If I’m not mistaken, back in the ‘old days,’ when writers were represented by agents and big publishing houses, people pretty much did your book promotion for you or at least set up a book tour and select appearances.
Publishers did this because printing and distributing books cost money and they wanted to make their money back. They also chose only the best manuscripts and paid their editors a good wage to make them better. It was in their best interest to promote the crap out of your title, so they did that. The agent wanted you to succeed because he made money off you, so he always struck the best deal he could.
These days, many publishers don’t perform this service, especially if they’re mostly publishing ebooks. What does it cost to produce an electronic book? Pretty much nothing, so if a title fails, well, there are lots of hungry authors lined up right behind you. And because putting out ebooks is easy and cheap, publishers have let quality and editing slide. Put out enough product–even if some of it is garbage–and one will surely hit, making enough money to pay the staff and royalties. (This business model does a huge disservice to readers, but that’s another post.)
It comes up again and again, in blogs, on twitter, on g+, on facebook: writers have to promote themselves like crazy to sell their book because no one is going to do it for them.
But do they really have to? And how much promotion is enough?
If writers spend all their time promoting, they’re not writing. Word of mouth is more important than anything, so publish your best work and then write something else.
EL James is in the business and used every contact she had to promote 50 Shades. Most of us can’t do that, so again… write! Publish! Write some more. Build a backlist. Those who discover your work and like it will buy everything you’ve published.
Guest blogging is popular and some writers spend a lot of time doing it, but I’ve been told it doesn’t translate into sales (and having done some of it, I agree). What about ads? I think they’re ignored by just about everyone because who hasn’t seen a zillion commercials by now and learned to tune them out?
Reviews, especially if they’re good, can sell a few copies but guess what? You don’t have to do anything to get a review. Either a site reviews you or they don’t, and this is the one thing all publishers do: send your book to a review site and keep their fingers crossed.
This is how an author promos their book: write, then write some more. The more you have out there, the more your name gets known. The more known your name is, the more books you sell. That’s it.
Now go write something!