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

Three weeks ago, 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.  Last time I blogged, I looked at the second and third of my top five points to keep in mind regarding self promotion, and recommended cultivating your physical network as well as developing physical promotional materials.  This week, I’m going to wrap up my top five points with a few words that count both as caution and encouragement––simultaneously!

To get right to the point:

4. Self promotion of any kind takes time.  And energy.  And constant attention.

Perhaps this is my caveat.  As I mentioned earlier, you’re not just in the business of self-promotion––as someone who’s interested in self-promotion, you’re actually in the business of writing.  So when weighing the pros and cons of starting a Twitter account or creating a blog on Tumblr specifically with the goal of promoting your book, consider the learning curve.  Consider the fact that the time it takes to establish a presence and reach your audience through social networks is directly proportional to how much time you put in, and that there’s a considerable element of pure luck involved.  Most tweets languish in the ether unread, and most Tumblr posts are not reflagged, and most Facebook followers are dormant, or run by bots.  So while all of these networks have potential to launch you into instant and global success, they are often high-maintenance and low-reward.  And they are habit-forming

As with all other forms of promotion, you must be deliberate about your use of social networks, carving out time on a regular basis to devote to building your brand.  Thirty minutes a day, three days a week, or every day during your fifteen-minute break between work shifts––whatever it takes, but not much more.  Because let’s face it: As someone who’s interested in self-publishing, you have other things to do.  You need to not just leave time for the other facets of your life––writing, working a job, working three jobs, family, and so on––but be able to throw yourself into them with passion and energy.

5. Everything changes.

If the rise of self-publishing and the ebook has demonstrated anything about the publishing industry, it’s that nothing can stand still for long.  This may be a disquieting fact for traditional publishing and the markets that rely on it, but opening up one’s options to change can also be a diversifying, enriching, and rewarding experience.  The digital and self-publishing revolutions are beginning to reach maturity, but on the whole they’re keeping a weather eye out for new changes, and new opportunities.  Perhaps the most key feature for success in self-publishing (and self-promotion) is a willingness to take advantage of them.  Keep asking questions.  Figure out what options work for you, and what feels comfortable for you, and what is too frustrating or too complicated or taking too much time––and adjust your daily practices as necessary.  Keep interrogating your options.  If a new technology becomes available, or a new acquaintance walks into your life, or a new story drops into your mind, don’t hold back.  After all, this is a business built on dreams.

This was just a primer!  You can find the first and second posts of this series here and here.  Check back every Wednesday to read more about the art of self promotion.  Over the coming weeks, I’ll be diving deeper into the how-to details of managing both social and physical networks.  If you have a question about any of these tools for self promotion, would like to hear from me about something specific, or 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.

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

Ten years ago, self-publishing was by and large the province of wishes and dreams, and its successes were so rare that they warranted national attention.  In the early 2000s, authors like Christopher Paolini (author of the Inheritance cycle of fantasy novels) performed exhaustive regional trips to promote their books, visiting schools, libraries, and local coffee shops in a sometimes-desperate attempt to build a market base.  As the traditional publishing industry has struggled to overcome both infighting and growing competition from digital retailers––and as new avenues have opened up for authors looking to publish outside of these traditional structures––all parties have turned to a parallel revolution in hopes of finding assistance.  That revolution, you will have already guessed, is the tangle of startups, failures, and increasingly pervasive communications networks that we call, collectively, Social Media.

Fast forward to the present day, and you find yourself witness to the rise of these two new revolutionary forces––a self publishing industry with a substantial slice of the present ebook and print publishing market, and the aforementioned popular social networking platforms, typified by Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and so on.  It would be easy to link these two forces together, and to assume that a successful presence on the one side will equate to equal success on the other, but this isn’t strictly true.  Many new authors find themselves lost in the complications of navigating this network––so how might one make it safely through the white water? 

The task of building a brand, or finding a tribe, is tricky––but not impossible.  It is important to keep five points in mind from the very beginning.  Today we’ll examine the first of these points:

1. Social networks are fantastic tools.

Tweets can outdistance sonic waves, as the Daily Mail reported in May, and Facebook has proved invaluable in linking dissidents, outmaneuvering government censors, and supporting revolutions.  Social networks combine the appeal of a grass-roots movement with enormous computing power, a vast sociopolitical reach, and instantaneous delivery.  Authors like Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking have become internet sensations (and self-publishing success stories) in part because they are so intensely engaged with their readers online.  You can use Facebook to build a fan page and coordinate events in cities across the world.  You can utilize Tumblr’s built-in question function to respond to readers’ queries about purchasing details or the more obscure details of a character’s backstory.  And with its 140-character limit and endlessly useful hashtag feature, Twitter is the ultimate paradise for spreading news and reviews.  While it might be a bit of an overstatement to say that social networks can do everything and anything, they can certainly do a great deal for the burgeoning author.

Check back every Wednesday to read more about the art of self promotion!  Next week, we’ll be looking at the analog social network––that is, what you can do to build your platform as an author even before you plug in to Facebook and Twitter.

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.