This past week has been one where real life interfered to the point where there was little time to focus on writing. Even so, I managed to send out a short story -- fingers crossed -- and a handful of queries -- fingers and toes crossed. As I filled in the on-line submission forms for agents and publishers, and as I read the blogs and Baen's Bar, one theme seemed to jump out at me: promotion. Hence, this blog entry.
I've long known that, more and more, the promotion of a book is falling to the author. Publishers don't put a lot of time or money into promoting mid-list or first time authors any more. The size of the book review section in any major newspaper has shrunk to, unfortunately, non-existence in too many cases. The New York Times Book Review is no longer large enough to use as a doorstop. Of the two major papers in my area, the Fort Worth Star Telegram rarely has more than a page of reviews on Sunday, including large graphics and the best sellers lists. The Dallas Morning News is better, usually offering 4 pages or so on Sundays. Still, it is a far cry from what it used to be. In other words, one of the long-standing means of book promotion is dying.
So I wasn't really surprised when, reading the submission guidelines for certain publishers, it was recommended that I include marketing ideas for my book in my query. Nor was I particularly surprised when it was also recommended that I tell the publisher just how much I'd be willing to do on my own (read, at my own cost) to promote my book. What did surprise me, however, were the number of agents who asked as part of their on-line submission forms for the marketing plans I'd already devised for my book.
Then something happened on Baen's Bar. Someone new to the Bar plastered what could only be called ads for his book in a number of conferences. Mind you, it was a book he'd just submitted into the slush pile. His hubris in doing so earned him more than a few knocks, as well as a number of suggestions on how to submit it where most of those on the Bar could read it and give him feedback. When asked why he took this particular tact, he said he felt that it was a good way to create word of mouth and push his manuscript up the slush pile quicker -- whether it works or not, I can't say and won't speculate. Nor will I comment on his submission in the Bar slush forum for the simple reason that I haven't read it.
All of this brings to mind the question of what are the best ways to promote your book. How effective are on-line sites such as Facebook , LiveJournal or MySpace? How about author blogs? Drive by signings? On the flip side, what keeps you going back to an author's website or blog/FB/MySpace/LJ? And, for the agents out there, how important is it to you that a perspective client presents a marketing plan at the same time they submit their initial query?