Like most writers, I have to do my own promotion. I am published by an independent press, Oak Tree Press, and am happy that everything worked out the way it did. When I first started out, I thought I wanted a big New York house that would put me on the Bestseller's List. When that didn't work out, I looked for an agent. I also queried publishers, not really understanding the difference between publishers and agents at the time, and lucked out by getting a contract with Oak Tree, which has worked out extremely well for me.
When I was querying big houses, I didn't realize that the big houses don't keep books in print indefinitely, and that if you don't sell big from the beginning, they may pull your books. I also didn't realize that the front shelves of the Barnes and Noble are reserved for already best-selling authors, and there was no way on earth any big New York publisher was going to spend big money putting a no-name like me at the front of the book store. I was also unaware that the big New York houses wouldn't spend their hard earned money promoting me, and I would do a lot of promotion on my own if I was published by one of them.
So it turned out I signed with an indie house and as I started exploring the murky waters of promotion, I learned a lot. I was lucky enough to have a promotion mentor, Sunny Frazier, another Oak Tree Press writer, who guided me along the way, (along with other newbies she refers to as her posse)and explained the industry to me. I was a complete novice, and although I knew enough to have a website, a blog and a Facebook account, I wasn't sure about anything else, or what to do with these now that I had them. So Sunny helped me out.
One thing she didn't explain to me, probably because she figured it was self-explanatory and I should have realized it already, is that promotion is incremental. By this, I mean you have to think of new things to do constantly.
It's easy to keep waiting for that one big hit, that one thing you just know will send hundreds of thousands of people to your website or to Amazon to purchase your book. I wonder, how do I get Brad Pitt to walk around holding a copy of Gumbo Justice? He lives in New Orleans part time, so if I really wanted to find him, I bet I could. My husband was an extra in the Green Lantern movie that shot down here, and at the end of shooting he gave the director a signed copy of my novel. I just knew that I was going to hear back from him wanting the movie rights, but so far, I'm still waiting. Or maybe I'll do an interview on a website that Oprah happens to come across... You get my drift.
The more promotion I do the more I realize that promotion is like training for a marathon that never happens. I have to come up with ways to get my name and my book out there every month, and then I have to try to do it again the next month, and the next month, and the next month. If I can book an interview this month, find a new website to either list my book, post a blog, or at least make a comment, I am taking a step in the right direction. I also try to blog on my own blog, and then post about it on Facebook and Twitter at least once a month. I try not to overdo it. After all, many of my Facebook friends and Twitter buddies already know about my book, and although they may want to read an interesting blog I've written, they don't want everything I write to be Gumbo Justice or my experiences as a writer.
I have found that when I do get my name out there, whether in an online interview, or my college alumni magazine, I make a few book sales. I don't make mega sales each time, maybe one or two a day for a few days. But if I do this a few times a month, I sell more books.
Then comes next month, and I have to find something new. This is where it comes in handy to have friends and a mentor in the field. They pass on new websites, new places to post, other writers looking for someone to guest blog. I try to get to a few of these each month.
Of course, as I've mentioned, the marathon never actually happens. All of the training doesn't culminate in one big event--my book hadn't made the Bestseller's List and hasn't been optioned for a screenplay or cable t.v. series. But I do sell a few books, I do get emails from strangers asking when the next one will be out, and I do feel like my work is being read and enjoyed, which is probably the most important thing to me.
So while my incremental promotional tactics may not result in millions of dollars of sales, more of my books do get sold, and more importantly, read, than if I wasn't self-promoting. And with my second novel, Jambalaya Justice, coming out soon, the promotion I've done for Gumbo Justice should pay off double.