Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Book publicity is like a seven course meal...

“...You start slowly, testing the waters, then move onto the next course. You proceed in a steady, measured manner, enjoying every course while building confidence, momentum, and sales.”

I like that quote. It suggests that it’s okay to have a learning curve in book promotion. So many new writers I encounter are fearful that they must become instant social marketing experts, have 3,000 virtual friends and be prolific bloggers with lots to say. This fear starts to eat their joy of the whole book publishing experience. Alas, it should be like a seven course meal that is savored and enjoyed.

When my novel, Janeology, came out in 2008, I was on a steep learning curve. I tried many things I’d observed from others until I figured out what worked best for me. Not every type of promotion fit my personality, mostly because I am shy by nature. Just standing behind a book signing table at Barnes & Noble gave me monumental anxiety. It takes a certain finesse to stand under fluorescence and smile as patrons 1/ try to avoid your gaze,  2/ ask you where the bathroom is, or, 3/ ask you “is this another x87% book about Jane Austen?

The same was true for speaking engagements. Though I’m a former speechwriter, I suck at public speaking. There I said it. (Is there a support group for this, I wonder?)

It came to me that just as it took me a while to find my writing voice, it would take me a while to find my book marketing voice. I tested the waters. Tried many things. And what worked for me was a slow, steady world of blogging. Initially, I started a blog because my publisher told me to do so. Three years later, I do it because I enjoy it. 

So what do I blog about?
  • Books I love
  • The writer’s life
  • Book giveaways (both mine and other authors)
  • Guest posts by other authors (could this be you?)
  • Open threads: writers of all stripes are invited to post the first sentence of a work in progress
  • What I find inspirational in life
  • Vintage photographs from my family albums
  • How my children make me more precise writer
  • How I’m progressing on new works
  • And I found this old post – 8 Tips for the Debut Author, which includes the basic path I followed. 
It took a little time to find this rhythm. I learned from other bloggers. I caught on to the weekly memes that are out there. A meme is a weekly blog-chain that hundreds of other blogs are attached to. For example, there’s a Wordless Wednesday meme where folks from all over the world post photos. This was easy for me to join. I began featuring vintage photos from my own family albums because this correlated directly to the genealogy theme of my novel. There's a Booking Through Thursday meme that asks a variety of book related questions like "Who is your favorite literary couple?" or "What's the worst book you've ever read and why?" 

I like the interaction with other blogs. They are a serious community of bibliophiles. The majority of my readers are, well, readers. And these readers host an annual event called Book Bloggers Appreciation Week. My humble blog is only three years old, but has twice been short-listed alongside authors Beth Kephart, John Scalzi and Neil Gaiman as “Favorite Author Blog” by the book blogging community. My slow, steady progress has been very rewarding. In fact, I credit my blog as the reason people continue to discover my book, three years after its release. This is particularly satisfying in the wake of my publisher going out of business. And when I have a new book to announce, I'll have a wonderful platform in which to make a big hoopla.

I’m not the only one who thinks blogging is a valuable marketing tool  A recent issue of The Book Deal      elaborated on how the growing community of book bloggers has a real impact on a book’s visibility. Within that article:

“We think book bloggers are the absolute best way to get your book to exactly the right people who are interested in your topic, whatever it is,” says Samantha Rubenstein, a publicist at John Wiley & Sons. “Reaching out to specific book bloggers is a large and important part of a book’s publicity and increasing by leaps and bounds every six months.”
It does take time to blog and build up a readership. But here's another good point to remember: it's very simple to let one blog post do a lot of walkin’ all over the Internet. I set up instant feeds on other sites so that one post travels to FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, Goodreads and CafeMom. One post. Five locations. 

So what do you think? Are you a blogging fan? And do leave a comment and link to your blog so I can visit you there. Meanwhile, you can find me here.


Karen Harrington authored and published There's A Dog In The Doorway, a children's book created expressly for the "MyStuff Bags" foundation. "My Stuff" bags go to children in need who must leave their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Her debut novel, JANEOLOGY, asks the question: what would you do if the spouse you THOUGHT you knew committed an incomprehensible act? Read more about this novel at Karen's website: www.karenharringtonbooks.com. She also blogs daily at www.scobberlotch.blogspot.com


River Jordan said...

Hi there! I love this photo of you so much. Makes me smile everytime I see it. I realized I was reading your post this am INSTEAD OF updating my blog as scheduled. :) I guess I like reading blogs more than writing them. Yesterday, at the authors dutch lunch in Nashville we discussed blogging. One of the issues was accepting that blogging is not essay writing. This means kinda writing it, putting it out there, stirring the words up but not looking for perfection. I think Joshilyn Jackson is a great example of someone who writes their funny heart out and hits post. I'm working on that. Thanks for sharing this and CONGRATULATIONS on getting shortlisted on best blogs list!

K. Harrington said...


Why thank you! I love this picture because that's an actual draft of my novel that I'm holding. When the photo shoot was done I got to send the pages flying into the air.

I think that's an apt point about blogging. Blogging is a mixed bag.

Susan Cushman said...

Great post--my favorite part: "Not every type of promotion fit my personality...." What a great reminder that we should all take advice from others but in the end, hold onto ourselves. I find this true in writing workshops and critique groups, especially. And like River said, I also love the photo. I've never had a professional shot done, but that looks like fun!

K. Harrington said...

Thank you, Susan!

JLC said...

Who wouldn't love this post! Now I just need to find someone within shouting distance who can tell me how to do that bit about linking your blog with others! I haven't published much, and have published even less with the publishers I'd like to take me on -- so I feel not just abandoned, but as if I were floating in stormy seas!
Like most of your readers, I'd give a lot to be able to show myself in such a lovely picture. I do blog about the writing life, but maybe I better start in about books.
Come see me at www.hilltopnotes.blogspot.com; or read some of my reviews on www.seniorwomen.com.
And now I have to find your book and read it!

K. Harrington said...

JLC - Thanks for you nice comments!

It is very easy to link a blog to other sources. I merely Googled that question and found all the instructions on-line. Very easy! You just need to find your blog's RSS or Atom feed address (which is usually stated somewhere in the design section of your blog).

Let me know what you think of the book if you find it? Or, wait til it releases on paperback in April!! I'll go visit your blog now!


Cozy in Texas said...

Blogging is not only a great way to get your name out there but also to "meet" new friends and gain a plethora of information. It's a great source.

RA HA IR said...

Hi Karen, Awesome blog, luv seeing scobberlotch jr and your beautiful pic on the credenza - wow! Great excerpts of books, thoughts/ideas and meeting of the minds for authors and fans & now,... I am your blogspot fan and look forward to getting some tips for launcing my blogspot?!

K. Harrington said...

Ra Hair -

Thanks for your comments. I hope you'll come back and share a link to you own blog soon!