, but at the end of the day they are small businesses doing the best that they can to stay afloat and put the authors’ work out into the world—just like indie authors themselves. Many of the independent publishing houses depend a lot on volunteers, people working for the pure love of literature, or working to gain experience for their resume, or working to simply help out their business-owner-friend and/or partner, etc. The staff members that they can afford to pay are often low in numbers.
With that said, I want to stress that if you are with an indie publisher, be very thankful and appreciative for every single thing they do to help promote your work and to promote you as an author. Their job is not an easy one, just as your job as an indie author is not easy. We all have to wear multiple hats, and some of those hats may not fit us well, but that’s the nature of the beast.
Speaking of those multiple hats, another thing an indie author should learn a little more about above and beyond the writing is how to use a fucking computer. Yes, I drop the f-bomb here because this is a constant struggle I contend with on a daily basis. Between figuring out who to email about getting reviews and podcast appearances and interviews and award considerations and scheduling reading appearances and getting your book(s) into bookstores, yada-yada-yada, there’s the “basic” online representation and advertisement of your work. Some personal experience of mine with this aspect: I had mistakenly thought it would be easy to post/share a video of my book launch reading as a way to promote my book and promote my narration ability, but even that became a two month process where I had to recruit the assistance of a very helpful and considerate friend to teach me how to condense a video from my phone into a small enough sized video to post online. Yeah, this shit is in no way quick and easy. Every time I turn around and want to promote something, I find that there’s something else with computers that I still need to learn how to do. Shit—I’m still trying to figure out how to use Instagram as a promotional outlet (My damn pictures keep getting cut off!), and learning how to convert my book into an eBook, among many other things.
Seriously, promotional work is practically a full-time job, and there’s a constant struggle to balance time spent promoting versus time spent writing and creating. This, for me, is a constant battle, especially since I—a stay-at-home mom who also suffers from MS—can only work part-time. And many indie authors work full-time day jobs and have a family to raise/support. Finding balance is the key.
Yes, we are not just writers, we are actual independent businesses all wrapped up in one person. Every indie writer needs to find balance. I personally am still trying to catch my balance. I have in no way figured this all out yet. There is so much I am learning every day, and so much more I still need to learn, and this is why I felt the need to write this piece. If anyone has advice to share with me and others about all of this mind-whirling work, please share it.
Another important thing I have learned and want to share is that a lot of promotional work should be done before publication day. I am now realizing how crucial this is AFTER the publication of my first book. Reviews, interviews, podcast appearances, author blurbs—all of this promotional stuff is best done before your book comes out. Of course, it does help if you have hardcopy ARCs to give out to reviewers and authors you ask for blurbs and whatnot, which I did not have. Some people will accept digital copies, but not all of them. For those people who do accept digital ARCs, it helps if you have an edited ARC ready to send to them long before publication day, which I also did not have. Yes, you will still need to do this promo work after your book comes out, but the more promo work done before hand helps get you more promotional opportunities after. You can also try to gather a group of ARC readers by way of friends and acquaintances who may post reviews of your work on Amazon and Goodreads and social media, but from my own experience with that—don’t hold your breath for those reviews. Even when many of my thirty ARC readers raved to me about how much they love my book and what a great writer I am, only three people actually posted a review anywhere. But, hey, maybe they just really hated my book and didn’t want to tell me, and that’s fine. I hear that attending conventions also helps promotions a lot, but that takes money and time and good health, all of which are in very short supply for this indie author, though I still plan to somehow make that happen.
At the end of that day we all just have to keep on pushing through, keep writing, keep promoting, and…Hell, when you get the chance, help spread the word for your writer friends, too. Even if your friend’s book is still in your TBR pile, it doesn’t take much time or effort to click share and give them a shout out. If you have read their work, it only takes a couple minutes to post a sentence or two review on Amazon and Goodreads and click some stars. If you want others to do it for you, you should be willing to do it for others. We are all in this together. Let’s help each other out. Have no shame. Promote. Promote. Promote!
Next Appearance: On Saturday, February 22 at 2 PM Renee will appear at the Lewiston Public Library in Maine to read from her debut book, The Bone Cutters. A Q&A, book sales and signing will follow her reading.
Visit Renee @:
Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Renee-S.-DeCamillis/e/B07VWCC4VG Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18075728.Renee_S_DeCamillis
Facebook Renee S. DeCamillis Author
Renee’s debut book, The Bone Cutters: https://www.amazon.com/Bone-Cutters-Renee-S-Decamillis/dp/1621052931
The Bone Cutters is also currently available at Barnes & Noble, on Indie Bound, as well as at Bull Moose, Longfellow Books, and Quiet City Books—indie book stores in Maine.