Online Promotion – Is It Worth It?


Every little bit helps – that’s what I tell myself when I think about online promotion. I also tell myself not to get too excited about it.

There are all sorts of guides to help an author through the process of promoting their book online and to tell them how to keep that effort ongoing. I find them all a bit depressing. The reason? I know how big the internet is.

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” –Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The internet may not be as big as space, but it’s much, much bigger than I can comprehend. There are blogs and websites that I will never, ever encounter, no matter how many odd searches I run. True, a lot of those sites won’t be relevant to my book, so aiming publicity in those directions wouldn’t do me any good. But it only drives home to me the sheer number of people who use the internet every day. Beyond that, there are billions of people who never use the internet at all. Anything I do online, therefore, is a drop in the bucket. Even blogs with traffic in the thousands every day are tiny, when you think of them in comparison to The Daily Dish or Mashable or BoingBoing.

And, of course, the number of bookbuyers who never even peek online is much larger than the number of bookbuyers who do. An author will never hear a single word from most of the people who read her book. The number of people who post reviews of even some of their reading is, in comparison to the total numbers of readers, vanishingly small.

There are ways to reach a bigger audience on the internet, but I’m not sure I want to do that. It takes time and money to promote via an author newsletter and contests and the like. The time, especially, I grudge. I don’t want to take time away from writing fiction to promote so extensively. I don’t think it’s necessary to familiarize the entire internet with my name and book titles, only those who might want the information (or that I assume might want it). This is especially true because I write erotica. There is a very large audience who don’t like erotica whom I feel it’s useless for me to approach. Some readers from that audience really, really don’t want me to approach, and I am fine with leaving them alone.

I promote online anyway, to some extent. I’m, hopefully, promoting to an audience already disposed to be interested in my writing, which makes the effort more valuable in comparison to the time spent. I write guest posts for other people’s (relevant to my writing) blogs, announce my publishing news on various social networking sites, and have an author website. If nothing else, those things mean that readers who might want to send me email have an address where they can send it. The excerpts and information I provide on my books might persuade a reader to buy my book. It might not make a difference to the masses of people out on the internet, but it makes a difference to those few. If I’m lucky, some of those few will like my writing enough to recommend it to others, whether online or otherwise.

However, online promotion makes a difference to me, too. Promoting is doing. It’s an aspect of writing which is under my control. When so much about publishing is not under my control, that’s perhaps the most important reason to promote online.

As for this blog, it’s not really a promotional vehicle, though I do promotional things on it. I just like to talk about writing and publishing and books…if people read it, that’s extra. If readers comment, that makes blogging more fun, but it isn’t necessary. I needn’t fear I’m forcing my opinions on anyone, as they can read or not read as they choose. Most importantly, I enjoy it.

So what do you think? Do I have it all wrong? How has the online promotion business been for you? Good, bad, indifferent?

Today’s silent film star, if you haven’t already recognized him, is Rodolpho Alfonzo Rafaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla, also known as Rudolf Valentino.

Related posts:
Jessica Freely Guest Post – Wildly Successful E-book Promotion.
Tweet Tweet! (Twitter).
Professional Writing and Spending Money.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. Her blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and occasional author interviews.
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11 Responses to Online Promotion – Is It Worth It?

  1. Jessica says:

    “Anything I do online, therefore, is a drop in the bucket. Even blogs with traffic in the thousands every day are tiny, when you think of them in comparison to The Daily Dish or Mashable or BoingBoing.
    And, of course, the number of bookbuyers who never even peek online is much larger than the number of bookbuyers who do. An author will never hear a single word from most of the people who read her book. The number of people who post reviews of even some of their reading is, in comparison to the total numbers of readers, vanishingly small.”

    So true, and I am no expert in promotion, but I think if you keep this in mind, your sense that it’s better for you to be writing and doing other things can be given support by the truth that spending a zillion hours promoting won’t do that much practical good, anyway.

  2. Janni says:

    I think this is true for all promotion, actually, that what we do is a drop in the bucket–so while we can still do it, we shouldn’t stress it. Which took me a while to realize–I used to worry so much there was something, somewhere I ought be doing.

    I think being … present online and just generally interesting and part of the larger conversation is also more helpful than blatant promotion. When authors spend too much time on their blogs self-promoting, I find I begin to glaze over and lose interest. (This includes the contests, actually.)

    General conversation among people who are not the author (and don’t know her) online seems to go farther, as far as I can tell, because it seems more–real, like the book might be worth reading for its own sake, and not because the author is a nice person her friends want to support.

    And anything the publisher does–even small things–seems to go farther still. Sometimes I think the author has the least self-promotion power than anyone, and that we should make ourselves findable and then get out of the way, though stopping at that would make me uneasy so I do somewhat more anyway.

    And try to remind myself my main job is to write the next book …

  3. Victoria Janssen says:

    Thanks, Janni–it’s good to hear my instincts are similar to someone else’s.

  4. Ashlyn Chase says:

    There’s a sales technique called “the shotgun method.” That’s where you just spread the word and see if you hit anything.

    But, like you, I have to be sensitive to my audience, so I can’t use that method (darn it. It worked well for sales.)

    Right now, I’m trying to find new places to recruit open-minded folks who may not know our books exist. It seems as if we’re trying to reach the same batch of readers as everyone else is with online promo.

    Ash

  5. Victoria Janssen says:

    Right now, I’m trying to find new places to recruit open-minded folks who may not know our books exist.That sounds like an excellent approach.

  6. Louisa Edwards says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head by saying online promotion is about taking an active role in your own fate. So much of the fate of our books rests on the publisher, the book buyers, reviewers, people we’ll never meet. But the internet gives us direct access to our potential readers, and vice versa, in an unprecedented way. I’m not saying it will replace the publicity dept/co-op machine, but it’s a way for an author to have an impact.

  7. Victoria Janssen says:

    But the internet gives us direct access to our potential readers, and vice versa, in an unprecedented way.I do love the interaction and discussion parts!

  8. theodosia says:

    It’s more like networking than self-promotion, I think — there is a certain amount of quid pro quo in networking, giving as well as getting.

  9. Victoria Janssen says:

    Good point…I think I prefer networking, because it seems less mercenary.

  10. Evangeline Collins says:

    Hi Victoria,

    I feel the same way you do about online promotion – anything I do will only be a drop in the bucket. Before I started writing a few years ago, I would have never thought to go online to find new books (and I didn't even know e-books existed a few years ago). Never went to author websites, never visited blogs. I found all my new reads by going up and down the shelves at bookstores and libraries. But still, I promote online, to some extent – the guest blog posts, the announcements on groups, etc. If I didn't do at least something, I'd worry that if a book failed miserably, it was because I didn't try to help sales. And I do have different strategies for my e-pub books versus print. For print, it's more guest blogging and online ads. For e-books, it also includes chats & posting excerpts, sometimes (I'm not a huge chatter).

  11. Victoria Janssen says:

    I think for e-books, posting excerpts is sort of the equivalent of allowing the reader to browse–when physically browsing, I usually do so in the middle of the book, and most online seller excerpts are the beginning.

    That might make an interesting post/article, differing strategies for different formats of book.

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