The literary race is on and I’m starting to feel like one of my poetic sports characters trapped inside my Tarnished Trophies book. There’s little time to sit on a soccer field and pick “word” dandelions. You need to step out of your comfort zone and be on tour. No time to snuggle on the couch and read a book for fun. You have no free moment. You need to attend readings, present workshops, socialize and network. Who has time to plant phrases onto a page and watch them flourish into a poetic book bouquet? You need to explore blogging then expand your followers on other social media venues. .
That dreaded stopwatch is ticking. Will your book be ranked in the Top 10? The Top 100? Will anyone read it? Does anyone care?
If your goal is to write a bestseller, the odds are against you. Not only must the product, your book, be well written, but you must be prepared to spend not hours but months promoting your work. I read that producing a book is 5 percent of the labour but promoting it is 95 percent. In fact, promotional work should begin long before the book is published. Often it’s a smart idea to draft a promotional strategy before you write the manuscript. During those first three months after publication, promotional activity is definitely a full-time job.
Part of the reason is that you have a limited window of time to prove yourself especially if you are a first-time author. Bookstores will usually display your literary masterpiece for about three months before they decide to keep it on the shelf or return it to the distributor. That is if you are lucky to have a distributor and if a bookstore decides to stock your prized volume
The competition is fierce with new and more seasoned writers ready to snatch the reader’s dollars and push for your space on the virtual or local bookstore shelf.
If you are a Canadian poet, did you know that at this moment there are 5,912 poetry books listed on Amazon.ca? That number includes 579 poetry anthologies and 5,596 Canadian poetry books.
Chapters.indigo.ca showed results for 101,448 poetry books of which 4000 were Canadian and 128 had a sports theme. The competition for fiction and non-fiction work is much higher.
Many writers dream of writing a book and seeing it published. However, how many of those writers dream of promoting their work? Based on informal data gleamed from my writing friends, only a handful are comfortable with promotional work. Most introverted writers dread publicity, see it as bragging and so they shy away from it. But why write a book, if you’re not willing to share it?
If you are self-published and do nothing to promote your work, you may end up with boxes of unsold books in your closet. What are you going to do with them? I’ve heard several horror stories from novice writers who self-published their books without considering the market or target audience. It proved to be a financial blunder.
If you are working with a traditional publisher, you may also have that added pressure to sell-sell-sell or your next manuscript may be rejected. If you thought securing a publisher is tough, consider how difficult it would be to attract a publisher when your first book flops. There are many hungry authors waving manuscripts on the sidelines.
So, what are you waiting for? Confused about where to start?
There’s an abundance of free information to sift through on the internet. Some authors opt to hire an experienced publicist but that can be exorbitant. Much knowledge can be derived from books.
Did you know on Amazon.ca, there is a staggering 14,421 results for “How to Write a Book” compared with 980 results for “How to Promote a Book”? Does this mean that that there are more people interested in buying literature on writing versus promoting? If that is the case, learning all the promotional trade secrets could work to your advantage.
Even if you’re an experienced publicist, you must keep an open mind to changing marketing trends. Thanks to NOWW (Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop), I was asked to make a presentation on “Being Your Own Publicist” at the Waverley Library in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. It forced me to examine my current promotional strategies and to realize why some strategies were no longer working. The key has always been to set some promotional goals and to determine what makes your work unique. However the methods, for attracting a targeted audience, are always evolving especially with the rapid changes with social media.
You never know where your promotions will lead you until you try. For a fleeting second last week, Amazon.ca ranked my Tarnished Trophies as #53 in the poetry books. I had to pinch myself until I noticed that the ranking was based on a one hour interval. Some authors use this sales surge on a slow business day to boast their rankings. Is this ethical or a marketing ploy?
For me, a book’s success doesn’t always hinge on where it ranks on a bestsellers list. These lists usually record stats for a specific period of time: sometimes a month, a week, a day or even less. The stats don’t record the cumulative sales over a lifetime. In fact, bulk sales and books sold at readings or to libraries are not factored into the total. Does the public know this?
So relax and take all your promotions in stride. Enjoy the journey and the people you meet along the way. Often those experiences are more rewarding than striving to be number one.
Coming soon to this blog: more literary highlights from Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Toronto, Sarnia, London and St. Catharine’s.