Friday, January 27, 2012

Your title is a grain of sand on the world's beaches...





I have felt sick and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books available on Amazon and talked about on sites like Goodreads. Every day there are more. New series or their offspring being published at a rate of knots by traditional and not so traditional publishers. Plenty are being given away for free. And what chance do I have in the face of so much competition for the reader's attention.  Jeff Bennington says over at The Writing Bomb your book is just one in a sea of books and I feel like I am drowning in that sea. If no one knows who you are why will they pick up your book instead of someone else's. The only path out of obscurity is by building your platform. As Mr Bennington says, there is no quick answer to growing an audience. And in the early stages it may seem as if we are not achieving any kind of growth at all. You can pop up on every book-fan site and comment on 5 blogs a day as recommended, beg friends to review you on Amazon and still not sell a single copy. And then when growth shows we may have already overstepped the too-much-promotion mark. I think we overcompensate by doing as much as we can possibly do, then end up writing less and annoying the pants off people as Nicola Morgan suggests in a recent post over at an Awfully Big Blog Adventure where she asks 'Do You Do Too Much Promotion'. To avoid book obscurity we flaunt ourselves and our wares in every venue available to us. Nicola wisely points out that too much can be a bad thing and as a citizen of the world I have to concede I am suffering from over-promotional fatigue. I feel inundated by product placement, this is the best-largest-smallest-most efficient-cheapest-most luxuriant messages, and sheer variety of products/experiences/interactions/services from which I must choose as I go about my daily life. I don't want to be one of these people flogging myself, my brand and my product in a loud voice to people suffering information overload.  But if I don't promote and work on growing my audience, is obscurity guaranteed? I cannot keep selling to the same twenty friends and family members. Some promotion would seem essential. How much is too much? Where is the tipping point? And as Nicola says, if we promote and then don't actually follow up our first book with another book we run the risk of having our audience drift off like a school of krill on a heavy swell. Successful writers succeed because they keep supplying their fans with something new to enjoy.

Somewhere is a balance between writing and promoting/building a fan base. I think the balance shifts depending on a variety of factors like dates of publication, number of titles, any unsolicited praise/reviews or awards, experience, other events. I think Nicola is right - you have to keep writing to make any kind of promotion pay long term dividends and too much promotion will make your writing suffer. Bennington has a point too - building an audience is a slow (sometimes glacially so) process that never really stops. My award winning picture book The Were-Nana came out in 2008 but reading it aloud the other day won me some new fans.

4 comments:

maureen said...

Beautifully put and required reading!
In the end it is all about the quality of the interaction for the reader...if 50 people love your work and share their love by talking it up...that is more effective then annoying 200 people with over promotion on twitter etcetc...I love your stuff Melinda! The half life of Ryan...especially the twist at the end....very neat! Great writing! And I could see why publishers shied away from it...close to the bone in real life...but kids need these stories to make sense of what they may be going through...

Old Kitty said...

I've been following enough writerly blogs to know what is too much for me! :-)

Take care
x

KarenG said...

I could have written this. And lately I feel like I've overpromoted, at least in my own mind. I'm looking forward to having 6 months of FUN blogging, with no purpose other than to enjoy being online and blathering on about whatever.

Melinda Szymanik said...

I cannot seem to find the middle ground - if i pull back I worry I should do more and then if I do more it seems way too much - argh! I shall just keep being myself and hope that is enough.

Maureen - thank you for your very kind words. So happy you liked the book :)