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Book Promotion for the Long Haul

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 9.48.13 AMI was talking to a writer friend yesterday about art, our writing careers, book promotion, and how they’re related. Of these, promotion remains the wildest mystery. My first thought was that I don’t do much promotion because I don’t understand how it works. My feeling is that my publicist at Macmillan is the expert, and the success of my books is largely in her hands.

Then I realized I actually do quite a bit of promotion in my own, laid-back way. I just don’t much notice my efforts because they suit me, and I don’t have any expectations that my efforts will pay off in a measurable way. I still feel that what I can do on the author scale is a drop in the bucket compared to my publisher’s influence, but I’m in this for the long haul, so here are the basics of what I do. They might work for you, too.

  1. Website. I maintain a decent website with updated content and a blog. It’s a landing place in case anyone wants basic information about me, and it has a contact page so readers can reach me easily. It probably takes me a couple hours a week to write fresh content, and since the blog posts are usually related to what I’m thinking about at the time, I enjoy doing them and finding the corresponding photos. Blogging is an art form of its own, in my opinion. I have the sense that people come to my website from my books, and not the other way around.
  1. Social media. 
    Twitter

    Twitter

    I cross-post my blog posts to Facebook and Twitter, which takes two seconds, and they are automatically uploaded to Goodreads and my author profile on Amazon. I have profiles on Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, and I’m open to learning more about them, but so far I haven’t had time and I don’t beat myself up about it. I use Twitter mostly to keep up with writer friends and their shenanigans.
  1. Goodreads. I get a real kick out of Goodreads. I like keeping track of my books there, the ones I’ve read and my list of next picks, so I drop by often. I’ve met some reading and writing friends there, like David Estes, and keeping in touch around books is nice. I also routinely post giveaways because that seems to impact the discoverability of my novels, which I can see with “to-read” stats.
  1. Schools, libraries, and bookstores. 
    Manchester High School

    Manchester High School

    By far the best part of my job is interacting with readers directly, and I used to be a teacher, so it’s rewarding for me be involved with students, say by leading writing workshops as I did recently at Manchester High School. I’m honored that I’m frequently invited to do these visits, and if my calendar allows, I say yes.
  1. Conferences and conventions. 
    WonderCon, L.A.

    WonderCon, L.A.

    My participation at big events like ALA, BEA, or the North Texas Teen Book Festival is typically arranged by my publisher, who foots the bill, and I am sent out for visibility around the release times of my novels. I also have writer friends I admire, like Cecil Castellucci, who recently included me when she pitched a panel to WonderCon, and I’d like to be more of a leader like her someday.
  1. Skype visits, interviews, podcasts, and experiments. I’m often asked to Skype with school book groups, which is easy to do from my own living room. I also frequently answer written interview questions for bloggers, especially during blog tours when a book is coming out. I recently had a super fun podcast with Blondie & the Brit which came out of Facebook launch party I attended in honor of David Estes (see #3 above). I’m open to experiments, too. For example, even though I don’t write romances anymore, I’ve recently joined up with a group of my romance writer friends for a new blog, Gems in the Attic, where I contribute once a month, and I appeared at two B&N stores during their first ever B-Fest.

To me, none of this seems particularly flashy, but it all makes sense. Is my version of promotion effective? I have no way to judge, except my books are steadily finding new readers. In the end, my efforts are an extension of my writing, my real work, and that always comes first.

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