Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What's a Romance Author to do?

By Danielle Jackson

Many of you know that I started a Twitter account (and yes I know there are sparse updates…this post will explain why, kind of). We have this blog; the paranormal authors have their blog. Many of you have Facebook and/or MySpace accounts, websites, your own personal blogs, etc. More and more book sections of newspapers are moving to the web. The book reviewing blog community grows by the day.


More and more, marketing and publicity efforts (and not just for books!) are turning to the internet. As I’ve explained time and time again, this is the cheapest and best way to have direct contact with readers is through the web. A bunch of the sites I send your books receive thousands of hits a month (some, in a week). We do a lot of outreach and work to find those readers who don’t know they like your work yet!

It sounds like a lot to have to keep up with right? I actually had a conversation a couple of weekends ago with a friend who has a job that lends itself very easily to always being connected to his computer or iPhone—so updating his blog, his twitter account, his Facebook page, etc. is easy. But he doesn’t do it for his job—he does it for fun… something to pass the time, to post funny links, to tell his friends what he’s doing, to share his random thoughts on life, etc.


So, I’m sure you can understand why he would be peeved at me for advocating the new movement of marketing and PR to the web. He said that within the last month or so Twitter has been bombarded with similar publicists who use their 140 characters to tweet about events, reviews, etc. Every few days he sees new “pages” added to Facebook for various products, people, books, etc. Many of his friends are receiving free Advanced Reader Copies of books that they agree to review on their blogs. He wonders, “What’s happening? Suddenly, all of these things I used to do aren’t fun anymore because I feel like I’m constantly being sold something.” He jokingly (I hope) added that I’m supporting this by blogging, tweeting, encouraging you guys to have Facebook and MySpace pages, etc.


He compared it to the expansion of Facebook over the past few years—a while back, Facebook was only for college students—your college had to be part of the Facebook network—then suddenly high schools were added—now, if she wanted to, Mama Jackson could start an account, as can my 13 year old cousin, as can a cosmetic company, as you can! It felt like something was taken away from me when that happened! I don’t think my friend meant it to be offensive in any way when he was talking about what I do for my job, because, guess what? When I thought about how I felt about Facebook, I could see where he was coming from! Blogs, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter did start off as fun things that were mainly between friends, and are now lumped in the new category of “social networking.”


BUT I also think that as traditional review/publicity outlets evolve, we should,too. I think there are particular outlets that lend themselves well to this new age of the literary community (blogging, specific pages for authors on Facebook and MySpace), but there are those that don’t (Twitter is

continually a challenge for me—do I update it enough, do I do it too much, should I post a link to a review or should I just say my random thoughts at work, and how can I keep track of someone tweeting at me?!?!?!).


I know one thing many of you have struggled with is how to balance these new ways of communicating with your writing, and which ones are worth your while. I always tell you to make that decision yourselves, and as you can see, I’m wondering if worrying about my Twitter updates is really worth it—because the people “following” me on Twitter generally already know about the reviews posted, or will sometime soon. So do I need to do it? It’s something I’m going to continue to feel out, but who knows! I saw this same “outlash” when guest blogging really took off—some bloggers flat out refuse to host authors, even when they review a book, because they don’t want their blogs to become a platform for an author to sing their own high praises (which you guys don’t do… most of the time ;-). Some blame the economy, the lack of funds to the humanities, the lack of interest in reading as there used to be, to the recent marketing/PR move to the web, but when ad prices increase, but then available space and proven effect decrease, what other choice do we have but to bank on the place where we can not only do things on the cheap, but it has a limitless outreach?


The reason for this blog post is to get you all to think about the direction of your personal promo efforts (yes, you all should be doing stuff on your own, and if you aren’t—start. Seriously, NOW): what more can you do? Does it make sense? Can you devote the necessary time it takes (setting stuff up seems to take a while, but once it’s up, it’s easy, right?!) and make sure your fans like it enough to really pay attention? And if you do have all this fun stuff going on, is it really making an impact on your sales? While it is fun to post things that are funny, sexy, witty but TOTALLY irrelevant to your books, when you do it continually, what does that say about your commitment to your books? You should have these questions rolling around in your head—I know these are things I am constantly wondering as I continue to make the internet our main priority. Reviews are great, interviews/guest blogs are great—but what else? And what can I advise you guys to do?


