The Lough Down: Does Self-Marketing Pay Off?
by Loree Lough
So...here's hopin' everybody had a productive weekend. Mine was terrific. Not only did I manage to celebrate my grandtwins' third birthday...but I did it without gaining an ounce. (Why doesn't birthday cake taste as good without icing as it does with?)
Good news from the hope-to-publish front...the non-fiction queries I shot hither and yon 2 weeks ago have resulted in several editors asking to see "the whole thing". (Can you hear me yelling "YIPPPEEEEE" from there?) I followed my self-made Rule of Twelve: Send out 12 queries, without exception, for every idea. Big net, but this time, it 'caught' the attention of 8 editors. Not bad odds, eh?
Are you wondering how I'll handle it if all 8 editors who asked for (and received) the full proposal package 'bite'? Simple: I'll follow my 'First Come, First Served rule. But what, you ask, if the next editor offers more money? Alas, that's the price I pay for being ethical. If these hard-working folks will go to bat for me during editorial board meetings and I waste their time and talents arguing why the company should publish my project...then jerk it back from 'em...do you think they'll fight for me next time I submit to them? Exactly. S'nuff said.
Part Two of the 'First Come, First Served' rule: Call the other 7 editors and ask them to recycle the submission package. They won't ask why. (At least none have so far....) Guess I'd better come up with a battle plan so I'll be ready if one does ask why, eh?
Long as we're on the subject of submissions and distantly-related things, here's the question of the day:
Q: My second book will soon be out, and I'm wondering about the effectiveness of ads in writers’ publications, in print, and online. First of all, isn't it mostly authors who read those publications? They don't buy books, readers do. Since I'm not convinced the ads affect readers' choices, I'm not convinced ads are a smart business expense. That said, I see no reason to self-promote, either. As my wife says, "Relax. Be patient; someday you'll be a 'big name' and won't need to sweat the small stuff."
A: First of all, authors DO read the work of their peers. It's how we support friends and contemporaries, and it's enjoyable, too!
Second, you're right. Ad space can cost big bucks. The bigger the publication's audience, the bigger the bucks. But consider this: Authors like Pat Gaffney, Diana Palmer, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Patricia Potter are betting that buyers ARE affected by the ads. And since there's not a name on the list that isn't immediately recognized by their fans, I'd have to say ads ARE a smart business expense.
Third, as for self-promotion.... My publishers don't do much to promote my books, and they don't pay particularly well, which means limited funds for PR and marketing. However, though I don't have the money to advertise like the 'big names', I realize the value of having my name and book titles seen in all the right places. So...
* I send press releases announcing my latest book to the local papers
* which inspired an article that was read by
* a producer at the local cable station
* who invited me to be an on-air guest.
* I also teach writing at the community college.
* I volunteer whenever and wherever I can.
* I make myself available to head up workshops and/or seminars.
* I give speeches (NSA, AAUW, writers’ organizations, schools, etc.).
* I attend writers' conferences
* I agree to lead workshops at these conferences
* I provide newsletter editors with info about my books.
* I write this column, and share it with editors of other newsletters....
Sounds like a lot of work and a huge time commitment, doesn't it? Maybe that's because it IS a lot of work and a huge time commitment! But it's worth every minute and every ounce of energy expended, because whenever my name appears anywhere, for any reason, my books are being advertised...FOR FREE!
According to your husband, you can relax and someday achieve 'big name' status by writing, and with no extra effort on your part, your name will make the 'big' list. Now, it isn't that I don't believe in miracles...it's just that I don't live on 34th Street. Like it or not, I live in the real world, alongside people who know the answers to these questions:
When ‘the big guys’ became 'big names', did they stop volunteering to help their local RWA chapters?
When ‘the big guys’ earned 'big name' status, did they stop heading up workshops?
When 'big name' was used to describe ‘big names’, did they stop making themselves available to speak at conferences?
Did being a 'big name' inspire any of them to stop advertising and promoting?
No offense to your wife, but it takes more than time, patience, and a completed manuscript to become a 'big name.' It takes hard work, and lots of it. The 'big names' once stood at the same crossroads where you stand now. I don't know what becomes of writers who set up house 34th Street, awaiting their miracle, but I know what happens to those who chose to live on Reality Road: After they rolled up their sleeves and dug in their heels and put their noses to the grindstone, they made it big.
My advice to you: If you want to be a 'big name' someday, you'd better be prepared to 'sweat the small stuff' today.
So what are YOU waiting for? You have questions, or maybe comments about an already-posted Lough Down. Bounce 'em over, and I'll lob 'em back...answered!
'Til next time, be good (and if you can't, be well)!