Writing Books is Your Job. Selling Them is Not.

Caveat: I’m talking about the YA world here. I really don’t know very much about self-promo of books outside my genre. I recognize that I may be the odd one out on this particular topic, and I certainly didn’t practice what I preach with THE DIMINISHED, but I learned a lot.

I was recently at a conference and had the great joy of spending a lot of time with a couple of seasoned authors, authors with 5, 6, 7 books under their belts, and when I asked about self-promo, the resounding, echoing answer was, “Do what you like doing but don’t expect it to move the needle. Your job is to write books, not sell them.”

Look. I have an ego just like everyone else. I wanted to see THE DIMINISHED on the NYT bestseller list. I wanted to see foreign rights and movie deals, and I did as much self-promo as I could comfortably manage while writing 2 more books, editing THE DIMINISHED, keeping my day job, and paying some attention to my husband and dogs. But the realistic part of me knew that it wasn’t going to happen.

Here’s the thing, y’all, the books that hit the NYT list, the books that reach hundreds of thousands of readers? 99/100 of those books reach that level of success because they have the support of their publisher. Their publishers spend A LOT of money on making beautiful ARCs that they send to major bookstagrammers, bloggers, and the big reader conferences like YALLWest and YALLFest. They spend A LOT of money on advertising and packaging and sending the authors out to conferences before the book is published. If a book is going to hit the list, you see it EVERYWHERE. And that’s not something an author can do on their own.

So now that I’ve been all Debbie Downer on you, here are some things that I’m glad I did before THE DIMINISHED was published.

  1. I’m really glad I had and spent the money to go to a Madcap Retreat. It was there that I got to meet a lot of author friends who’ve kept my head on straight when publishing turns upside down.
  2. I’m glad I sent my book out on two Storygram tours. These are reasonably priced and got my book’s cover in front of thousands of readers.
  3. I’m glad I figured out my Instagramaesthetic if 6 months too late. This is the only forward-facing social media that I really enjoy doing self-promo on, so I wish I’d figured it out a little sooner.
  4. I’m glad I talked to other humans about my book. I was shameless about this. I carry bookmarks in my book and have had everyone from my optometrist to my grocery store clerk order my book on their phone after I pitch it to them. Because this is the thing. Word of mouth works.

So, that’s my advice y’all. Do what makes you happy, but write the next book. Your job is to write books, not sell them. If you keep at this long enough you’ll have flops and successes and mid-list books, and none of that is going to be because of the promo you did or did not do.

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Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

Kaitlyn Sage Patterson grew up with her nose in a book outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After completing her M.F.A., she moved to South Korea, where she taught English and started writing her debut novel. THE DIMINISHED will be published by HarlequinTEEN in April 2018, followed by its sequel in 2019. When she's not staring off into space and trying to untangle some particularly troublesome plot point, she can be found in her kitchen, perfecting the most difficult recipe she can find; or at the barn, where she rides and trains dressage horses; or with her husband, spoiling their sweet rescue dogs.

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