I know it’s exhausting to always post about your books, your inspiration, your characters, your craft, writing, the call, etc., but it all boils down to one thing—getting the word out… And sometimes you have to wonder if things are right for you (hence my questioning of Twitter). The web is endless, and lot’s of fun when you set out exploring it, but remember, we do have an agenda at hand for publicizing your wonderful books! Something I don’t think a lot of other publishers do (and I’m not saying all, I just saying “a lot of”) is the focus and attention I give to each author and his or her books. Each of you has something unique to offer through your writing, and I look at my job as a way to show that to everyone.

29 comments:

  1. What a great and thoughtful post, Danielle!

    My thoughts: You know better than anyone, Danielle, how much I've been complaining about the split focus - finishing a book well versus promoting the one that's out there. It's a struggle. I know I have to do both. I hate Facebook but have my own page and try to keep up with it. My new big love is BookBlogs... a place where everyone is solely focused on books; writing, reading, promotion reviewing. Heaven!

    Twitter has exploded lately, but I'm not joining. I'm too long-winded, for one thing, and it would feel like a leash, one more thing to feel guilty about. I also think it will explode with popularity and then fade. I don't see it as a long term thing, but I've been wrong before!

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  2. Oh, and BTW, I loooove the photo of Marilyn you used! Beautiful.

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  3. BookBlogs.ning.com is a great way to reach a lot of book bloggers in one place. I'm glad you are there! It's one of the main ways I find new bloggers to review your books and host you as guest bloggers.

    The split focus thing is complicated, but I think the pay off is beneficial when you can promote your books hard--not only are people intrigued to go to their bookstore or on Amazon to get your book, they are emotionally connected to you through your guest blogs, and can directly communicate with you through comments, your site, Facebook, etc.

    I'm going to try to use Twitter more... but we'll see ;-)

    And I LOVE Marilyn. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Google has most of the Life Magazine archives on line (http://images.google.com/hosted/life) and I found so many great vintage shots!

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  4. Ouch, Danielle! Don't know about the other authors, but you certainly stepped on my toes! :-)

    Donna was so right about it being a struggle to find a balance between promo and writing, and then there are families, communities, friends and other duties as well that eat away at our time.

    But because of you, Danielle, I believe we are all a little bit better about promoting our books! A great, big thank you to you!

    Amelia

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  5. Wow, Danielle! You took on a huge subject today.

    Oh brave new world that has such creatures (as blogs and twitters) in it! I think we're all trying to figure out where we fit and how to live in it.I know I am.

    Right now the THOUGHT of twitter makes me shudder. But I've seen enough to know the day will come when I'll be twitting with the best of them.

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  6. Amelia--

    Nice to see you on the blog today! This post was definitely meant to step on some toes, but more importantly, to get you guys to really think about what more you can be doing, and really how to utilize what you already are doing in the best way possible.

    It's a lot to think about and to handle in conjunction with jobs, family, etc., but I firmly believe that all of this hard work pays off not only through sales, but also through the fan connections you all are making!

    Danielle

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  7. Great post, Danielle and you do such a great job for all of us.

    I love Twitter and Facebook and have been getting a lot more response from Facebook than I did in the beginning. More ways to chat with our readers.

    Linda

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  8. MM--

    It is a HUGE subject! And I was nervous posting about it! Even I have questions about everything we do, that I encourage you guys to do, but if we don't try, how will we know if it works?

