If A Tree Falls

To say that I have mixed feelings about promoting my work is an understatement.

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I’ve heard this philosophical question my whole life but it never really resonated with me until I began publishing my work as an indie author.

Back in 2011, when indie publishing was a new thing, it was still possible for writers to sell a lot of books just on word of mouth alone (Props to you Amanda Hocking!).

But those days are gone, and with them, so are the hopes and dreams of many a would-be indie author.

Nowadays even if you are a successful writer—and for the purposes of this post, I’m defining “successful” as someone who pays her rent with her royalties—you can’t depend on those sales remaining steady, even if you’re working 24/7 to produce a new novel ever four weeks.

Two years ago, Tech Crunch estimated that twelve new books were being added to Amazon every hour. That’s a new book every five minutes.

A new book. Every. Five. Minutes. Or to put it another way, 288 new books are being added every day. Just to Amazon. Who knows how many books are out there on other platforms?

That’s not a rising tide of competition, that’s a tsunami. And the “if you write it they will buy” sales model is no longer working.

If a book is published and no one makes a sound, it’s going to sink under the surface without a ripple.

Screen-Shot-2013-11-10-at-1.02.43-PMAnd that’s where promotion (shudder) and advertising (ghak) come in.  Books + promotion = sales.

Promotion used to feel  … icky to me. I couldn’t quite shake the sense that when I was out there promoting something I’d written, I was no better than a snake oil salesman hawking cheap nostrums and patent medicines to a crowd of gullible yokels.

At best, it seemed undignified.

I knew a lot of writers who agreed with me and whose sole reason for wanting a publishing deal with a traditional publisher was so they didn’t have to handle those marketing and promotion chores themselves. “I’ll have a whole marketing department behind me,” they said, “I won’t have to do that.”

Isn’t it pretty to think so?

Most publishers now want writers to submit a marketing plan along with their manuscripts because they need all the help they can get.

Even Stephen King is out there hustling his wares. So is James Patterson. So is Janet Evanovich. So is Debbie Macomber—who is, by the way, kind of a genius at social media. These are writers who have the full force of a publisher behind them and marketing teams and probably scores of assistants. And they still hustle like they’re selling encyclopedias door to door.

They don’t think it’s tacky to let readers know about their latest book (or in the case of King, books).

So I got over myself.

I try not to be obnoxious (check out the books I write under the pseudonym Kat Parrish) but I have embraced the promotion.

And you should too.