Ticking of the clock

Sarah Prineas posted on promotion a week ago, and it’s a topic I’d like to explore a little further.

It’s hard enough getting published in the first place, but when a new book hits the shelves just about every author can hear a little clock ticking away in the background. This is the countdown to the day when the books are cleared off the shelves and sent back, or in some cases when the last copies sell and nobody bothers to reorder.

During the clock-ticking phase many authors find it impossible to work on their next book. I know – I’m one of them. For two-three months after the release date (and another month beforehand) I forget about writing and do everything in my power to push the new book into the spotlight.

Like all self-promoters I find myself walking the fine line between publicity and spam, so I use a simple test before I embark on a promotional idea. What would I feel if I were on the receiving end? If the answer is irritation, anger or murderous rage then the idea is killed off immediately. (I have a very low tolerance for advertising, so this policy has stood me well over time.)

Now, I confess I’ve never said no to a free book, and I think copies of your work are your best marketing weapon. PBW has been giving away books through her blog for years, and has often posted on the lack of value in bookmarks, postcards and other widgets. Taking her lead, I’ve sent out well over a hundred copies of my novels to casual bloggers, visitors to my site and, sometimes, just random people.

Is this effective, or a complete waste of money? Actually, I have no idea. However, I occasionally get an email from someone who enjoyed one of my books, and that feedback keeps me going when I’m working 16-hour days, weeks on end, on the latest draft. I was going to say you can’t buy that sort of motivation, but I guess I am ;-)

As for the clock, do any of you hear it ticking away? If so, what do you do about it?

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  1. 1. Steve Buchheit

    I hear it ticking in reverse, to get my first book done and out. It’s what I would guess is like a biological clock, I just feel like there’s a countdown, and with everyday I’m missing marketing opportunities and a possible window of publication/interest.

  2. 2. Simon Haynes

    With fiction there’s plenty of time to get it just right, because the chances of another very similar work coming along and stealing your thunder are quite small.

    It’s still good to set yourself a deadline though – for example, I’ve done NanoWrimo these past two years to force myself to get a 50k chunk of work done.

  3. 3. Jim C. Hines

    Hmph. Tell that to the folks at Dreamworks, who passed on Goblin Quest because they had just done Shrek.

    But I suspect that was a bit of a fluke :)

  4. 4. S.C. Butler

    I agree with what Garth Nix said a few days ago: no promotion is as good as writing more books. That said, you have to do some promotion. Giving out free books is always a good idea.

  5. 5. Jackie Kessler

    I think promotion is vital (unless you’re already a bestselling author and have tons of support from your publisher). But the trick is to promote wisely, to not waste your money, time, and resources when you should otherwise be writing.

    I think free books are key, depending on whom you give them to. I have one ARC left for my upcoming novel, and it’s already earmarked for a contest winner. I’ll be giving a large chunk of my author copies to specific booksellers who have responded positively to a direct-mail campaign I did last month. In addition, I’m running a sweepstakes on my website to promote my book. Is it worth it? I won’t know until after my book comes out.

    But I firmly believe that authors should — must — do everything they can to buzz their book.

    As long as that doesn’t come at the expense of writing the next book, that is.

Author Information

Simon Haynes

Simon is the author of the Hal Spacejock series, featuring intergalactic loser Hal and his junky sidekick, Clunk. His website contains a number of articles on writing and publishing, and he's also the programmer of several freeware apps including yBook, BookDB and yWriter. In his spare time(!) he helps to run Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Visit site.

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