Publicity: Tooting the Horn

The Shards of Heaven

The Shards of Heaven

There is a long list of things they don’t tell you as a debut author, and the need to engage in publicity is very much one of them. Social media, interviews, posts upon posts, swag, convention panels, mailing lists, newsletters … it seems there is an endless train of things you are told you ought to be doing.

In my experience, one usually learns about each must-do item roughly one month after the deadline has passed for needing to get that thing done.

Even aside from trying to keep up with the timing of all these things you probably don’t know how to do, publicity can also be rather frustrating since not one of these things is actually writing another book — which is the thing you got into this business to do.

But publicity is important. Really, really important.

As I said above, publicity can take many forms, but none is a stronger pull right now than that multi-faced Janus of the unruly Internet gods, Social Media.

I have been told repeatedly — by my fellow authors, by my publicist, by my editor, by my agent, by booksellers, by every single person I know in publishing — that the Best Thing I can do to help the sales of my book is to talk about it in social media.

Get the word out! Tell folks how good it is! Get them excited! Get out there!

They’re right, of course. With so many books released every day, you need to establish a buzz to get lifted out of the saturating noise. Get it noticed and then word of mouth can take over.

I know, I know. As a writer you’re probably an introvert. You get embarrassed talking about yourself. It feels like bragging. I feel you. (I usually fall pretty squarely as INTJ in a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.)

Well, you know what? Tough cookies. You wrote a book. It was hard work. Lots of people are writing books, but rather fewer have written one. Even more, you got your book published. Talk about king of the hill stuff! Believe me, you have earned the right to tell people about it. I’m not saying you need to brag about it or hold it over people’s heads, but if you just got an awesome review from a significant trade outlet … hell yeah, spread the good news, sister!

What other advice about publicity have I gleaned, sitting here as I am, one month away from the launch of my debut novel? (And thus perhaps completely unqualified for dispensing any advice whatsoever.)

First, buckle up. You want to get where you want to go, and taking the publicity train will greatly increase the chances of you arriving at your destination. Don’t neglect this.

Second, don’t expect anyone to do this for you. They don’t give you a cheat sheet about how to do all this, so you’re going to need to learn how to do it yourself. That said, go ahead and ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask friends in the business about things that it seems Everybody Knows. And if you are fortunate enough to have a publicist, honor and aid them in any way you can! Don’t worry about looking like an idiot. To wit, here’s the paraphrase of an email I just recently sent Diana Griffin, my amazing publicist at Tor: “So spacewizardsandvorpalbunnies.com wants me to write a guest post? Awesome! Publicity for the win! Only, um, I just need to know, well, what’s a guest post?”

Third, cast a wide net. There is no one way to launch a book. Please believe this. Everyone seems to have a different theory about what works, which probably makes it a crapshoot. I hope that as things settle down for me (meaning after January, I suspect), I can start putting together a series of “So You’re a Writer Now” posts, piggy-backing on much of the great insight I’ve received from those ahead of and around me. It’ll be a start, but of course it can’t be conclusive, because, as I said, there is no one way to launch a book.

Fourth, There Is No One Way To Launch A Book. See above.

Fifth, THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO LAUNCH A BOOK. Seriously. Stop comparing and freaking out. Publicity can be like a horrible arms race that will make you feel you’re a failure before you’ve begun:

– Perhaps you think you’ve failed because it seems like every other author you know is getting to take part in events sponsored by your publisher and you’re not.

– Perhaps you stepped onto social media and immediately saw fellow authors who are just killing it and thus despaired because between your dayjob, the kids, the cooking, the cleaning, and oh yeah the very present Need to Write the Next Book you know there is no way you can post ten witty things an hour.

– Perhaps you similarly have met fellow authors with their savvy publicity campaigns of swag and wonders and costumes and … jeez, did I turn the stove off? And when exactly am I going to find time to get to the store for bread?

Point is, you just can’t compare your experience to that of anyone else. Many publicity decisions are simply out of your hands, and trying to read the tea-leaves of why a decision was made is akin to crazed rejectomancy. It will leave you mad in all senses of the term. And when it comes to those things you can control — the social media, the blogging, the convention-going — it is a fool’s errand to try to keep up with everyone else in every possible way. They aren’t you and you aren’t them.

Learn to be you, O Debut Author. Find what works for your comfort, your personality.

But find something, because publicity is a Very Good Thing. Get enough of it, in fact, and you’ll no longer need to toot your own horn. Other people will toot it for you.

(There’s no way that could be misconstrued, right?)

Order-Boost-Review: The Shards of Heaven. Tor Books. November 2015.

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