Just put stuff on the wall, at first
Dan Blank is a great resource for creativity and media connection. His company We Grow Media engages authors who can invest several thousand dollars a month in publicity services. (Remember, publicity is PR and it is not marketing. You earn publicity coverage.)
But alongside his thousands a month, Blank gives away good advice for free on his podcast The Creative Shift. In one of the latest shows, he says we should all do something in order to do the right thing.
Do what? It doesn't matter, at first. We usually delay creating and over-analyze our starting moves too much. What works is doing something. What never works is not doing anything, because you're uncertain what will give you the best bang for the buck. Maybe you want to keep your failures low, or perhaps you have a limited budget.
Try not to let these genuine concerns stop your first efforts. At some point in the early going, it's like hurling spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Nobody is certain what to do. We're talking about publishing and marketing here, a couple of pitches that don't fly naturally into an author's sweet spot. And yet there they are, at the heart of every successful book launch. Trying something, Blank reminds us, gives us a way to learn what works.
I'm in the advisory business. Authors seek advice on storytelling and composition, grammar and style. Those are easy choices, compared to knowing how to motivate a sale or draw attention to your new book. Although nothing is guaranteed, we have to do something. Blank uses a nice turn of phrase in his show. I believe in his message about PR and marketing. "Even though I have a lot of experience, and I love what I do, I don't always know what will work."
The other thing to beware of is doing the bare minimum. This is not doing nothing, but it can have the same effect. For example, this newsletter you're reading began as a monthly-occasional publication. I don't know why I tried to start with that pace. Maybe it's because across decades of publishing I knew the effort required to be a weekly publisher. During the first decade-plus of the Workshop, I had an in-person clientele to stock up my workload.
Then came pandemic times. Nobody could cruise through my home studio and take a six-week series or an eight-meeting workshop. We all had to connect differently, didn't we? And so starting in the fall of the Covid Year, this became a weekly newsletter. I was doing more than the bare minimum, which had been doing more than one newsletter, but only every once in a while. So 121 weekly issues later, doing this Write Stuff has become a habit. Soon, it will be a book about publishing. Whether that's enough to win, well, as Blank says, I don't always know what will work.
We teach ourselves, though, when we're paying attention and logging our efforts. Not making time for your revisions, not drafting new passages, not sharing your work for review? That's certain not to work. Not creating a strong link to your readers with a newsletter? It might work, but even bestsellers like David Baldacci send author newsletters — even if the letters are written by publicity companies which the author hires, or in the rare case of the highest flyers, the publisher's staff.
Remember, until you have a list of avid readers, you don't own your readers. Amazon does, Facebook does, or booksellers do. The day is not so far away when authors will do well selling their books themselves. Prepare for that day and you'll have thousands of reasons to be glad.
I was lucky to engage Blank in several calls as Stealing Home was being launched. Just do stuff, he says. "You will take action and learn what works."