Message in a Bottle

So, once a writer gets a book out there, however they got their book out there, they are much like a seaman thrown onto a strange shore, who, having journeyed over the mountains that lay beyond their beach find, to their horror, that instead of being on some foreign continent, they are trapped on a deserted island.

Instead of reaching the end of their trial, they are, in fact, only just beginning it.  Once the book is out and about, the writer must begin to promote it.  There was a time when this was the job of the publisher, and some of the kinder publishers will help you with this step in your journey, but as a rule, the person who is going to do the most work in getting word of your book out into the world is you.

Unfortunately, when it comes to promotion, nobody is really entirely sure how the whole thing works.  Or if they are sure, they’re keeping it to themselves, which is probably a wise thing as nothing seems to work as well once everyone is doing it.

For most of us, promoting our books is a bit like sending a message in a bottle.  Oh, sure, there are certain things you can do that are certain to get SOME kind of response.  For example, you have to tell your friends and family.  They’re basically obliged to buy a copy and tell you that they love it.  But unless one of the people who has to buy your book and sing its praises is Brad Pitt, that isn’t going to be enough to get the response that you want.

Every writer knows, in their heart, that somewhere out in the world, his or her readership is waiting, desperately wanting to find out about their book.  They might not realize that this is what they’re waiting for, but it is.  All we have to do is put the message into the right person’s hands at the right time and it will spread like wildfire.

The problem is that we have no idea who the right person is, when the right time is, and where all of this will take place.  Even when we know that certain things have worked before, like setting up a cooking blog, or selling books at track meets, or sending a copy of the book to a celebrity, we also know that those things worked because of very specific circumstances.  The book tied in with this, or it represented that, or the celebrity in question had just taken their medication… whatever the reason.  The point is, we cannot possibly expect for something that worked yesterday to work today.  It won’t.  Instead we take pot shots.  We pay attention to the big things, the trends going on, and we try to find a way to make our book stand out just a little bit, and we throw our message in a bottle out into the tide here or there and cross our fingers and hope really REALLY hard.

Sometimes I think that there must be a better way to do this, some way to help the cream rise to the top, instead of just advancing the people who are good at promoting themselves.  I don’t have anything against those people, but I think that good writers and good storytellers often get the short end of the stick in the publishing world.

Or maybe I’m just not creative enough or not dedicated enough.  I will admit, I often find myself getting frustrated and walking away from the computer too quickly.  I really am drawing a blank on how to promote myself.

Well, almost a blank, there is that one idea…. and it might be crazy enough to work….

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