Sunday, July 15, 2012

The madness of marketing

Since I seem to be taking a week to talk about marketing... I told you guys yesterday that in the middle of my huge Amazon promotion for Huntress Moon I am also clearing out my house to sell it, and am constantly finding reminders of the brutal days of book tours and bookstore drop-ins and how different things are for authors today, just three years later than what you're about to read below.  While throwing out ten tons of paper promo material I was reminded of this blog I wrote for the hardcover launch of my poltergeist thriller, The Unseen, which I just put up for sale on Amazon and Nook this month.  Just a bit of a different process!

But I think you'll find it uncanny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

December 2008

Dear Diary: You will be thrilled to know I’ve made an actual decision. No, I mean it, stop laughing. Really. I’m just not going to kill myself promoting THE UNSEEN when it comes out. No more of this stress. I love this book. I know people want to read it. Who wouldn’t want to read it? 
John Lescroart says the only viable thing you can do to sell your books is to write another book. So that’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to write another book. In fact, I’m going to write two books.

And the Screenwriting Tricks for Authors book, too – I can do an hour of that every other day. It all stops now. No more traveling, no more craziness, just workshops close to home. That people pay me for. I’m going to write. That’s it. Write. And have a personal life, remember that? And then maybe Michael won’t leave me for alienation of affection? That would be good.

PS. You won’t be hearing from me for a while. I have writing to do. And affection.

------------------------Five months later------------------------

May 1, 2009.

Well, Diary, I am thrilled to report I have finished Book of Shadows and Scott loves it and SO DO I. I got that paranormal proposal in to HQ Nocturne and I will easily be finished with Ghost Ship by the end of the month and get that in to St. Martin’s ON TIME. I have an entire first draft of Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, and am psyched to launch into revisions. I am so golden.

Lescroart is so right. We need to be writing.

May 2

Woke up to panic attack. OH MY GOD, The Unseen is coming out in twenty-four days. How did that happen? Who scheduled this?

I haven’t done anything. Nothing. I haven’t even thought about doing anything. I forgot about promotion. Who do I think I am, a screenwriter? I’m an author now, I have to promote.

What’s promotion again? How did I do it before? OH MY GOD.

May 3

Woke up thinking about Konrath. OH MY GOD. Konrath is doing a 100-stop blog book tour for Afraid. I should be doing a 100-stop blog book tour. Wait. I can barely write one blog a week. I’d have to have started 100 weeks ago to do a 100-stop blog book tour. 100 weeks ago is – um, years, I think. I can do ten. No, twelve. No, eight. In two months. No, one. No, six weeks.

Is it worth it to do that? Does that even count as a blog book tour?

Note to self: check Blog Book Tour site for… specifics. Wait. Wouldn’t I rather just write more Screenwriting Tricks blogs? Won’t everyone hate me if I stop those for a month to do blogs on… whatever I would be doing blogs on? On somebody else’s blog site? Didn’t I start Screenwriting Tricks because I had nothing left to say about myself? Do blog tours really work? Konrath says it’s working.

Well, of course it’s working for Konrath, I’m talking about for REAL people, do they work for REAL people? Note to self: You are NOT under any circumstances going to try to pull a Konrath here. Just get a grip.

May 4

OH MY GOD. “The Edge of Seventeen” got nominated for a Thriller Award for Best Short Story. I can’t believe it. I mean, I love that story, maybe more than anything I’ve ever written, but… it’s supernatural. It’s got a teenage GIRL protagonist. I’m so overwhelmed it got noticed.

Lescroart is right. I need to be writing. Nothing matters but writing. And affection.

May 5

OH MY GOD. Thrillerfest is the same weekend as ALA. HOW DO THESE THINGS HAPPEN? How can I not go to ALA? How can I not go to Thrillerfest? I’m going to be just out with The Unseen in hardcover, I have to go to ALA.

But I’m nominated for a Thriller award, how can I not go to Thrillerfest? How can I be in New York and Chicago at the same time?

May 6

Woke up thinking about social networking. OH MY GOD. I haven’t posted on Facebook in weeks. I haven’t Twittered in longer. And I can’t remember the last time I even signed on to MySpace. I need to update my sites. If I can remember them. Amazon blog, Red Room blog, MySpace blog, Haunt blog, Backspace, MWA something or other - Margery said we all had pages somewhere and that I haven’t done anything on mine; Pretty Scary, Authors Round the South, Indie Bound something or other, Library Thing?

