Deb Erika Knows No Shame (and neither should you!)

Erika MarksRecently, I was at a book signing and when it came time for the Q & A, a member of the audience asked me and the other two authors in attendance what we thought was the best way to promote a book. We three looked at one another and paused, considering our answers. Why did we hesitate? Because the fact is, there is no one right answer when it comes to sales.

Now I’ve known a lot of salespeople in my life. Lots. And I can tell you right now, I am NOT a salesperson. It takes a skill that I don’t have. But guess what? When you publish (and this is part no one really wants to tell you), you have to become a salesperson. A really, really good salesperson. In fact, NO ONE is going to be a better salesperson for your book than you. And make no mistake, promoting your work is not only a good idea in today’s publishing world, it is expected, because publishers know that today’s authors have access to an incredible marketing tool: the internet.

Yes, it’s scary—and yes, it’s hard! Which is why I love that Deb Joanne started off our week of marketing our books here on the Ball, because her promotion plan knocked my socks off. I wish I had been half as organized—and creative.

When I prepared to launch LITTLE GALE GUMBO, I had been blogging for nearly a year and had immersed myself into social media so I believed the best way to get the word out about my soon-to-be-released debut was through the internet. I didn’t have a launch party, but thanks to some very, very lovely book bloggers and internet friends, I did do a blog tour in the first few weeks of the book’s release. I posted on my own blog about the experience of releasing my debut. I had the joy of sharing the experience here at the Ball! That was the bulk of marketing plan.

But marketing a book is much more than just guest blogging and giveaways—and this is where it gets really hard.

Marketing your book can become a round-the-clock, 24/7 enterprise. You have think globally and act locally. You have to be kind of, sort of, well, yes, shameless. You have to tell your family and friends to tell THEIR family and friends about this little book you wrote. You have to have a pitch. You have to be willing to give that pitch anywhere and anytime. (Short of the public restroom, though I’m sure there are writers who have gone there.) You have to be constantly thinking about ways to engage your readers. The word gimmick may even pass through your lips (and you’re not particularly happy about it, trust me). Did I mention that you have to be shameless? I did? Well, it bears repeating.

And what about the other stuff? Do you need a blog? Do you need a website? What about Pinterest? Tumblr? When it comes to Facebook, do I need a personal page AND an author page—or should I just have a page for my book?

As writers we hear/read such contradictory answers to these questions, we find ourselves frozen with panic, unsure and indecisive.

My answer? Do as much as you can. Do it all. Do some. Just DO SOMETHING. You may not feel comfortable talking about your book to strangers—Get over it. It’s a business, and it’s okay to see it that way when it comes to marketing. Is there a magic bullet, a no-fail system? I don’t think so—and most of the other writers I’ve spoken with don’t think so either. Because at the end of the day, after all the spaghetti has been flung against the wall, you STILL may not know what strands have stuck and what strands have dropped to the floor. Discouraging? No! I think it’s exciting. Because everything you do to promote your book, however small, however grandiose, is one more thing to bring a reader to your work. It’s like they say about the lottery (and plenty of other things, too): You gotta be in it, to win it.

In October, I will be launching my second novel, THE MERMAID COLLECTOR, and this time around I feel somewhat more organized, and maybe even somewhat wiser. I hope to have the chance to attend more festivals and visit more bookstores. I’ve even dedicated a Facebook page to the new book that is a place for us mermaid-fanatics to geek-out about mermaids.

Now all that’s left to do is pick a flavor of cupcakes for my launch party. Right, Joanne?

Tell me, friends–what part of promotion do you think is/would be the hardest?

11 Replies to “Deb Erika Knows No Shame (and neither should you!)”

  1. The hardest? Finding the right balance between talking about your book enough and talking about it too much. IOW, being informative and fun vs. being obnoxious. It’s a balancing act. I keep hoping I won’t trip and skin my knees.

    1. Linda, that is EXACTLY it–it so often feels like a first date: Am I talking about myself too much vs. I really want to wow this person and to do that I HAVE to talk about myself! And like a first date, I don’t know if you ever feel REALLY comfortable doing it, but it is a crucial part of the process.

        1. Thanks, Linda–but I like yours better! (We are all about the skinned knees in this house (and keep some really cool Scooby Doo band-aids in rotation if you ever need one 😉 )

  2. Good Morning Erika,

    Yep, here I am bright and bushy tailed (early for me oh yeh). You are right, it does not matter what business your in,just get over your shyness or what ever and get out there and do it.

    I can’t wait for your new book to launch so I can read it, and yes PROMOTE it here for you to friends, family and you got it who ever will listen to me.

    Have a great week Debs.

    1. Good morning, Marcia!

      You are so good to us–I was just saying to Deb Joanne how special it has made this year to have our own official Deb Mom here on the Ball!

      You are right that shyness is a luxury writers can’t have anymore, can we? I think it’s much harder than getting up on stage as an actress (don’t you agree, Deb Linda?) because in theater you’re playing a part, but presenting your writing to the world is all YOU and that can be so scary because it’s so revealing. But then, the flip side is how GLORIOUS it is to get to share a piece of your heart (your book!) with everyone. 😉

  3. I struggle with this a lot, Erika. I feel shy about promoting my book in person, because I don’t want to seem like all I’m doing is pushing my book. BUT, I’m working on it and reminding myself that people really do want to know about this kind of stuff. A lot of marketing isn’t selling, but informing. Have you ever had a friend say, “Oh, I did a reading/signing near you but didn’t want to bother you with it…” just to be sad that you missed it?
    I am not a fan of the hard sell, but I do like to know about stuff, so if you remind yourself that you’re educating your friends, family, bathroom stall neighbor about your product, that’s never a bad thing. Okay, maybe handing someone a business card under a stall is a bad thing, but you get where I’m going with this – yes, that’s right, branded toilet paper. 😉

  4. I think “shameless promotion” doesn’t come naturally to most authors — myself included! But as you say, if you don’t promote your own work, who else is going to do it? I’m still some 6 months from publication, but the publicity machine is slowly creaking into gear, and I know I’ll be doing more promotion soon — shameless and otherwise :).

    1. Hi Dana! You are so right–even 6 months out, the machine picks up speed–and fast! There is something to be said for finding the balance in that too–how soon is too soon to promote, how late is too late? Like so many things about this process, we learn as we go, don’t we?

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