Confronting the Horrors of Book Promotion

Kate Flora here, sitting in  gorgeous Sedona, Arizona, surrounded by red rock cliffs I cannot see because of so much rain and fog. I am at my borrowed desk, thinking about what to write this week. Some of this post is recycled because I’m suffering from a mild case of blogging block. Yes, you heard it—this is yet another ailment to strike writers, and something else we have to worry about.

A bit of background: When I sold my first book, back in the early 1990’s, shortly after the Mayflower landed, my far more businesslike husband Ken smiled and said, “Congratulations, dear. Now you have a new job.” That new job, of course, was moving from the long, silent, thoughtful time spent writing my books (and my ten years in the unpublished writer’s corner) to the arena of publicity and promotion.

Had I but known! That was the pre-social media era. The pre-webpage era. It was a time when a writer wasn’t expected to be always on. On tour. On Facebook. On twitter. On message. Taking cute photos for her Pinterest page and generally studying with a bunch of experts about how to perfect the “Buy My Book” dance. Back then, talking about the book was much more about writing and storytelling and not the cult of personality. Back then, I would write for nine months and then spend three promoting the book

Me at a bookstore in earlier times

Flash forward a couple of decades. I still can’t dance. I still hate having my picture taken. I still cling to the Flaubertian idea that the work should speak for itself and the author should disappear into the woodwork. But now I clash with everything that pundits, experts, friends, neighbors, strangers, and the checkout clerk at the grocery store would say: Authors must have a platform. They must be branded. They must find ways to use publicity, in particular social media, to connect with readers because this where readers, especially younger ones, are finding and buying their books. They should have a tik tok presence, a book trailer, clever materials printed and ready to handout, a chatty newsletter for which they collect subscribers at every book event. They should have a street team ready to help promote the book.

It will no longer suffice to say: But I have a book due on July 1st and I’m way behind. Blogs must be written. Promotion must go on. But when I sat down to write today’s post, I found myself staring at a blank page. Thus turning to one from the past and giving it some tweaks.

How to overcome blogging block or the more general promotion block? There are the

and at a library, back when I let people take my picture

obvious things to do. Take a walk. Take another walk. Take a shower. Great ideas always arrive in the shower, don’t they? Perhaps there is that never fail solution—take a drink. But the invisible sun is not over any yardarm (if such there were in Arizona) and I am not Hemingway. Eat chocolate? Drift over to ebay and buy a pair of shoes? Ah, but some of you are guys, and perhaps this won’t work for you. Then there is surfing the net.

Yup. This is the solution. Lacking clever ideas of my own, and hating self-promotion more than having a root canal, I look back through my old emails to see what clever promo ideas my friends have sent me. Today’s fishing expedition yields up some great food for thought.

My good friend Dale T. Phillips, author of many great mysteries and “How to be an Indie Author” frequently reminds me that I need to be sure all my books are available as audio books, so I’m not leaving money on the table. Along these lines, recently my publisher notified me that many of my Joe Burgess books are now available as audio books. Here are some links:

Redemption“Redemption was right up there with those by my favorite mystery writers (Ian Rankin, Carolyn Rose, Felix and Dick Francis).” ~David Edgar Cournoyer, 

And Grant You Peace“…nailed the culture of a Portland cop…beautifully written, and suspensefully told.”

Led Astray“If you’re a fan of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, Kate Flora’s Joe Burgess ranks right up there. Keeps you on the edge of your seat…”

I check for a reply to my email to the student who is crafting my book trailer, but so far, crickets in return. Before I go back and hunt down that email suggesting a platform other than mail chimp for crafting a new mailing list (mail chimp having lost my last one, and yes, I promise there will be one) I return that earlier blog about blogging block and find this.

Because controversy is good for all of us first thing in the morning (remember that 8:00 a.m. philosophy class in college?) my friend Barbara Ross posted this deliciously controversial piece at Maine Crime Writers some years back, about publicists and fiction. It is still absolutely true.

Four Lies that Publicists Will Tell You

Maybe you, faced with the task for book promotion via blogs or otherwise will be more inspired to brand yourself, develop a brilliant marketing strategy, challenge commonly held beliefs, or just crawl under a chair and moan. And then, get back to writing. Because if you haven’t written anything, you won’t have stuff to brag about, promote, and agonize over. And you won’t have to wonder what is the best way to brand you. And writing, in the end, is what we’re all about.

p.s. If you’d like to be a beta reader for the next Joe Burgess, Such a Good Man, let me know.

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11 Responses to Confronting the Horrors of Book Promotion

  1. John Clark says:

    Publicity/promotion. These have held me back as much as anything. Hiring a genie with s silver tongue and brass balls is at the top of my wish list.

  2. Alice says:

    Always happy to be a beta reader.

  3. kaitcarson says:

    In the midst of promo right now for two books – makes me itchy and it’s not black fly season yet! Happy to beta Such a Good Man.

  4. Dale T. says:

    Agreed, the publishing world changed drastically, and if we want to stand out from over 20 million other books on the market, we need to adapt, though it’s difficult, painful, and few of us want to do it. We didn’t take up writing to become a publicist, promoter, or marketer. I do promotion, but don’t market well, and that’s even harder! We’d all love a service that does it for us at a reasonable price and results. You nail it though, that the writing is still the most important part.

  5. matthewcost says:

    Ha. The horror. My upcoming blog has a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald on the enjoyment to be gleaned from advertising one’s own work.

  6. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    I just want to be left alone to write, LOL. But, alas, one cannot Greta Garbo one’s way through the perils and peculiarities of publishing. Have a wonderful vacation!

    • Anonymous says:

      Love the expression “Greta Garbo-ing” because it’s true…most of us just want to be left alone to write


  7. I resent and despise the necessity of being on social media. It’s not healthy. Even when you hate it, it can become addictive because of dopamine. I wrested myself off of Facebook for awhile a few years ago but started up a new account when I decided to give a writing career another shot. That led to Instagram. (I considerTwitter a circle of hell and was happy to have an excuse to delete that account). A mailing list (I took mine off the chimp recently and am working out a new solution. There are glitches.) and a website blog. I review books. I make reels. I talk into my phone camera to make videos. And yes, I don’t get as much writing done as I’d like and ask myself, “Is this really the best use of my time?” I hope to streamline promo soon. Get in a rhythm. But I suspect this is a pipe dream. Good luck with yours (I’ve been enjoying your travel photos.)

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