    Isn't it funny how we avoid something for as long as we can, and then we're right in the thick of it? See you on Twitter... eventually :)

    Danielle

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  9. I'm not on Twitter, but I can vouch for the fact that while Facebook does have merit, it can be a real time hog, and time is something most of us can't afford to waste. I can also understand why some sites have refused to allow authors to guest blog because I'm sure it's a privilege that could be abused.
    I started my own blog in early December because I wanted to try a different approach, and have begun to acquire some dedicated followers. I don't agree that posting things that are not always book-related demonstrates a lack of commitment to my books. My books are like my children, and I am very proud of them, but nothing is more boring than a parent who can talk about nothing else. The readers of my blog have said that they enjoy the variety, and at least one blog follower read my books (and gave them favorable reviews on her site) BECAUSE she liked my blog. In an effort to keep it fresh, I've asked my readers for their input, they've given me some good ideas. What I'm doing may not work for someone else, but it seems to be working for for me and my readers are happy, which IMHO is the most important thing!

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  10. Linda--

    I'm glad you have learned to love Twitter; I'm just not there yet! :)

    Danielle

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  11. Cheryl-

    That is awesome that you are getting feedback from readers with ideas and comments on your blog posts! That's a great tool to find out what they want.

    Variety is important, and connecting with fans, as I said in my post is one of my main goals for you the authors to achieve, so you are doing that. I think you may have misunderstood where I was coming from about when things are posted that aren't related towards a book--i don't expect every single blog you post to be about your books. But when you have books in stores or books about to be in stores (as you do--with two books this season, you need to carry over the promotion bandwagon-it's harder to convince people to even accept books for review when they've just done one; trust me, I've had to do a lot of begging!), your posts can definitely stretch beyond the normal go-to topics on your book, your characters, you inspiration, your writing, etc etc etc, but should emphasize what you are doing as an author. I think your blog is a great example of ways to do that.

    Additionally, this blog was meant to encourage authors to try things out, and to let them know that while it may seem like I'm sitting here at my computer telling you all to do this, and write that and join this and focus on that, I'm out there trying things, finding sites, talking to other publicists, and wondering--is it all worth it.

    As things continue to change, as the economy fluctuates and decreases in such an uncertain pattern, we have to make the most of what is available. And there's no reason for anyone to say that there isn't various modes of promotion available that can be accessed by the biggest mouth in romance to an author who'd rather not shout to the world.

    Thanks for you insight, Cheryl!
    Danielle

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  12. Danielle,
    I'm a dedicated follower of many Casablanca Authors' Blogs.
    I just happened upon by accident one book. It was called "Warrior" by Cheryl Brooks. I just loved the crazy story. I checked her out on "Goggle" and found her link to her blog. I opened it up to find this warning!!! about adult content.
    I didn't open it. I was nervous.
    But days went by and I found my courage. I opened it and found my way into the world of Blogging. I'm so happy I did. It's really fun. I met the authors who are real cool people. Cheryl, Kendra, Marie, Linda, Terry, Judy, Donna Lea to name a few. I'm having so much fun reading all their books. I tell my friends. They buy the books. It's a new day and new way to meet your fans and share your stories and promote the books.
    I also started to facebook. And I haven't gone to Twitter yet. I still do have a life and a job.
    I like what the Romance Authors do and I hope they continue to do it. I have a huge drawer of books TBR at this time and many on advance order.
    If you girls take time out from your busy schedules to talk and laugh with me. I'll take the time to enjoy your blogging. And I'll be buying your books and encouraging others to do so to.
    Thank you all very much.
    I love you all.

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  13. Thanks for begging, Danielle! As you know, I'm not very good at that...

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  14. I agree that the promotion is critical. I try to do it all the time, not just when a book is coming out. In the last year, I've had to find balance in the chaos. As long as my day job is paying the bills, it gets top priority along with my kids. Everything else has to fit into the small amount of extra time I have left when everything else is done. Hopefully, some day my books will pay the bills and the balance can shift accordingly. For now, I have to compartmentalize and my book compartment is verrrrrry small. Too small some days, especially like now when I'm writing something new and that gets top billing. Constant juggling act.

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  15. Donna--

    Thanks for your words! I'm glad you are reaping the benefits of what the authors spend so much time doing, and it has encouraged you to get started with your own places on the web!

    Danielle

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  16. Cheryl--

    Exactly my point--I'm out there getting people to review your book... but once that posts, how are you going to utilize it on your own?

    Something to think about...