Am I on that? Or was I supposed to do it and forgot? And what about that Facebook page thing? Did anyone ever figure out how to find my page as opposed to whatever the regular Facebook thing is? Is that page thing just going to open up a whole new spate of old boyfriends?

May 7

Woke up thinking about….

I can’t… think…

May 8

OH MY GOD. Romantic Times is in two days. Did I book a flight? What state is it in? Do I have bookmarks? Oh my God, I never ordered bookmarks for The Unseen. I have to e mail Kelley at Iconix and order more NOW TODAY so they’ll come in time. Will they get here or do I have them delivered to – whatever state RT is in? Kelley will handle it. IF YOU REMEMBER TO TELL HER.

Where are my business cards? OH MY GOD. I have to learn all the songs for the Vampire show. Shut up. Slow down. What you need to do at RT is WRITE. Go rehearse the Vampire show and then go back to the room and write, write, write. Five pages a day, minimum.

(Pages done at RT: 7 total, done on the plane en route. Hours spent rehearsing Vampire Show: 20. Hours on the dance floor: 3 per night. Hours in hot tub after dance=2. Parties… a lot.).

May 9

Woke up thinking about website. Hmm, worrisome. Most Awesome Webmistress is not returning e mail on website update. Starting to panic. Better call.

OH MY GOD. Most Awesome Webmistress has been sending e mails on website update that have disappeared into the ether. Website needs complete overhaul.

OH MY GOD. Must send in all updates by tomorrow and decide on design.


May 10

Have to get announcements of The Unseen in to all the organizations I belong to for their newsletters. What organizations do I belong to again? Who do I send this stuff to?

Have to send updated list of all reviewers I know to new publicist so she can send reading copies.

Have to send updated list of all media contacts I have to new publicist to she can send reading copies.

Have to send updated bookseller/librarian list to new publicist.

Have to do author questionnaire for Little, Brown for UK releases.

Have to do new author questionnaire for St. Martin’s.

Have to do AT LEAST FIVE PAGES on Ghost Ship today. I have to. I have to.

(End of day: Pages written: 0)

May 11

Woke up thinking about bookstore mailings. Elaine Viets does bookstore mailings. Elaine swears by bookstore mailings, and everyone loves her. Does that mean I should do bookstore mailings? What is a bookstore mailing?

Books? Still don’t have them. Bookmarks? Bookmarks are great if you march them into the store and set them on the counter yourself, but if I were a CRM and got bookmarks in the mail I would just toss them in the trash. I don’t even open my own mail, how can I expect anyone else to?

May 12

Woke up thinking about book club mailings. Jenna Black swears by book club mailings. Do I need to do a book club mailing? What is a book club mailing?

May 13

There’s a book club coordinator at St. Martin’s. Who knew? I give her my targeted list of rabid book clubs and she will send books with my letter that I send to her. I love St. Martin’s.

Lesson learned: Ask, Ask, Ask.

May 14

Going through old promotional files and discovered Sisters in Crime has a bookclub database with specific contact info for mystery book clubs nationwide. Most want e mail contact first. I can do that. I can do that in a night and pretend to be watching whatever movie Michael wants to watch.

I love Sisters in Crime.

May 15

OH MY GOD. I haven’t worked out in two weeks. Have you somehow for gotten that you have the personality of a rabid armadillo when you don’t work out for TWO DAYS?

Has it somehow slipped your mind that a BOOK TOUR means you will be dealing with THE PUBLIC for all your waking hours? Has it not occurred to you that if you don’t get an injection of endorphins, not to mention muscle tone, then too soon to contemplate you will not be fit for viewing?

May 16, 2009

OH MY GOD. I haven’t updated my mailing list in six months. And I need to do a newsletter. How does Vertical Response work again? What’s my password? Why can’t I log in? Oh, right, I have to use Firefox to get into that one. Um, I think. But do I have any news?

Did I for sure take that guy off the list who wrote me that horrible letter about how he didn’t know me and how did I get his e mail and why am I spamming him? Does he know how many nights of sleep I lost lying awake wondering the same thing?

