Navigating the Network | The Art of Self Promotion (part II)

Last Wednesday, I sketched out a few of the challenges facing self published authors looking to build their brands in the digital marketplace, and I made specific note of how great social networks can be as tools of self promotion.  A well-curated Facebook page or an oft-updated Twitter feed are two of the easiest and most effective ways of getting your name out there, and they have the added benefit of costing nothing but the blood, sweat, and tears of setup and day-to-day maintenance.  But what can you do to build your brand outside of these new and occasionally glitch-prone websites?

Here’s the tricky part to understand.

2. Social networks are not the only tools.

It would be tempting to read omnipotence into the sheer pervasiveness of social media.  But given how much time they can take to set up and use, much less to cultivate into an important part of an author’s portfolio of self-promotional options, it may not be entirely practical to make it your sole platform.  Consider the warning implicit in the age-old eggs-and-basket idiom, and sketch out a quick cost–benefit analysis on the back of a napkin, with the word “cost” standing in for the time and energy taken away from other pursuits, including, well, writing!  You should never dismiss the viability of papering the town,  literally, or turning to a third party for advice and assistance.  Print flyers, write letters, solicit reviews, sign books, distribute ARCs, and put ads in magazines and newspapers.  You may not have as much experience putting together a press kit as a big publishing firm, but with a little legwork you can still put your name out there in a way that makes for meaningful returns––and all outside of social media.  I’ll come back to many of these points in future blog posts, but for now, suffice it to say: don’t give up on the physical distribution of physical promotional materials just because social networking websites exist!

3. Social networks are not the only networks.

“Social network” is a bit of a misnomer, because we automatically tend to associate the term with the internet.  But the word social––present in both social network and social media––should never be translated as applying only to digital platforms.  So when I say “social networks are not the only networks,” I guess what I mean to say is actually “you have as many meaningful social contacts offline as you do online”––and you should make use of them.  And while publications like Mashable and Wired are continually asking whether or not we’re sacrificing actual (read: offline) relationships in favor of those built through social media, studies continue to show that we seek out, require, and learn best from real-world interactions.  Internet-based social networks are usually an extension of, not an alternative to, traditional networks.

What does this have to do with self-publishing?  Well, consider using your offline networks as much as you do your online ones.  Calling up your friends and family members, and asking them if they have time to help out––either in distributing promotional materials, or generating them.  Do not undervalue the importance of the everyday interaction.  Not every conversation needs to be a sales pitch––in fact, that kind of approach can alienate your listeners more often than not––but your book is an important presence in your life, and a genuine word or two in the right context can sometimes do more than a hundred contextless tweets.  Your ultimate goal, on or off the computer, is to involve readers in your world and in your story.

Check back every Wednesday to read more about the art of self promotion!  Here’s last week’s post, the first in this series.  Next week, we’ll be wrapping up the all-important five starting points of self promotion by looking at what else is requisite in the process––and what to expect moving forward.

If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.