Wednesday, May 02, 2007

An Intervention

Over the past two weeks I’ve become obsessed with the blog. I’ve done research on how to increase traffic and studied which posts elicited more comments and more traffic than others. I’ve thought about it all day long and late into the night. And it wasn’t until Webmaster Bill suggested that we might want to try and get a mention in major publishing magazines that the light bulb went off. I suddenly realized that it had happened to me. I see it with authors all the time, but I never thought it could happen to an agent.

I had become a publicity addict. I had gotten so caught up in the ego of the blog that I lost site of my true role. My job is to sell books, not to blog. The blog is a way for me to connect with readers, publicize my authors and help teach people the business of publishing. But it’s not my job.

This realization couldn’t have come at a better time. I had been trying for weeks to write a post on publicity addiction and here I was living it. Publicity is critically important and all authors should be doing it to some extent, but as Kenny Rogers says, ‘you have to know when to walk away.”

So how do you know you’re a publicity addict? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Do you think about publicity more than you think about your next book?

Are you more concerned with seeing your name in a magazine, newspaper, online review, or other blogs than you are about seeing your name on the cover of a book?

Are you more excited about getting your name in magazines, newspapers or blogs than you are about seeing your name on the cover of your book?

Are you spending all or most of your advance on publicity?

Are you compulsively doing publicity because others have told you what they do or do you actually know that it’s working for you? In other words, have you seen a return on investment?

Are you now writing your second, third, or fourth book and spending just as much time and energy doing the same publicity you did for your first?

If you said yes to even one of these questions it’s time for an intervention. Let’s face it folks, publicity is an ego trip. Sure we are branding our names and letting people know the book exists that’s why we started publicity. But a publicity addict has lost site of that goal. She’s no longer just trying to brand. It’s become about her ego. Just like my addiction to the blog. It no longer became about promoting the business, it became about being the best blogger. You know what? It became a popularity contest.

I run a business. And in any business time is money, and money is money. No business (remember, authors are a business) succeeds by spending all of its time or money on publicity. A successful business spends no more than 10-15 percent. And that’s all any of us should be spending--ten to fifteen percent of our days and ten to fifteen percent of our advances.

If we are going to continue to do publicity and we want it to work we need to remember what our biggest campaign should be. No publicity is going to work if your product isn’t there. First priority needs to be making sure that each book you write is better, stronger, sexier, funnier, scarier and more brilliant than the last. Just like I need to remember what my true focus needs to be. Each contract I negotiate needs to be better, stronger, scarier and more brilliant than the last (I’m going to skip sexy and funny). By doing that we’ll be our own best publicity.

I am slowly coming out of my addiction and you will too. It’s going to be a long road, but for right now I’m off to sell some books…


Anonymous said...

Ooh, I HOPE that doesn't mean you'll be going cold turkey on this blog! Eliminating the addictive substance completely is really the only way to curtail a true addiction. But maybe this blog is simply a current obsession? And obsessive thoughts can be refocused, letting you continue with the behavior on some functional level. Hint. Hint!

Kimber Li said...

I've found the best way to avoid the darkness is to always face the light. I try to stay focused on the needs of my readers. This week I did break a new record on my blog visitors - 2000 in three weeks from 34 different countries! I decided to indulge myself with a little jaw-dropping. I have no idea if those numbers are a big deal to anyone else, but they were to me! Now, it's back to head-down mode. I don't like it when others hound me. I don't want to become the very thing I dislike.

Anonymous said...

Wait! Writers have to promote. When a new book is coming out, it's mandatory. Life stops. You promote.

I don't know that that's addiction. I think it's good business. If you're one of 50,000 writers with novels coming out this year, you better be busy seeking publicity. Otherwise you're dead. Unless, of course, your publisher is spending big bucks on promoting you.

Kimber Li said...

True, anon 5:51, but no one I know likes the used car salesman stereotype either. I suggest observing successful published authors and follow those setting a good example. I've learned a lot from Linnea Sinclair. She maintains a fun website and MySpace. She participates in a group blog. She always responds to blog commenters and fan email. She attends real world and cyber events and greets people as individuals. She smiles. She's polite. One can't help but respect that. Try checking her numbers at sometime.
A magazine ad gets the word out about a product. It doesn't convince a person to buy it. The buyer must believe she'll get a return on her investment. That requires trust and trust must be earned.

Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting post, because I've had a taste of that addiction - back when I was writing fanfiction. :-)

There's nothing like posting a story and getting a dozen rave reviews by the next morning. It doesn't even matter if half the people reviewing appear to be only quasi-literate, because Oh! That internet-love! It is teh sexxorz.

Of course, you end up addicted to the attention. You want more. You end up compulsively checking for new reviews and self-pimping your stories to people who aren't interested.

A real author would be compulsively checking her Amazon rankings and self-pimping her book to booksellers who aren't interested, I suppose.

Better to get it out of your system while you're still a baby writer, really.

Rebecca said...

great post, and quite timely too - in my case. Blogging can be very very time-consuming...and so addictive that you lose sight of why you started in the first place.

Anonymous said...

*waves* Hi; Anon #3 again.

I wanted to add that this blog is one of the most informative and interesting agent blogs I've found. I'm very impressed by it, and it's part of my daily reading.

Now: does it help your writers sell more books, thereby making you more money? Maybe not, because I always skip over the Friday posts on your authors. I'm here for the advice on the industry. I think you're awesome, but I have to admit that in my case, you're getting no return on your investment.

Kate Douglas said...

I made a huge promotional push on my first book and really got the ball rolling (online chats and interviews, mass mailings to bookstores, Romance Sells ads, bookmarks out the wazoo, etc.) but I've backed off quite a bit for the current titles because I just haven't had time. I still promote, but with things that don't suck as much time--my video with COS Productions has given my entire series a push and it's showing up everywhere, and I think attending conferences such as the Romantic Times convention in Houston helps me to connect with readers. I have to agree with Jessica, though. It IS easy to get caught up in promotion, so I've made a conscious effort to direct my time and money where it will do the most good. I'll see how it works!

Karen MacInerney said...

It's hard to say "no" to all the opportunities, isn't it? I know I'm struggling to find a balance. I really pushed hard on Murder on the Rocks, and I think I got the series off to a great start; now that I've got a ton of books to write, though, I'm finding myself starting to pull back a bit. Because if I don't, my brain is going to morph into gelatinous goo, my books won't get written, and my children won't recognize me in a police line-up.

I can hear my daughter now: "I don't know, Daddy... I think she has brown hair, but I'm just not sure. Is she number two, or number four?"

And I have the same blog issues sometimes, too, over at Poisoned Pen Letters. I forget sometimes what the goal is... although some of the goal is just for my own entertainment, I think.

But you're right about the product. If we don't write a great book, who's going to come back for more?