SIGNAL BOOST AND FOOT SOLDIERS

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When it comes to promoting books, there are all sorts of suggestions as to how you can get a bit of signal boost, and it has to be said right now that, unless you are Lottery-winning lucky, you are never going to sell a billion books (or more than a handful) if you just pop them out into the world at large and get on with writing more of them.

Some authors recruit ‘street teams’, a term which derives mainly from the more underground/urban/grime/hiphop end of the music industry, though the ‘streets’ they hit seem to be predominantly virtual ones. Some people appear to do quite well with this, but for the newer or lower-profile I could imagine it being a fairly humiliating undertaking (what if the only people who sign up are your mum and the uncool kid who always wanted to be your best friend but smells funny?). There’s also the fact that the author doesn’t necessarily have absolute control over the team s/he puts together: if one of them starts sockpuppeting reviews all over Amazon and Goodreads and/or putting up nasty comments about other authors’ work, then a horrible mess will ensue and the original author will become the punchline of endless stories about stupid, egotistical self-publishing muppets.

Blog tours are another popular way of putting yourself out there: get people who write similar stuff to you to allow you a guest post on their blogs or sites when you have something new out, as this (apparently) boosts your SEO and all that. There are also plenty of advice sites for writers which suggest stuff like: local radio, local newspapers, hiring someone else to ‘be’ you on Twitter.

A big problem with a lot of the advice on promotion is that everyone else has read it as well. And some are too cynical or modest or techno-illiterate to try it, but plenty of others enthusiastically throw everything they can at promoting their books… when they would have been better off expending effort on improving the books themselves.

As what one of my friends calls an ‘elder statespervert’ I am old enough to retain a belief in the power of old-fashioned paper and shoe-leather, so I plan to get out on my feet with a bag full of leaflets to attract attention to one of my latest efforts. I’ll let you all know how that goes, but in the meantime, it would be interesting to hear from anyone else about any of this stuff that’s actually worked for them (or indeed anything that went horribly wrong.)

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