Friday, June 29, 2012

Jeff Somers on Book Promotion

The Jeff Somers 10 do's and don’ts when it comes to book promotion:
(FYI - Remember to read the footnotes)
The Terminal State (Avery Cates)

DO

1. ... get a haircut. Whatever that means to you. Shave your head, dye your hair, buy a new wig, *make* a new wig from the shedded fur of your cat -- whatever. Just do some hair maintenance. Nothing makes you look crazier when standing up in front of a room of people than Crazy Hair [a].

2. ... remember that most promotion has no immediate return. Readings, interviews, web sites, videos, podcasts, advertising - it will all seem to disappear into the endless void without a ripple, and you will despair. All you can do is try everything and hope it has an effect down the line.
3. ... readings, but temper your expectations. I have read to packed houses with standing-room-only crowds, I have *literally* read to my wife and two bookstore employees, neither of whom seemed impressed. Readings are hard to predict, so be prepared for despair.
4. ... couple Readings with something else. Even a packed reading will only move a few copies of your book - if you can get some local news coverage you've hit PR gold!
5. ... make a web site. Incredibly cheap, permanent promotion with potential to reach everyone in the universe. Don't go crazy - it's better to have a simple site with boring design that works than some crazy, animated-GIF hellhole of a site.
6. ... have a few drinks. Before appearances, during readings, afterwards if someone is footing the bill. While you don't want to be disastrously drunk when doing a reading or other appearance, you don't want to be sober either. Sobriety is terrifying.
7. ... learn to dance. Nothing will save a bombing public appearance like sudden and inexplicably entertaining with break-dancing. Watch old episodes of "What's Happening?!" and learn moves from ReRun. Trust me on this.
8. ... prepare for readings. When doing a reading, select the portion of your book you're going to read. Time it so it's around 5 minutes of reading time. Try to end on a strong beat. Try not to choose a section that has a lot of dialog. DO NOT EVER DO VOICES FOR YOUR CHARACTERS. Print it out on letter-sized paper in a big font. Practice a few times. Even reading it once will save you from stumbling over your own words like English is your third or possibly fourth language.
9. ... be prepared for people to laugh at the wrong times. Just go with it, and pretend you meant your dramatic moment to be hilarious.
10. ... prepare for interviews, both in-person and via email. Have *interesting* answers to the standard questions. Trust me when I say that telling us you started writing as a kid and would write for free, because it is your passion, is NOT interesting. In the least. [b]

The Final Evolution (Avery Cates)
Available June 28th


DON'T

1. ... spend money. Well, not much. Some bookmarks and business cards, a web site registration and hosting -- fine. But self-funding an ambitious book tour or advertising campaign will only end in tears.
2. ... use every communication you have with any other human being on the planet to plug your book. People are pretty understanding that you want to get the word out, but there is a line. Find it, fix it's location in your head, and never cross it.
3. ... attempt black magic or deals with the devil to make your book a bestseller. This does not seem to work, no matter how often I, er, people try [c].
4. ... respond to bad reviews. Ever. No matter how insulting, puerile, or obviously personally motivated they are. You will come off looking like a prick, and the bad reviewer will simply post your arguments as proof of your immaturity. Take it lying down and don't worry about it.
5. ... obsess over your Amazon sales rank. Amazon is still a small portion of the book market overall, and their sales rank algorithm is Fancy Math that no one understands. It may actually be witchcraft, or completely random. No one knows.
6. ... spam. Mass emails are only acceptable if you have a list of people who have volunteered for such atrocities, and even then should be used sparingly, to announce things that are coming up too quickly for people to discover for themselves.
7. ... assault people physically or scream at them, demanding they buy your book in bulk. This results in more arrests than sales, believe it or not.
8. ... make it all about selling your book. Sure, that's the goal and you shouldn't be shy/ashamed about it, but you have to offer people more than a sales pitch. Entertain them. When you're reading or signing books, be fun and interesting. If you're making a video or web site, give away some content and have fun.
9. ... take yourself too seriously. The only people who like serious writers are no one ever. No one likes serious writers. People like their writers humble, inebriated, and jolly. And, if my own experience means anything, pantsless.
10. ... buy a trained monkey. You might think he'll dance and jig and amuse the crowd, and then be trained to fetch you whiskeys when you're home. But in reality he will soil every surface of your house, steal things from your wallet/purse, and then run away at the first opportunity, breaking your heart [d].

[a] I myself had Crazy Hair continuously from 2004-2009. No power on Earth could tame it. My career suffered accordingly.
[b] It is okay to make stuff up when applying #10. Create your own backstory. You're a writer, after all.
[c] Plus, all those dead sacrificial chickens. Yuck.
[d] COME HOME, BONGO! All is forgiven, I promise.
                    

9 comments:

  1. Great list, Jeff! I'm taking a course in promotion right now and some of your things are exactly what I'm learning in the professional course. So...uh... why couldn't you have posted this BEFORE I shelled out good money?

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  2. Patty: See #1 under the Don't list. Now go back in time and warn yourself.

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  3. Bookmarked for future use (please, god).

    Thanks, Jeff!

    (would bellydancing work as well as break dancing, do you think? I've got zills, but not skillz. . .)

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  4. Sarah: In my experience any kind of dancing works once, if only for the shock and awe.

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  5. Neil Gaiman seems to get away with the crazy hair. So I guess you can get away with it if you're crazy talented.

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  6. You forgot "Write a book".

    Or is that too obvious? I can never tell.

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  7. towriteperchancetodream: In this day and age, not necessary. Just promote! Someday a book, magically, like a mushroom growing in some dark corner, suddenly there.

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  8. Bongo didn't run away. You sent him to me. When I opened the crate, Bongo staggered out, still sedated from the 6 (now empty) bottles of scotch whiskey. He looked up at me, his lower lip quivering, then pointed back in the crate at a tattered manuscript. "Avery Cates: The Musical". You lined the crate with pictures of Justin Bieber and Sean Ferrell
    Cruel! So I put 6 bottles of Blanton's bourbon in the crate, threw Bongo back in and nailed the lid shut.
    He should be home soon...

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  9. This was awesome. Fun to read. *dashes off to see if I can return the monkey* ~Ali

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