    Danielle

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  17. It seems so odd from the outside, mixing the social and the writing and advertising too. Now I've started trying to do it, and it feels odd as well. But I like your article. I guess everything evolves, but I'm glad some of my on-line friends are still just friends.

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  18. Marie--

    You and many of the other authors have made promoting your books, whether they are an idea in your head or on shelf in stores, a year round thing! Obviously my promoting cycle has to change (my own juggling act!) but I am thankful that you carry on. It is hard, and there are so many things to choose from now...

    I know you are busy, but thank you for pulling through :)I'm excited to get started on L@FF (which I finished last week--lovely, as usual!)

    Danielle

    Danielle

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  19. Well, as I was eating lunch yesterday and checking out twitter, I started following a few more folks (there is one guy who is FOLLOWING 50,+++ people. Seriously? 50,+++???) and guess what? A whole bunch of people started following me. So I try to update it at least every other day but it's low on my totem pole, honestly. I am still active on Gather.com and people are looking for the book.

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  20. I hope you don't mind, but I love drinking my coffee while reading this site, so when I got passed an award by another blog, I chose you as one to pass it on to.

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  21. Thanx for the thoughtful post,Danielle! ANd BIG THANX for getting our books out there to be reviewed.

    It IS a juggling act trying to promote in addition to writing AND having a life (I've told the DH "no" to two different vacations lately because of deadlines). But I LURVE talking about my books and LURVE hearing from readers, so I'll continue to find the time somehow.

    AC

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  22. Very good post Danielle. I find myself struggling more with the time issue now that my first novel is out. And answered the questions of where to put my efforts; what place is going to benefit me the most? Naturally I focus on my website, and the other stuff trickles down from there.

    I am curious what you think about places like Library Thing, GoodReads, WeRead, etc. All of these online bookshelves have 'author spots' of some kind. Then there is the Amazon Connect blog, which I try to add to from time to time with links. How important is it to have a presence there?

    I did finally add Twitter at your urging, but have only gone back a couple of times. I simply do not have the time. I have a fan page on Facebook, and keep that updated, but again I do not really know how beneficial it is and can only hope.

    Like Cheryl, I have tried to have a balance of 'fun' non-direct book related stuff on my website along with the direct book info. I think it gives me a personal approachability that is helpful in building fans. But, as with all of it we have no way of knowing for sure, so can only keep our fingers crossed and do our best, right? :)

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  23. Judi-

    I've seen that happen too! I started following another publisher or a review site, and a day or so later, some people had started following me!

    Danielle

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  24. Cindy--

    I know you love to talk about your books--which makes my job WAY easier! Luckily I work with some chatty authors, but there are som authors out there where it's like pulling teeth to get them to focus on their writing. I always wonder, why did you write a book and work so hard to get it published if you aren't going to talk about your book, let alone promote it? You'll get to do it again soon!

    Sorry to hear your deadlines are getting in the way of your vacations! Where to next? :)

    Danielle

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  25. Sharon--

    You have a great website and it is a great place to refer readers to! Well done!

    I know a couple of my fellow SB publicists use GoodReads, LibraryThing, etc. In my research, I found it to be more of a reader thing, and the author pages/shelves/involvement/etc are like an added perk. Presence there is great, but I don't think it's necessarily crucial.

    As you can see from this post, even I'm skeptical of Twitter... but hopefully we can learn something together!

    And you do a fine job of balancing the fun--posts dedicated to Mr. Darcy :), with work--reviews, guest blogs, news from the publisher etc. You have a great personal approach, but you don't leave out the stuff that drives sales!

    Danielle

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  26. Personally I like links to the reviews when Tweeting - it's a easy way to hop over and check it out. I am not a fan of the agent/author/publisher/query etc fail going on - it's highly negative and reflects badly in my opinion. I'm also a fan of the RT - I like spreading news about contests, giveaways, and articles that I like from one person to another. It's hard to know if you're spamming because everybody's twitter following is different and while it might look like you've posted 20 times in a row on one person's twitter stream you've posted 20 times out of 100 times on somebody else's. Not a huge fan of myspace or facebook as personal pages or fan pages. I prefer blogs, twitter (giant chat room!), and author websites

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  27. I'm now following you on Twitter, even though I still not sure how it works but its what's happening now! :) I know that as a reader I love the various promo sites because I get to find books I might have missed. I just don't get to respond back to everyone but I am out there reading. I just wouldn't be able to keep up some if I did need to reply to all (Not that I keep up now, LOL).
    Know as a reader, I appreciate all you do and so understand from what I've heard, how much it takes from you to do all this promo. Thanks again.

