Right now I’m listening to my favorite radio station. Our local public radio station has wonderful classical music, and very little talk. What talk they do have is insightful and interesting. Having said all that, do I help support their programming by becoming a member?
Unfortunately, no. Instead I support a neighboring public radio station to which I listen far less frequently. The reason is simple. No matter what I do or say, no matter whom I speak to or email, my local station continues to ask me for money.
Once, years ago, I was a member and proud to do my share. Then I realized that each year, the station was spending most of my contribution asking me for even more. Sadly, I discontinued that relationship. Although after numerous communications and much feedback they promised to cease and desist, like a spurned lover, they keep coming back. This week alone we received not one but three pleas to send in our annual contribution, mailed to three different variations of our names at this address. I’ve researched giving anonymously, but so far, have not found a solution. And still the letters come. And come. And still, my public radio contribution goes elsewhere.
I suspect you’ve been in the same situation. Our mailboxes, both computer and snail mail, are filled with advertisements and solicitations. I’ve discovered how to get off catalog mailing lists by using this address. And I’ve discovered how to evaluate charities by their spending habits and their missions, so I can make wise choices on how I spend my money. I know how to unsubscribe and I know how to block spammers.
But now, I’m on the opposite side of the computer screen. I am the one selling myself and my novels.
How does an author find readers who might want to read her novels without annoying them, the way my local radio station annoys me? As it is, I do a fair amount of promotion. I write this blog and keep an active Facebook page. I send out a snail mail newsletter (email if you’d like to receive it) designed by my talented daughter-in-law, and several email newsletters each year. Most addresses come from booksignings, another promotional tool, or signups on my webpage. I do events like the upcoming Virginia Festival of the Book and the Buckeye Bookfair I attended last fall. I offer contests, some planned, some impromptu held here or at Facebook. In fact I’m busily collecting prizes for the one to promote Fortunate Harbor in July, and busily sending out prizes readers have already won.
I also take part in other online promotions. Fresh Fiction and Author Buzz offer lots of opportunities and ideas, including blog tours, book groups, and online newsletters. Of course, my publisher does the heavy lifting, taking out ads in magazines and newspapers, organizing book events. This year they’ve asked me to be part of an Author Bus Tour in June, but more about that later. We all work hard to get the books into the hands of people who want them, as well as people who don’t yet know they do, but will.
Several years ago I was advised by professionals to, at the least, send out a monthly newsletter. This was advice I ignored, preferring not to enrage my readers. Yet I receive newsletters myself on a weekly basis, sometimes even more frequently, that I do read and enjoy.
So where is the threshold? At what point does promotion become onerous for me? Not yet. I love blogging. I really enjoy my Facebook page. Booksignings when well promoted and organized are fun, and contests are a chance to be creative.
But what about you? How much promotion is too much promotion? One newsletter in your inbox every week? Every month? Every year? Want to just take your chances at the bookstore without advance notice? Or maybe you appreciate a little information? Or a lot?
In the end, the very best use of any novelist’s energy is to write a good book. The second best use is to find a good publisher who will make sure it’s placed prominently in bookstores and gift it with an eye-catching cover.
For myself, I’m doing the promotion I like to do, and promotion you seem to like, as well. One thing I can guarantee, unlike my public radio station, if you ask for fewer mailings or none at all, I will listen, and I will do whatever I can to make sure your wishes are honored.