Sunday, April 11, 2010
Marketing your work: How far will you go?
Today's post was inspired when a writer-friend shared this link on British writer Stephen Bentar. To summarize, Bentar's work has been critically lauded and even though he's been published, his work has often not succeeded in finding a wider audience. At some point, Bentar decided to push his books, literally, into the hands of would-be buyers. The result, after decades of slogging away, is that eventually one of those books ended up being read by New York editor Edwin Franks. Bentar is now doing readings in New York City.
When Bentar was asked why he went to such great lengths and was so persistent in trying to reach readers, he said he does it because 'he wants to be read'.
For him, it was never about making mountains of money or the desire to become famous. For any creative sort, if those are your motivation, then you're probably in the wrong pursuit, because art in any form is seldom profitable in the financial sense. He wrote to share a story - and the more who were touched by his work, the better.
Here's a great article by Henry Baum over at the Self-Publishing Review, The Pain of Promotion, that talks about selling your work. Writers, if they want to be read, have to make sure someone knows about them.
All this brings about a hard question: If you're a writer, to what length will you go to market yourself and get your work out there in front of others? If you had scads of money, it would be easy to hire a publicist, buy some ads and sign a few checks. Most of us, however, will have to find more creative (read: cheaper) ways to get the word out. Hawking your wares in person like Bentar does is one way of doing that, but there are many possibilities. As a parent of two active teenage kids, devoting my evenings and weekends to approaching strangers, when I could be cheering my kids on at the track meet, is not very appealing. In fact, it's not me at all. But, that isn't to say I would never do it.
For now, I'm reading the following two books (below). I'm now giving thought to re-vamping my web site for better SEO (search engine optimization), building a media kit and writing a press release, locating my target audience, and blogging regularly and with informative content. Many of us who dreamed of being writers while growing up, or even those who came to it later in life, were drawn to it because we are somewhat reclusive - we enjoy those long quiet hours alone with our thoughts, carefully choosing words to convey a picture, an action or a feeling.
But these days, whether traditionally published or independently so, if we don't extend a hand to our potential audience, we risk never being read at all. When I attended the Historical Novel Society Conference last June, I was surprised when traditionally published authors talked about the time and money they personally devoted to marketing their work. For them, it was a matter of necessity if they wanted to keep their careers afloat, although I'm sure most of them would much have preferred to be using those precious hours writing, hanging out with the literary crowd, or spending time with their families.
As a writer, what lengths are you willing to go to in order to make yourself, and your work, known?
[Edited to add a link to this great post, What is Your Marketing Plan?, by Karla over at Indie Publishing on the Cheap. If you want a step by step approach that will take this mystery and aimlessness out of marketing your book, this is excellent!]