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  28. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Joannah

    http://linuxmemory.net

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  29. Hi Danielle and Gang,

    I have a very different point of view than your friend. I think that the growth and expansion of "social media" to promote (in any industry) is awesome, and still in its infancy. Okay, well maybe toddlerhood. I have people ask me every week "what is twitter".

    I know that you can easily say that I am jaded since I "work" with social media. We are very active with many social media sites, but before Ijustfinished.com, in my life as a reader it was the ability to connect, and access authors that changed the reading experience for me. It allowed me to connect with authors, see their world in a glimpse, and meet others who were just as excited, and wanted to talk about the books that I love. That is the beauty of social media. Socializing.

    Twitter is a giant cocktail party, and it may feel like you are tweeting the same thing, or something insignificant, but people can search for a keyword like "book review" and find you. It is a really cool way to meet new people with similar interests.
    Believe me, I do understand the burden of promotion, and especially self promotion. No one wants to feel like they are talking about themselves all the time, wondering if anyone is even listening.

    Honestly, it is the way that conversation are started, and as an author to be accessible to your readers. I personally am honored to host conversations with authors on my site, and love the fact that I can help promote them through social media outlets. Our site membership expect that.

    I am also really excited to see authors who I have met through the site being effective at promoting the conversation of their book, when I am invited to their interviews or guest posting on other sites. I root for them all.

    I feel like I have friendships with authors whose twitter steams I follow. I set out to be surrounded by book people, and it thrills me to have all of the options that social media allow.

    It is tough, blogging, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Gather, and MySpace, and Goodreads, and Shelfari, and even Barnes & Noble has a social media network now. Everywhere you turn someone is claiming to be a social media expert, or my personal favorite, "Social Media Evangelist" (guess they are spreading the gospel of Twitter, and salvation through Linked In, with your daily prayers to Facebook), it can be exhausting.

    What is the pay off? Meeting people who you follow, or better yet, who follow you. Seeing a spike in sales, or getting an email from a reader, who heard about you on _______________ (Fill in the blank with your site of choice).

    Long before I was savvy in the way of the SM, I was following my favorite authors, feeling like I "knew" them, and counting on them to keep me posted about the next book, or signing, or conference. As a reader, and as a site owner, I am here to tell you that we want to hear what you have to say. Who you are, and what you are working on. Even see the cute picture of your child at their school play, or pictures of your prize tomato plant. Really.

    Just last week, at the Tx Library Assn conference, I met the father of a book blogger (Mawbooks)that I knew. When I say "knew", I mean we follow one another on Twitter. We had never emailed directly. I was tweeting from my cell at the conference, (you can set up your phone to sent text messages to your twitter acct.) but I was not reading my twitter stream in real time. (I don't even try to catch up on what I miss) The father got my card, & gave me his daughter's contact info, but before I even had the chance to email her, I checked my twitter @ messages, and she had seem my mention of the conference, and said that her dad was there. All I had to do was reply to her message, and we had a nifty little connection and conversation going. I know that is a long story to get to the point, but imagine yourself at a book signing and someone who follows you introduces themselves. How cool would that be?

    I understand it is a ton of work, but writing is what you love to do, so you are already ahead of the curve of all those other people who have to promote their candidate, or car, or sports team, or...well you get the idea.

    Here's one last reason:
    Tom Hanks has a MySpace page
    Neil Diamond, Miley Cyrus, Keven Spacey, Snoop Dogg and so many more celebs are on twitter, tweeting about their everyday lives. Here's a cool website to see where your favorite is, then add yourself: http://valebrity.com/

    Climbing off my soapbox now.

    Renee Giroux
    http://Ijustfinished.com

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