Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Stop the Insanity! Publicity Can Wait

I’m doing a series of Wednesday posts discussing my career decisions and the reasons behind them. Last time I talked about committing to indie publishing. Now I’ll go into some specific details.

Decision #4: Focus on writing four books. Save major publicity for later.

With traditional publishing, debut authors face a lot of pressure to make their first book a success. The logic is sound: if your book does well, especially in the first six months, your publisher is more likely to acquire your second book. (Sadly, the days when publishers would stand behind a promising author for three or four books, helping them to build their reputation, are largely gone, at least at the bigger publishers.)

With self-publishing, you don’t have that pressure for initial success. Sure, we’d all like our first book out to be a huge success. But you don’t have to worry about your sales numbers impressing the bean counters.

In fact, there are good reasons to delay a major publicity push. Few people agree on what makes a self-published book a success, but the experts do seem to agree on one thing – for an author to find success through self-publishing, she needs to have multiple books available.

This works in a couple of ways. First of all, with several books, you broaden your appeal. You have more ways for readers to find your work. For example, with Rattled, I decided to experiment with a cover that suggested more of an adventure, rather than the traditional romantic suspense cover (quite often a couple of naked torsos embracing, with a dark blue wash). Rattled may attract readers who don’t normally go for romantic suspense, but it may not appeal to romantic suspense readers. On the other hand, the Whispers in the Dark cover is much more standard for romantic suspense. If I can appeal to readers with one or the other, and they like that book, they are more likely to try the other one, regardless of cover.

Your blurbs work in similar ways. Rattled is a “treasure hunting adventure in New Mexico.” Whispers in the Dark is about “a young archaeologist who stumbles into danger as mysteries unfold among ancient Southwest ruins.” Both fit my tagline of “Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Adventures” and my Kris Bock “brand” of action in southwestern settings. But some people might find the idea of an archaeologist and ancient ruins more appealing, while others might think a treasure hunting adventure sounds fun.

In short, the more books you have, the more “entry points” readers have for your work.

But that’s not the only reason to focus on getting several books out before doing publicity. With multiple books, every act of publicity automatically has the potential for greater effect. If I sell one book, I might sell several others to that customer. If readers bought one, Amazon should tell them “You might also like” other Kris Bock books.

Next week I’ll continue this thread, talking about publicity tactics such as the discount “loss leader.”


  1. You are like scoping my mind! I have reached the same conclusion! I have even gone a step further...since I don't necessarily want to blog about writing or much of anything else, I have stopped stressing about blogging for now until I have more books on the shelf. (I am busily writing). I think after I achieve reader respect through my selling work then they may want to continue the conversation on my blog. For now no one cares!

  2. You make a good point, Charmaine. Blogging is one of those things you "have to" do. But if no one is reading your blog, there isn't much point. It is possible to build up a blog following without being a published author, but you have to put a lot of work into it. I know when I visit other blogs because I've seen a link somewhere, and find only a few random musings, I'm not going to follow the blog. I need to know right away what the point is and how it's going to benefit me (which could include entertainment value).

    I think with any form of social networking, you have to think about your goals, figure out how to achieve them, and participate in such a way that you get results -- or else don't bother.

    I don't have a huge number of blog followers, but it's a way for people who've attended one of my workshops to keep in touch, so they remember me when they need a critique. It's also a way for me to promote Advanced Plotting. (I doubt I sell many of my fiction books because of the blog.) I keep my focus fairly narrow, put in a couple of hours a week, and see some modest but valuable results.

    Twitter, on the other hand, completely baffles me.