Write Another Book

This is the conclusion more and more of the writers I know seem to be arriving at when we talk about marketing these days.  There are still some proponents of blogging, and of traveling around the country as a multimedia event with two folksingers and a chicken-head-eating-geek, and of doing drive-by blitzes of every bookstore within a thousand miles.  But there is also a growing consensus that, if you aren’t already known as a blogger, and don’t know any chicken-head-eating geeks, or aren’t already on the NY Times bestseller list, then none of these ideas will do you much good.  Or at least as much good as writing another book. 

Writing books is, after all, why most writers want to become writers.  At least it’s why I did.  Had I wanted to spend my time marketing, I would have gone to Madison Avenue.  But I didn’t, so I didn’t. 

The thing is, writing is like gambling.  (I think I heard that from Daniel Abraham first, and I totally agree with him.)  Instead of risking your money, you risk your time.  It takes a lot of time to write a book (at least for me), and, like any other wager, you have to do it more than once unless you’re really, really lucky. 

And any time you spend blogging, or doing multimedia events, or visiting bookstores, is time you that might have been better spent writing.  Unless you’re really good at blogging, or doing multimedia events, or visiting bookstores. 

Which I’m not.

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  1. 1. green_knight

    Also, books are really great sales tools. You get your name in front of a lot of eyes every time someone sees your new book or reads about it or hears it mentioned by a friend. And if people like it, they’ll want to buy your other books (which tend to be mentioned in the front matter, if not on the cover itself) – whereas the number of people who decide to buy a book because of a bookmark, snazzy website, or reading tends to be lower – books-by-same-author tend to be good predictors for whether I’ll like the next one or not.

  2. 2. Ben Cirillo

    You don’t have to spend a lot of time working on long-winded blog entries. It’s better if you don’t, actually, since no one will read them.

    Check out my work at http://imaginarythings.wordpress.com . It’s a collection of writing/creativity exercises that takes a small amount of time on my part, but (once it takes off and more people participate) still has value for the readers.

  3. 3. Tom

    Well said. I agree 100%.

  4. 4. S.C. Butler

    Green Knght – Good point about books being sales tools. And wanting to read everything by that author when you find a new author. I know I’m that way.

    Ben- Looks like you have some interesting exercises there.

    Tom – Thanks.

  5. 5. Adele

    As always, going to start with I am not a writer, but I am a reader. To me, it is important for an author to have an online prescense. If I can’t find a website so I can get some more information I sometimes lose interest. However, much as I love interacting with authors on blogs and twitter and every other place I can, and much as my own blog benefits from that activity, it isn’t neccesary.
    In my view, if an author enjoys the internet and has fun interating with fans or blogging or visiting three thousand bookstores then great, for everyone. If they don’t then it is quite acceptable to have a webpage with a bibliography and a bio and leave it at that. We will know if you are phoning it in because “everyone needs to blog” and we won’t love you for it.

  6. 6. S.C. Butler

    Adele – You’re right. Authors do need to have a web presence. And I would agree that they shouldn’t just phone it in, either. A blog is as much about your writing as anything else, and should reflect that.

    What I was referring to in my post is the marketing idea that all writers should start a blog as a way of drawing in large numbers of readers. The experience of most writers I know is that, unless you already have a blog with large numbers of readers, starting one to get large numbers of readers is very unlikely. Much more likely that your books will draw readers to your blog.

  7. 7. Lara Morgan

    totally agree. I would far rather be writing than trying to figure out ways to market my work – it generally gives me a headache and leads to confusion as to how to even do it! I have a website and sometimes blog but have no desire to spend hours doing it. I also sometimes wonder how authors who blog alot are seen in terms of credibility. Are they are a blogger with a book, or a writer who sometimes blogs??

  8. 8. S.C. Butler

    Lara – Sometimes they’re both a blogger and a writer. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, especially if you’re good at both. Then symbiosis sets in. And everyone has to do some marketing. As Adele points out, it’s important to have a website. It’s important to go to cons, too. Publishing, like any other business, is based on contacts as much as anything else, and cons are the best place to make those contacts.

    The important thing is to not get too carried away by the marketing.

  9. 9. Alma Alexander

    I blog because I kinda like it. Occasionally someone trips over the blog and goes, oh, yeah, that person – and that results in a book sale – but I don’t kid myself that I have an audience of a Neil Gaiman, or a John Scalzi. My blog is a marginal marketing venue, at best. Where blogs do start building is if you can get OTHER bloggers to talk about your book (always available for guest blogs, myself…) – and THAT snowballs. In other words, it’s the usual – word of mouth, even if it’s in a different media than the old-fashioned kind.

    And yes, the best thing to do is write another book.

    Getting it PUBLISHED, however, is a whole other kettle of fish…

  10. 10. S.C. Butler

    Alma – I blog for fun as well. Any sales from it are incidental.

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S.C. Butler

Butler is the author of The Stoneways Trilogy from Tor Books: Reiffen's Choice, Queen Ferris, and The Magician's Daughter. Find out what Reiffen does with magic, and what magic does with him... Visit site.

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