People are still sending me books to review.
I tried to warn authors and publicists that I wouldn’t be able to review their books on my blog and wrote a 3,000-word post with all kinds of ideas for getting book reviews. The overall number of requests has dropped, but they continue all the same.
As I tried to sort this out, I realized that there are some really interesting aspects of book publicity worth considering here. I’ll begin with the most obvious, at least to me, and move to the some deeper issues that may be difficult to see with clarity.
Publicists and Authors Didn’t See the Post
OK, I wrote a post about not reviewing books on my blog, but that doesn’t mean everyone saw it. I don’t assume every person requesting a review disregarded my post.
I need to do a better job of making that post visible on my site. It’s not serving the purpose I intended if I’m not helping more visitors find it. It’s really easy to neglect the internal functionality of my website. Heck, I don’t think my latest release was even listed on the “My Books” page a month after it released! I guess I should get on that in May.
Hope Springs Eternal for Some Authors
While some haven’t seen the post, I have also received requests from authors who begin their emails with something like this:
“I saw your post about not being able to read books or review them on your blog, and I don’t expect you to read my book, but I still want to send it to you…”
I applaud this optimism and determination, misguided though it may be. Hey, if you love your book, you should want everyone to read it. It’s just troubling to me that some authors believe in their books SO MUCH that they’re willing to waste a copy of it, let alone wasting their time sending emails to people who have publicly stated that they won’t do what’s being asked of them.
I’ve been there. I’ve taken long shots before. I don’t sit here in judgment, even if I was a bit miffed at first.
Too many authors are so focused on getting bloggers to do what they, the authors, want that they miss out on what a blogger could do for them. For instance, a regular reader of my newsletter dropped me a note asking for my feedback on a project. I was more than happy to spend five minutes offering my opinion. In fact, a simple ask like that means I could suggest other people who may read the book or places where he could find publicity. The sky’s the limit for potential networking at that point.
There is a world of difference between a five-minute favor and a potential three-hour slog through a PDF file.
I want every author to be filled with optimism and enthusiasm for their projects, but I also don’t want them to waste their contacts with fellow authors and bloggers. Sometimes shooting a bit low, especially if the person being asked doesn’t know you, can bring in the best return for your time.
Stop Relying on Other People to Make Your Book Successful
Besides the dogged optimism of authors, I think this trend of asking bloggers for reviews sometimes speaks to a deeper struggle that I personally spent years sorting out. Too many up and coming authors rely on other people for their success.
Mind you, the right person really can make or break your career. I’ve seen it happen to people with little to no credentials trump those with credentials simply because the right person opens some doors. However, this is rare, and the vast majority of us can’t reach more readers by tagging along with someone else’s success. We have to build our readers gradually, one person at a time each day rather than praying for a windfall from the right blogger or celebrity.
I spent far too much time coveting the support of celebrity authors or social media bumps from people with bigger platforms, hoping and praying that they would respond to my pleas via email for help. Even when I did land a great endorsement from a leading and trusted voice or a windfall of social media shares, that didn’t necessarily compensate for the limited connections I had with readers at the start of my publishing career.
This is one of those cases where a lot of misinformation about social media and endorsements converge with a few case studies of the extreme exceptions that become the norm for far too many. I completely overestimated the impact of endorsements, blog posts, and social media shares from influential people when it came to selling my books, especially when my books were only on sale for 30% off.
I won’t say that social media, blog posts, or endorsements can’t help your book. They can, especially if you’re offering a $.99 promotion. However, the context and specific situation matters a lot. One of my friends wrote a children’s book that helps kids not be afraid of the dark and he got a share from an extremely popular Twitter user who is a household name for many. That gave his book a huge lift (although I’m quick to say he had a massive network of his own to begin with!), but how many of us have a book with such a wide, instantly recognizable appeal or a reliable contact with a celebrity who is deeply invested in our work? Not many!
For the majority of us, we can certainly promote books through our blogs, social media, or endorsements from trusted authorities in our fields, but the real movement I’ve seen with my books has come by making longer lasting connections with readers who subscribe to my blog or my email newsletter. These are the people who are interacting with me on a regular basis and who will be most invested in my books when they release.
While there’s nothing wrong with using guest posts on other blogs to promote a book when it releases—hey, I’ve done it and will continue to do it—you may see a better long term investment in your time if you use blog posts to grow your blog or newsletter subscribers, keeping in touch with them, and then tell them about your next book when it releases.
Do you see the difference there? Too many authors have the promotion work backwards. We think of promotion as this thing we do to reach readers after the book is done, but it actually works a lot better if you build those connections before you even write the book. Then, when the book releases, you can ask your network of readers to buy your book and to share it on social media.
This could only be me and it may not last forever, but I have noticed a significant difference in the response to my newsletter vs. my social media posts: the former receives way more attention. Publicist Tim Grahl notes that it’s hard to dodge an email, but there are any number of reasons why a follower on social media with miss a post or a tweet.
I couldn’t have taken my first steps in publishing without other authors offering advice, support, and connections. I’m committed to doing the same for others. To that end, the most important piece of advice I can offer is to build your own network of readers. I assure you, it’s far more rewarding to interact with your own group of readers and celebrate a new book with them. The alternative is an author who spends release week begging bloggers and other authors to help promote a book. Yes, sometimes authors and bloggers will help out, but this is a small part of book publicity, not the center piece of it.
When one of my friends releases a new book, I’m one of the first people to offer a guest post slot or interview on my blog, but I also know that these posts usually receive the lowest amount of traffic on my blog.
I’ve worked on both sides of this as a blogger and an author, and it really does work to slowly but surely build your own audience and share your publishing journey with them. Best yet, once you have a better idea of who will be reading your books, you’re going to write better books that address the interests and concerns of your readers.
Perhaps the best thing that can happen to most authors is a firm “no” from a few bloggers. Blog publicity is an extremely hit or miss way to go about promoting a book. The sooner you try something else, the better.
Check out Tim Grahl’s Your First 1,000 Copies for a bit more insight into how a change in book publicity could look for you. Really, this book will help you make the most of your book promotion, far beyond what most publicists can offer. Then again, Grahl’s book also means you now have a ton of work to do.