The Promo Shuffle

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about writing, the mechanics of writing, and the inspirations of writing. It’s what I do and a big part of who I am. I think I said at one point, I began this journey of being a published author way back in 2004. Talk about clueless. Going in, I was under the misconception that writing a book was the hard part. Writing is easy. Perfecting is a little harder, but if you’re open to learning doable. No, there’s one part of writing that you rarely learn about until the contract is signed.

Promo!

Sure, you understand the concept that authors promote their books. Who hasn’t stood in line waiting for an autograph from our favorite author, or seen them on television? Promotion is staring us in the face. We just never think about it until it happens to us. And in 2004 it smacked me around. Being a writer, by definition I went into the project being an introverted basket case. Let’s just say it took awhile before the case climbed out of that basket. It didn’t help matters that my publisher at the time didn’t want me to be a man. Yeah, you guessed it. For two years, I was a woman trapped in a man’s body trapped in an author’s personality. You try saying that three times fast, or living it for a year and a half. Do you know how hard it is for a guy from the south who writes romance novels while cussing football games to get in touch with his feminine side? Strangely enough, it wasn’t that hard.

In fact it was freeing. When you’re both a class clown and shy, becoming a totally different person allows you to be the person you truly are. It also enabled me to interact with readers without freezing up. I’m one of those people who it takes maybe three meetings before I feel comfortable enough to open up and talk. Back then, Yahoo groups were all the rage. You wanted to meet an author, any author, you joined their group, or joined groups where authors frequently visited to promo their books. It was truly an exciting time. I was able to meet authors that would have meant going to a convention to rub shoulders with. The point is the promo of the day was word of mouth. The net would buzz with who was going to be where. Live chats would be going on every night of the week. Sheri Kenyon would be chatting away on one group. Angela Knight on another. Exciting didn’t begin to cover it.

In addition to big names like that, small independent authors were making names for themselves. Readers truly loved getting to know new authors. Chats would last all night in some cases, with different publishers hosting rotating authors so the chats wouldn’t lag. During this time, I met readers, fellow authors and built lasting relationships with both.

One of my favorite parts of promoting on groups was coming up with new and original ways to gain attention. Excerpts with funky titles. Characters taking over and doing your talking for you. The ideas were endless. Over time, the groups dwindled as authors began bombarding groups with promos and excerpts with very little interaction between readers. And, the readers noticed and drifted away.

About this time, MySpace had just begun to gain prominence, as did the first blogs. So, promotion had a new venue to gain strength. Facebook quickly followed. Now, we have Twitter and who knows what else. I can’t keep up and probably will never be able to.

Sad to say, you can write an amazing book and get lost in the promo shuffle very easily. As a writer I still believe the best promotion is word of mouth. Excellence wins out. So, how do you get that excellence noticed? I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is that I focus first on writing the best books possible. If people notice, great. But, I won’t skimp on quality just to throw out more books, or spend more time promoting than I do on crafting well written books. Since, you’re obviously reading this, you know I am willing to give my opinion and sway you to my form of the Darkside, so I am a promotion devotee. Why you may ask yourself?

Because I believe in my books. I believe they offer something different and original that a reader will enjoy escaping into. I believe in myself as a writer. I believe that my talents have been tempered by my ability to accept I’m not as good as I think I am, but am good enough to get better with each book. I finally believe that for the span of my books you will enjoy yourself and get lost in the worlds I create from the insanity in my head.

I write because I can’t not write. For no other reason. If you’ve read my books, and I’ve taken you away from your life and given you a satisfying smile, then to me that is the best form of promotion in the world. More than that is gravy on top of some truly amazing mashed potatoes. I do love my mashed potatoes.

As I wrap this up, I ask you to consider one thing the next time you finished a book that truly wowed you. Tell people about it. I know I do. I love my favorite authors and can’t help bragging about them. Now, with the industry growing with the advent of Amazon, iBooks and the rush of self publishing, word of mouth is even more important. I won’t even go into piracy. But, without the support and word of mouth of readers, the author you love today, just might be the author who has to take a full time day job to make ends meet, instead of doing what he or she loves.

What does that mean? Sadly, it means instead of crafting the worlds you love, that author might be the guy changing your oil, or the woman ringing you up at Wal-Mart. To me that is the sadness note of all. The worlds we’ll never visit and get lost in.

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6 thoughts on “The Promo Shuffle

  1. vijayaschartz says:

    Great post, JMO. I had the opposite problem, being a woman writing science fiction (a male dominated genre at the time). Now I write sci-fi romance and medieval fantasy. Still, lots of blood and steaming guts. Many reviewers notices, and some of my books (not DBP) come with a warning. But I’m not going to change my style. I like to kick butt in all genres. LOL.

  2. I love entering your world of insanity. It’s fast-paced fun to sit down with a J. Morgan story and enjoy the characters who can get into the wildest situations. I’ve never been interested in reading first person until I picked up your books. Now I find your characters are real to me and I love spending time with them and you as the author because I know somewhere in their heads and thoughts you are lurking.

  3. annvidean says:

    JMO, I love that you ask readers to recommend good books. As an author and a word-of-mouth marketing strategist for the past nine years, I know that is THE most powerful marketing tool.

    P.S. I’m headed over to Facebook right now to talk you up. 🙂

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