Friday, March 26, 2010

Five pitfalls in promotion

1. Not testing the market

An author once told me that her vanity-published book, which was about a certain disorder, would sell tens of thousands of copies in its first year because it was the only one of its kind. An Amazon search showed that the disorder was common enough for dozens of other books, including a Dummies guide.

2. Having too many websites

Create multiple blogs, at a minimum twelve or more, each on separate themes.
Derek Armstrong, Kunati Book Publishers (now defunct)

I was surprised to read this – how could any writer keep up with so many blogs, providing unique content for each? I’ve got my hands full enough with one blog. Then again, Kunati is no longer in operation, so…

Two or three websites, maintained and updated regularly, give a better impression than six or more. Quality rather than quantity counts here.

3. Contributing articles to unknown websites

Writer Beware recently had a guest blog about whether or not it’s productive for writers to contribute articles to content mills - a website with a large number of articles from freelancers, who tend to be paid poorly for their efforts.

I’m not sure whether this is a good way for writers to gain recognition for their books (this article suggests it could be) but I am sure that there’s something worse than a content mill. That’s a website which doesn’t pay writers at all and which can’t be easily found on a Google search. Here’s an example.

What does the writer get out of it? If all a writer wants is the satisfaction of seeing his or her work on a website, that’s fine. But there are better options and sites out there.

4. Not having a goal

Don’t do anything without knowing why you’re doing it and whether it's likely to work.

Don’t start a blog because a blog is expected of you. Blogs are time-consuming and if you don’t enjoy writing them, that will show.

Don’t make bookmarks, personalized coffee mugs or anything else just because that’s what other writers do. The profit of any such promotion should cover its expense.

5. Not having distribution

The writer makes people aware of the book, and the publisher sells it. Demand and supply. Yesterday I saw the website of XoXo Publishing, which has e-books that aren’t even on Amazon (but which does have marketing and promotional packages for sale to authors).

If a publisher isn’t selling to readers, then it’s selling to authors. And that will eventually defeat any promotional efforts.


Barbara Martin said...

All well worth remembering when writing.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Good tips. I've wondered if the content mill sites were worth the effort. Sure doesn't sound like it.

Vegetarian Cannibal said...

Good post!

Polenth said...

The multiple websites advice has always bothered me too. You'd spend all your time blogging (if you were doing it properly, with quality posts) and no time writing.

Marian Perera said...

Thanks, Barbara and TK!

Amanda - I think it depends on what you want to get out of them. There was a time in my life when I needed money so badly (to emigrate to Canada) that I did some writing that really wouldn't have benefited my career. Maybe people in dire straits need whatever the content mills pay them?

I'd like all writers to be aware of their options, though - and to know if they can do better than content mills.

Polenth - Exactly. If writers have to choose between writing and blogging, and if there are ten or twelve blogs but only one manuscript...

Maria Zannini said...

Ref: Don’t do anything without knowing why you’re doing it...

This is probably the most important tip of all.

Randall said...

The multiple blog sites thing probably relies on the old truism about there being no bad publicity. If you're writing for twelve different sites, then your name is out there twelve times (times however many times you update). It doesn't matter, in this view, if what you post is good; it only matters that your name is visible.

Of course, there is such a thing as bad publicity, and writing for quantity rather than quality is going to get you some, but you can't convince some people of that.

Marti Talbott's Stories said...

There are thousands of writers struggling to make a name for themselves and I am one of them. For years I have written content as a way to promote my website and in these tough economical times, the truth is many websites can not afford to pay.

What Visit Our America offers is a way to help authors in need of links to their sites, free publicity for their books or writing and name recognition. No one here is trying to cheat anyone. We need the content and unless you are satisfied with the occasional message board, twitter or paying for advertising, it is a fair deal.

What is unfair is for you to imply otherwise. Marti Talbott

Marian Perera said...

Thanks for commenting, Marti.

I'm not sure why you felt a need to claim that "No one here is trying to cheat anyone", when my post says nothing about your cheating anyone.

I do think, though, that a largely unknown website which solicits for articles but doesn't pay writers is worse than a content mill. There, the writers can at least get paid something.

And for writers wanting publicity, there are also better options than "the occasional message board, twitter or paying for advertising" or your site. There are websites and blogs which are well-known and which can provide a great deal of publicity for writers. I don't think yours is one of them.

Marian Perera said...

Maria - I think I learned that from J. A. Konrath. Until I read his ebook on promotion, I took it for granted that all writers made bookmarks for promotion (or got these from their publishers).

Randall - True, and it's easy to get tired of a blog when you have a dozen of them to maintain.

There was a NYT article about that:

"According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned..."

gypsyscarlett said...

I've been thinking lately that it would be fun to start a second blog about my attempts at learning German (rather than constantly updating the page on my regular blog).

But goodness- a minimum of 12 blogs? If you're not enthusiastic about what you blog about, you're going to run out of steam very quickly.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

I like the idea some bloggers have of setting aside each day as a theme, like- "Writing Mondays," "Cooking Wednesdays," "Faith Fridays." Then it's all on one blog, but you know when to visit to read the theme you want. But I don't blog consistently enough to do that.

Marian Perera said...

Amanda - I saw that in a blog on writing as well. It's called The Obsidian Bookshelf, and I believe the blogger reviews covers on Friday, offers writing tips on Monday and so on.

It's a good idea, but it probably wouldn't work for me because I'd need to consistently come up with the same types of posts each week. I'd need a lot more free time. :)

Marian Perera said...

Tasha - I guess it depends on how many times you'd update your second blog and how much time individual posts would take to write.

I enjoy writing for and maintaining this blog, but some of the posts are time sinks, especially if they require research or a book to be read beforehand.

gypsyscarlett said...


Indeed. That's why for now, I'm just using the separate page on my blog to update my process and so forth. I want to wait and see if I gather enough ideas to keep me interested in writing about it longterm; and of course, if I would have the time to maintain a separate blog.

Great post on your part, btw!

Marian Perera said...

Thanks, Tasha! I have to say, though, if you start a new blog about studying a foreign language, I'd love to link to it and read it.