May 17

OH MY GOD. I have to be at BEA next week. What state is BEA in this year? I need a pass. I need books. Did I book a flight?…. Frantic e mailing ensues .... HAH! St. Martin’s has sent books and is sending me a pass.

I will do my Quail Ridge launch then drive up to NY with Natasha and stop at bookstores along the way to sign stock.

A Garmin would be good, though. Konrath swears by his Garmin. Note to self: need to get a Garmin. More to the point, need to figure out how to use it before I hit the road. Can I realistically do that? I mean, really?

May 18

OH MY GOD. Right after BEA I’m due in L.A. for the HWA Stoker weekend and So Cal MWA conference and Dark Delicacies signing and Mysterious Galaxy signing. Did I book a flight? OH MY GOD - must do bookstore drop-ins. Must do TONS of bookstore drop-ins. I can do 200 easily in two weeks before I have to be back for my Southern tour stops. Even without a Garmin. No Garmin required here at all. Konrath may be Konrath, but I know California freeways.



I wish I could say that’s as bad as it gets but it’s not even close. Multiply the chaos above by twelve thousand and you have a rough idea of my mental state at the moment. There is no order to anything.

The funny thing is, I just did an interview in which the eminently sane interviewer posed the question: “You’re a great business networker. What’s your strategy?”Which I guess is encouraging because no matter what is happening inside me I have the APPEARANCE of control and organization. So that must count for something.

But you know what? I was so fine while I was just writing. I really did get – almost - two books, a proposal, and a rough draft of another (non-fiction) book done in five months. This last month I’ve managed to do some editing, but that’s about it. And I am miserable about it. I could so easily have had my new book done by now.

So I really, really want to know. Are we really doing ourselves any favors doing this kind of insane promotion? Or is John Lescroart right, and we should just always be writing the next book, period?

July 2012
Thank God at least SOME things are different. I no longer have to book so many flights for book tours (which I have a total aversion to doing, even though these days someone else is almost always paying for my appearances, I figured THAT part out at least!).  Bookstore drop-ins?  The chains have crumbled. These days you have to figure out how to work the Amazon algorithm, but you don't have go GO anywhere to do it.  That alone is less time-intensive.  I'm still using this paper promo at conferences, people still use bookmarks, but as I found out this week I already have a lifetime supply (!)

It's amusing to me that we were looking to Konrath for the magic answers before the e book thing, too.  (And anyone who thinks he just got lucky on the e book thing should remember the days not so very long ago that he was doing 600 bookstore drivebys in three months and 200 blogstops in a month.)

But I can still get caught up in that kind of frantic obsessive promotional frenzy, even though I don't have to get dressed to do it anymore. There is an addictive aspect to marketing that I think authors have to be very wary about, and always self-monitor.

And my question today, July 2012, is exactly the same:

Even though we're doing it online, now, Facebook, Twitter, blog tours - is that really helping us?  Really? Are we really doing ourselves any favors doing this kind of insane promotion? Or is John Lescroart STILL right, and we should just always be writing the next book, period?

What do you think?

- Alex

Huntress Moon, on sale now:  $3.99

Amazon IT

A driven FBI agent is on the hunt for that most rare of all killers:
a female serial.

Related marketing posts:

The Madness of Marketing
Letting it Ride (Kindle Select promotion)
Bestseller lists and Tag lists
Liking, Sharing and Tagging 
My e publishing decision 
To Nook or Not to Nook? 
Giving it Away (Kindle Select promotion)


Roni Loren said...

Lol, I so relate to that state of mind. I've launched a novella and a novel in two back to back months, have been doing the blog tour thing, have a week to revise an entire novel, and have another one (which I haven't started) due in three months. RWA is next week and have nothing to bring for promo because I haven't had time to even think about it. (And like you said, does paper promo really matter anymore anyway?)

Hopefully I don't end up in the fetal position by the end of the month. :)

Susan Oloier said...

All of my promotion has ended in minimal return. I think writing more is the key. Other writers have propounded that idea, as well. So that's what I'm doing right now instead of insanely working on marketing and promotion.
Great post to put things in perspective.

JoAnn Bassett said...

