Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The ABCs of Book Buzz: ARCs, Blogs, and Clips

 by Susan Cushman

As I considered the theme for this round of posts—“Best advice to a new author on how to get publicity,” I initially decided to leave the marketing advice to my fellow bloggers here who actually have published books, and also to the professionals, like Jane Friedman, author of the Writer’s Digest blog, “There Are No Rules.”  Her January 17 post, “How to Find a Direct Line to Your Readers,” (an interview with Patricia Davis,) is full of terrific marketing advice.

And check out this article by Guy Gonzales, (Gonzales and Davis were both speakers at the 2011 Writers Digest Conference) on “Marketing Yourself in the Digital Age.” 

But then I considered what I might have to offer, as an emerging writer, down here in the trenches, building a platform and finding my way around the social media while trying to finish my two books-in-progress. I came up with three building blocks of pre-book marketing—the ABCs of Book Buzz.

ARCS: I just read an interesting post about ARCs (Advance Readers’ Copies) at the Waxman Literary Agency’s blog. The post talks about good ways to use ARCs as pre-marketing for your book, but also warns against some abuses:

“… why do we now have an ARC culture where people collect them like trading cards, or display them like spoils of war after a trade show, or go online to sell & buy them on eBay, or pass them person to person so everyone on the internet with even a passing interest has read the book two months before it even hits shelves?”

63 people left comments on that post, so you might want to check it out if you use ARCs to create buzz for your books.  I’m always happy to receive them from authors who know that I review books on my blog, but I never pass them on to others when I’ve finished. Instead, I encourage them to visit their independent bookseller (or order online or download to their e-reader) to purchase their own copy. I’m almost finished with an ARC I recently won in a contest. Watch for my blog review of The Inheritance of Beauty—coming February 8—by “A Good Blog”’s own Nicole Seitz. And check out the “Reviews and Buzz” section of Nicole’s web site to see good marketing in action.

BLOGS: My first strategy for pre-marketing for future books was to start a blog. I’ve averaged 3 posts/week over at Pen and Palettesince August of 2007. I try to balance the topics: writing, art, spirituality, personal/travel/family, so that my readers won’t get bored. Then about a year ago, I sent a guest post to Karin Gillespie here at “A Good Blog” and soon thereafter became a regular blogger here. In January I did the same with Jane Friedman at “There Are No Rules,” and now I’m writing for her Writer’s Digest blog (which gets over 50,000 readers/month) once a month. (My next post at “No Rules” is this Friday, February 4.) Whenever I post on any of these 3 blogs, I link to each post on Facebook and Twitter. I also frequently comment on other writer’s blogs and link back to my own site. If you think blogging is overrated as a marketing move, check out Scott La Counte’s article in the February issue of The Writer, “From the little blog that could, a book contract.”

CLIPS: The third thing that comes to mind is my eight published essays. (A ninth will be out in April, and a chapter I contributed to an anthology will be out later this year.) I set out to write short pieces for the sole purpose of getting some published clips to include when I am ready to query agents for my books. But somewhere along the way I fell in love with the essay, as a literary genre, and as something I love to write. I think it was Anne Lamott who said that the essay is a one-night stand and the novel is a jealous mistress, and that she writes essays when she needs a quick fix. Instant justification. I find myself feeling that way when I’m in the throes of the long form, trying to hold it together for at least 60,000 words. I set the book aside and write an essay and voila! I feel confident again. And yes, getting those essays published is a marketing move for when my first book is finished, but it’s also an end in itself.

So, I guess that’s a wrap. Leave a comment (and link back to your own site!) to join the conversation. I’d love to hear about your own experience with ARCs, blogs, clips or other marketing maneuvers.

Susan's essays have been published in The Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Journal (2007 finalist), First Things: The Journal of Religion, Culture and Public Life,  and several other journals and magazines. In 2011, her essay, “Chiaroscuro: Shimmer Shadow,” will appear in the second volume of All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality, from the University of Alabama Press. Susan’s blog, Pen and Palette, was voted one of 50 Top Creative Writing Blogs of 2010 by Awarding the Web. She is a regular guest blogger on Jane Friedman’s Writers’ Digest blog, "There Are No Rules." She is currently writing a novel and a nonfiction book.


Anonymous said...


I really enjoyed this post. As an "emerging" writer, I've dedicated a good bit of time to creating and maintaining an online presence - something that simply cannot be ignored in the digital age. I've built a website (www.gabrielscala.com), starting blogging regularly (www.gabrielscala.wordpress.com), and am regularly attending writing conferences and events (I'm posting right now from AWP-land). I wonder, though, what your thoughts are (or anyone, for that matter) on building a readership on these online venues. Several of the blogs you mention get thousands of hits. Is that due to longevity? To other forms of marketing? To content? And how much time should we really be devoting to it all? I mean, I'm working on two book projects and that, it seems to me, is where the bulk of my time should be spent.

Hmmm....tricky, tricky, tricky. Thanks for giving me something to think about (and to blog about!) ;-)

Peggy Webb said...

I enjoyed your post, Susan. When I first started writing (25 years ago), all I had to do was concentrate on the book, conferences and public appearance. That was in the mid-eighties, the heyday, it turns out, for books and authors. Now, digital communication takes out huge blocks of time I'd rather spend writing. And yet, if I didn't have a web presence, I might as well hide my manuscripts at the top of the closet. I think balance is the key. Communicating via Facebook, blogging, etc., can be addictive. The trick is to keep everything in perspective. Let promotion take only that portion of time you can spare from the important work, i.e., writing the most amazing stories possible!

Anna Michaels said...

Good post, Susan.

Focus on the story, and let promotion take only the time you can afford to give it.

ficwriter said...

What I'd really like to know is where do you find the energy and time? I've been following you for awhile now and have to wonder when you sleep. Love the piece, btw, and think it's all great advice.

Glenda Beall said...

I hear the question all the time. How do I sell my book? Your post will be one of the places I send my questioners in the future.
Very good advice.
The balance between online marketing and actual writing our manuscripts is tricky, indeed. I heard one author say she spent the first hour of her day online and that was all she could do and continue to write her books.
I have seen a few authors who used the internet very well to sell their books. Vicki Lane and Kat Magendie do an excellent job.
Beginning novelists might check them out to see some good examples.

Renea Winchester said...

Anna, your comment is very wise. My first book, In The Garden With Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes was released in October and I have quickly found it difficult to balance writing and marketing. It is easy to loose the story while feeling the pressure of trying to share it with others.

Susan Cushman said...

Thanks so much, Gabriel, Peggy, Anna, Darrelyn, Glenda and Renea, for your insightful comments. The common thread I'm seeing here is that it's all about BALANCING our writing lives with time and energy spent marketing. I think we all gravitate naturally towards the things that are easiest for us, and the things we enjoy the most. The internet can have a powerful pull on our time and energy, especially if we actually LIKE social networking, which I do. At the end of the day, though, there will be no book to market if I don't discipline myself to do the solitary work of writing the novel. Great advice, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Oh that the BALANCING Act involved *only* writing and brand marketing! But Real Life demands a fair share of the mix -- whether that involves activities of daily living, once-a-month chores, the joy of time with family and friends, the frustration with oops events. Do I aspire to juggling? You bet! Happy days and clear writing to all.

Judy Christie said...

Great post, Susan, and it led me to your personal blog, which is most enjoyable! I am a fan of Jane Friedman and was delighted to see that you are a regular guest on her site. Will watch for you there, too.
Thanks again for some useful thoughts for those of us who hope to "emerge." :)

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