Your website, and everything you do on the net, isn’t about what you have to sell. It’s about what you have to offer.
J. A. Konrath
One thing you become experienced with, when browsing the websites of vanity presses, are the promotional efforts of writers. The writers generally work alone at this, since the press has already made money from them and doesn’t need to do anything further. As a result, many of the writers are both hardworking and creative in their marketing.
What I rarely saw from these sites, though, was an indication of whether or not their efforts worked. I like reading about promotion, but I also like reading about results. That’s often the only way to be sure about whether a particular method will work with your own book.
J. A. Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, a free ebook, is quite different. While it has numerous ideas on increasing readership and sales, those are backed up with numbers, statistics, facts and figures – and the fact that Konrath has tried nearly everything he suggests. He’s a tireless self-promoter.
Maybe a little too much so. When I picked up a recent book of his from the library, I was surprised at how many pages the acknowledgements list took up, and his method of naming characters after booksellers who helped increase sales just wouldn’t work for me. I’m also not certain whether it's a good idea to have a friend create a Wikipedia page for you, even after you're published.
But on the whole, this ebook is one I’d recommend to any writer. It helps that Konrath’s efforts are backed up by a publisher, of course, but he comes across as consistently on the ball, aware of new developments in the publishing industry, checking and calculating the effects of promotional activities, and aware of what doesn’t work – such as mass mailings. He also offers detailed advice on handselling books (complete with sample conversations for those of us who might be a bit shy at doing so).
Konrath’s style is quick and breezy, with short paragraphs, so it’s an easy read. I learned quite a bit from this book, such as how books are remaindered. I don’t agree with the events on his wish list - such as eliminating offset printing and going with POD only – but I do agree that more people, especially writers wishing to improve sales, should know about the business of selling books.
In short, it’s not just about promotion, it’s about well-thought-out and effective promotion. And as the man himself said, it’s about what you have to offer.