Ha! This was great. I read your on-going angst and thought, "Wow. That's exactly how I feel most of the time." Did I remember this? What was I supposed to be doing today? Which of my two dozen passwords is the one I use for Tweetdeck? Thanks Alexandra, for putting voice to my misery. I'll I really want to do it write. But, if a tree falls in the forest, and all that jazz. If I don't promote it, no one will read why am I writing it? It's become a real "zen thing" to be a writer.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Roni, I'm sorry to hear it but at the same time - SO glad I'm not alone!

Well, at least I DO have the paper promo, thanks to this blowout cleanup job I'm doing! I can bring books for the book tables, too!

Will see you at RWA!

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Susan, I know, you hear it all the time from everyone, just WRITE. But it's hard not to caught up on that hamster wheel.

I should reread my own post every week just to remind me how insane I can get.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Exactly, JoAnn, that's the conundrum.

But it helps me to talk about it with other writers. At least I know I'm not unique in this angst.

E. Arroyo said...

This is something to think about. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Stella said...

Alex, reading this amazed me. I see you as always so calm and in control. I can't quite reconcile the freaking-out-over-promotion and conference commitments view.

Given the choice between accomplishing writing and seeing to all of the promotional ideas, I'd opt for writing.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

E., isn't it?

Mary Stella, now you know. I have a lot of internal chaos. But I sometimes wonder if I would be any kind of writer at all if I DIDN'T have internal chaos?

That doesn't mean I shouldn't get back to meditating MUCH more regularly, but you can't write a book without having a lot going on inside at every second.

PC said...

As a reader I have never taken much notice of promotions I will choose a book purely by the blurb, cover and first page. A good review might make me pick a book up. If, however, I read a book and love it I will hunt down and read all of the author's other work and it can be quite frustrating when there is none or there is no hint of when the author's next book is being released.
Promotion can be good for reaching new audiences or reminding fans that you have something new coming out but I don't think it should take over from the "writing" as the main thing you do.

Jolene Navarro said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm not even published yet and I'm already starting to freak out over all the options and advise. Maybe I'll just go write.

aniko carmean said...

The insanity and total lack of control that goes along with marketing a book ate two months of my life earlier this year. I looked to other authors who were 'making it' and decided I needed to do *everything* they were doing. I got caught up in the marketing, and none of it was paying off. I became obsessed with numbers, which is funny because I'm a writer, not a mathematician! I wanted to force my book to sell; I was locked in my own Ambition Room. When it finally occurred to me that what I want to do is write, marketing be damned, a great thing happened: the Ambition Room disappeared. I wrote the draft for two novels in three months.I'm on target with my release dates. Best of all, I'm having fun again!

Thanks for this post, and the reminder that the best thing to do is write!


Alexandra Sokoloff said...

PC, you've identified the bottom line - there is NO WAY that promotion should take over the time that writers need to spend writing. At the same time, authors are fooling themselves if they think readers will find them without a certain amount of attention to promotion - readers have to hear about our books somehow!

It's just very easy to lose all sense of balance.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Jolene, just breathe! Write the book. You could be freaking out about global warming, too, but that's not going to help get that book written. All this info will be here when you need it.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Aniko, "insanity and lack of control" perfectly describes it. Just like - any addiction, right?

There is such an obsessive quality to promotion and it takes over your mind and your life before you know what's happened. It's just good to be aware so you don't get totally wrapped up. Promote when you need to but set limits.

Constance Burris said...

As an early writer, you have to promote yourself to get your name out. just writing only works if you got lucky or you’re already established. Just like if you were at a new job, you have to bust your butt to impress the right people, once you have established yourself you don’t have to work as hard to make an impression and you can work harder at working.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hey Constance... I totally agree!

But I'm not sure the hard core promotion ever really stops. I look at some of my bestselling friends and they are CONSTANTLY working it, the marketing stuff. They learn how to work it at a higher level, and it has more of an impact, but I don't see them spending any less time doing it. It's interesting.

Christine London said...

This post exhausts me. As an e-book mostly author with a few gone to POD, 'I' am the name of the game in marketing. If only e-publishers would take seriously how sad that statement is. We all reinvent the same squeaky wheel to try to be 'discovered'. Few if any of us are good at it. Fewer know the techie ins and outs. Exhausting--exhausted.