Selling Yourself

The rise of the author-entrepreneur is a trend I’ve been following closely. Not only does it have an immediate bearing on the industry as a whole, but it has a bearing on Candlemark & Gleam and our authors as we seek to get ourselves established in the down-and-dirty world of getting read.

As that article mentions, it’s becoming more and more important for authors to have “a platform,” a “tribe,” to market themselves and not just write and pitch their books. Authors are expected to come into a publishing house with fans in their back pocket, a ready-made audience for their work, and sometimes even a marketing plan. Increasingly, it seems like publishing houses are outsourcing their PR and marketing directly to the author, and won’t even think of taking on someone who doesn’t have a blog, Twitter stream, FaceBook, and a thousand rabid fans…let alone a quiet, reclusive creative type or, heaven forfend, JD Salinger.

On the one hand, I think it’s a good idea for authors to take an active role in promoting not only their current book, but themselves. These days, with more and more books coming on the market (whether traditionally published, indie published, self published, or beamed telepathically from mind to mind), you need to get yourself out there in front of as many people as possible. You’ve got to get recognized and get attention.

Yes, you need it for this book, right now, but if you have any intention of forging a career out of writing, you also need to get attention for yourself, as a writer. You need to build a fanbase, a group of people who love your work and hunger for the next thing to come out of your brain. These are the folks who will be your bread and butter, and these are the folks you need to cultivate.

At the same time, I believe that the culture of author-entrepreneur is dangerous. There’s a very good chance that an author might spend so much time promoting themselves that they forget to write…or find that they can’t keep up with the writing when there’s all that blogging to do, and they get burned out. No good, seeing as the entire point of the blogging was to drum up interest for the creative output. Some people (*coughNeilGaimancough*) are incredibly prolific bloggers, Tweeters, and social networkers while still cranking out quality fiction by the metric ton.

Most of us aren’t that energetic. Nor do we have hair that grants us superpowers, but that’s another story entirely.

It all comes down to walking a fine line. You need to promote yourself and your book (which we’ll cover in Behind the Curtain, eventually), but you also need to make sure you’re not spending all your time and energy on promotion, rather than creation.

Sell yourself. Just make sure that you keep enough of yourself back to breathe, relax, and continue to create. That’s the really important bit.

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  • Jason

    It’s really just an unproductive model, to a large degree, as well. Don’t get me wrong, there are renaissance men and women out there who might both be excellent writers and bloggers and marketers. But one of the fundamental concepts that made civilization possible was specialization and division of labor – Url makes better pots than Farg, but Farg spins better thread, so Url trades awesome pots to Farg for awesome thread, they both work faster and better, everybody wins.

    Talent and interest are both force multipliers. When you invest time in something you’re good at or something you enjoy, you’ll get a much higher return on the investment than someone for whom neither of those things are true. The time a talented author invests trying to make up for being an untalented, reluctant PR flack is time they didn’t spend becoming an even more awesome author. Meanwhile, somewhere out there, there’s someone with a talent for PR and a desire… but no, people are supposed to do their own PR, so both these people are doing unproductive things and wasting huge chunks of their time, when they both could profit from sharing their talents.

    And that, to my mind, was where companies were supposed to come in. A budding author can’t afford to hire a talented PR professional to let them focus on becoming a great author, but a big house can hire several professionals to share among authors to develop them. That was, to my mind, part of the whole damn point. Shifting that pressure to the authors just hurts authors and readers–and, by extension, the companies that profit from selling the work of great authors to avid readers.

    Everybody loses.

  • Jason

    It’s really just an unproductive model, to a large degree, as well. Don’t get me wrong, there are renaissance men and women out there who might both be excellent writers and bloggers and marketers. But one of the fundamental concepts that made civilization possible was specialization and division of labor – Url makes better pots than Farg, but Farg spins better thread, so Url trades awesome pots to Farg for awesome thread, they both work faster and better, everybody wins.

    Talent and interest are both force multipliers. When you invest time in something you’re good at or something you enjoy, you’ll get a much higher return on the investment than someone for whom neither of those things are true. The time a talented author invests trying to make up for being an untalented, reluctant PR flack is time they didn’t spend becoming an even more awesome author. Meanwhile, somewhere out there, there’s someone with a talent for PR and a desire… but no, people are supposed to do their own PR, so both these people are doing unproductive things and wasting huge chunks of their time, when they both could profit from sharing their talents.

    And that, to my mind, was where companies were supposed to come in. A budding author can’t afford to hire a talented PR professional to let them focus on becoming a great author, but a big house can hire several professionals to share among authors to develop them. That was, to my mind, part of the whole damn point. Shifting that pressure to the authors just hurts authors and readers–and, by extension, the companies that profit from selling the work of great authors to avid readers.

    Everybody loses.

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Kate

    A budding author can’t afford to hire a talented PR professional to let them focus on becoming a great author, but a big house can hire several professionals to share among authors to develop them. That was, to my mind, part of the whole damn point. Shifting that pressure to the authors just hurts authors and readers–and, by extension, the companies that profit from selling the work of great authors to avid readers.

    Everybody loses.

    Precisely. That’s why publishing companies exist – to do the hard work of editing, producing, publicizing, marketing, and distributing content. If you’re self-publishing, you have to do all that yourself…and that’s a huge reason why a lot of people still don’t want to self-publish. Perfectly valid, and perfectly intelligent decision there. For a publishing company to force an author to sell themselves, though…that’s letting down their end of the bargain. Yes, the author must do some work promoting the book – talking about it to reviewers, say – but they shouldn’t be responsible for the whole shebang.

  • http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com Kate

    A budding author can’t afford to hire a talented PR professional to let them focus on becoming a great author, but a big house can hire several professionals to share among authors to develop them. That was, to my mind, part of the whole damn point. Shifting that pressure to the authors just hurts authors and readers–and, by extension, the companies that profit from selling the work of great authors to avid readers.

    Everybody loses.

    Precisely. That’s why publishing companies exist – to do the hard work of editing, producing, publicizing, marketing, and distributing content. If you’re self-publishing, you have to do all that yourself…and that’s a huge reason why a lot of people still don’t want to self-publish. Perfectly valid, and perfectly intelligent decision there. For a publishing company to force an author to sell themselves, though…that’s letting down their end of the bargain. Yes, the author must do some work promoting the book – talking about it to reviewers, say – but they shouldn’t be responsible for the whole shebang.