Now more than ever, all authors must self-promote in order to survive. But how do you do that without irritating your audience? Here are five things to watch out for:
Self-promotion on Twitter. One word. Don’t. This holds for any form of social media. Too often, you see writers who only tweet like this: “This is my favorite sentence from my book! Buy it here: bitly/xy123”. If I wanted ads in my feed, I’d go to Facebook. Twitter is a way to connect and build an audience. To do that, you need to post something the reader finds interesting.Readers should get to know you, understand your thought process, or follow your life. Readers love to know the mind behind the book. You’re a self-styled celebrity so act like one! Tweet about you - your day, your inspiration, your failures, your love - and your audience will connect. If they like what you tweet, they'll seek out your book. As a side note, many authors are publishing their tweets in anthologies. I don’t think anyone will buy an anthology of “My character is so cool! Buy my book: bitly/xy123”
Staying Home: Books are like colds. They spread only by contact. Yes, you write alone, but you need to meet people or else you don't exist. The next time you suffer writer's block, go to a mixer. Every Better Business Bureau has one. Ask people their personal stories. You might find your next story idea, or a your next main character. You might be bored out of your mind, driven to return home to write. Either way, let real life drive your art. Which leads us to your third mistake.
Hanging with Writer Friends. Writers are nice people to hang with. Talking shop with someone who understands is a relief sometimes. But writers shouldn’t be your only friends. If you get out of the house once a week and spend that time with writers, you might as well be in therapy. There are two reasons to see other people. One: strangers will think you’re cool when you say you’re a writer. Two: strangers might buy your book. When you pitch your book to a writer, you're not only preaching to the choir, you’re in the third row with a hymnal. Get out and meet people nothing like you. Join the Rotary Club or volunteer at a senior center. Not only will they think you’re cool, you won't have to explain otherwise.
Optimism: Let’s get this out of the way now: No one cares about you or your book. Set aside your brilliance or at least your expectation that others will find you brilliant. It’s one thing to believe in your work. It’s another to be genuinely shocked when no one reads it. If your promotion starts at the point where you believe no one has heard about your book or you (because they haven't) then you have a realistic view of the work ahead.
Going it alone: Writing is like living in the Dark Ages. If you write alone in the wilderness, you will die. You need to form alliances, join groups who can help get your work out there. Beware! Writer’s circles, writing classes, and reading groups are self-deluding dead ends. Everyone is there for the same reason you are - to be heard. That usually means no one is listening. Instead, try volunteering at the local library to get insight into how libraries buy books like yours – and have a librarian promote you at readings and conferences. Join a booksellers organization. Become a publisher. Start a review blog. Anything you do to mix your work into a larger pool of authors is going to help get your name out there.
Now get out there. Not only will you find an audience for your work, but you’ll enrich your writing with real-life characters, situations, and drama. You might even have fun.