Promotion Post-Mortem

THE WICKED AND THE JUST came out two weeks ago tomorrow.  I was planning to post about how I went about promoting it, what exactly I did, what worked and what didn’t. . .

. . . until I realized I didn’t really know what worked and what didn’t.  Sure, I did a bunch of interviews and guest posts.  I held a giveaway (which ends tomorrow, if you’re interested).  I went on a blog tour and my fabulous agency siblings threw me a weeklong party.

But I have no way of quantifying outcomes.  I can’t know which of the specific promotional things I did resulted (or will result) in people buying the book.  I won’t have any concrete sales numbers for months, and things like Amazon rank are an arbitrary measure that only tells you one thing, and not the thing I’m interested in.

So this isn’t a post about all the ways you can do promotion.  Plenty of really smart people can tell you that.

What I found most interesting about the promotion I did for W/J was how it changed my sense of control over the whole debut process.

I have a wonderful publicist at Harcourt.  She is diligent, tireless, and a joy to work with, but 98% of what she does on my behalf happens in a black box.  Publishers tend to hold these cards close to the vest and I’m okay with that.  I fed her information about what I was doing, but it went into the black box and I have no idea what became of it.

Internal decisions about W/J like catalog placement, ARC distribution, outreach, sales backing – those got made at such a stratospheric level that I had (and still have) only an intellectual understanding of those outcomes.  There was no way I could do anything about those.

But what I could do was buy 500 postcards, write messages by hand, and mail them to every public library and indie bookstore in my state.  What I could do was band together with other local kidlit writers and arrange book tours.  What I could do was get on Twitter and just chat with bloggers, librarians and readers about anything from cats to kids to the weather.

There’s already a lot of letting go during the debut process.  Promotion is one way a writer can get back some sense of control, that you’re actually steering this little boat and not drifting with the tide.*  That sense of authority builds confidence, and confidence will let you relax a little.  And when you relax, even a little, it’ll be that much easier to enjoy the whole crazymaking ride.

* This is not to say you should go overboard and do too much.  Just enough to wrestle back control of the tiller.  I will now retire this metaphor, as it’s getting tiresome.

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15 Comments

Filed under Promotion

15 responses to “Promotion Post-Mortem

  1. I like control. It’s a good thing. You’ve prompted me to get my postcards ordered and mailed. Thanks!

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  2. This hits the nail on the head. (Or, uh, hoists the sail on the mizzenmast, or something.) I find myself constantly trying to do cost/benefit analysis when in fact it’s impossible (“Is it worth it to drive an hour to do a 10-minute reading?” “Will anyone who took a bookmark actually buy a book?”) The lack of ability to quantify outcomes can drive us all nuts, or we can just do some stuff, know it’s all unknowable, and try to have fun. Which it sounds like you did; bravo!

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      I see a lot of promotion as building goodwill. I have no way of knowing how any of it will connect me to others, so I do what’s fun and let the chips fall where they may.

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  3. Wow, you did so much and I’m sure it’s going to have a positive impact.

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      It sounds like a lot, but people do tons more than me. I had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t have to do everything. Believe me, it’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit-hole of “can’t leave any stone unturned.”

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  4. Thanks for this. Starting to think about promotion, and I’ve been overwhelmed. This helps!

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      The best advice I got is make a concrete plan. I determined early on who my target market was and how best to communicate with them. I made a list of five things to do, then I did them. And I only did things that I felt comfortable with. Keeping things simple and targeted let me feel like I was on-task without feeling overwhelmed.

      Oh, and I told that little voice in the back of my head that kept whispering “You could be doing more” to shut its piehole.

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  5. Wow, this helped me see “promotion” not just as a huge list of things you have to do or no one will buy your book, but a way to feel some ownership of your debut. I like that.

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  6. I’m just starting down that road, J. I’m not fond of promoting myself, so I was surprised to have some enthusiasm about promotion. I think you’ve hit on it–it feels like a bit of control, and it’s something to do during the waiting periods. And every little bit helps, as they say!

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      It took me a while to get over the weirdness, too. Having something concrete to hand people helps – a pretty bookmark, a drunken monkey magnet. I also figure I’m not promoting myself, but my book. A slight difference, but a helpful one psychologically.

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  7. Pingback: A Sob/Sub Story | EMU's Debuts

  8. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    I heard someone say once (I can’t remember who) 😛 that promoting your book is not about the author–it’s about getting it into the hands of readers who will connect with your characters. That made me feel much less self-conscious about the whole hey-I-wrote-a-book! thing. 🙂 Thanks for this post, J.!

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