|The "Blood Cries Out" was published in July 2014.|
As some of you have probably heard by now, I'm heading to London and Rome in about eight weeks. It's part of a study abroad program with Marylhurst University. (I'll be graduating in less than a year now with a BA in English Literature and New Media.) Anyway, I plan to change the focus of my blog writings to #LondonRome2017 starting later this weekend. Before making the transition, though, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share some reflections on the marketing and promotion of this novel back in 2014/2015.
Unless perhaps one's a poet, it's not usually the writer's goal to sell fewer than a few hundred books. While the sales have been a little disheartening, I do think there are lessons that can be taken away here, and these lessons are perhaps also of some use to other writers. Without further ado, then, here are the top ten things to keep in mind when promoting (and writing) your own work.
1. Don't necessarily expect even relatively close friends to understand the importance of your novel to you.
After you invest years of research, writing, rewriting, and editing into a novel it begins to feel like the birth of a...really significant hamster, let's say. Unless all of one's friends are writers, which would not necessarily be such a healthy thing, don't expect most of them to even remotely understand the personal significance of what you're revealing about yourself. Good friends may show no interest, and you should avoid holding it against them. You can't make someone excited for your book, so you should really not try to do so--too much anyway. Many of my of friends, for instance, aren't into fiction at all, and this can be quite annoying. What one really needs to do is find creative ways for the novel to be seen, read, and talked about by a larger group of people. Think big, and try to ignore the people close to you who really couldn't seem to care less.
2. Understand exactly who your audience is before you begin promotions work.
One of the challenges I faced in The Blood Cries Out was that I was striving for a strong sense of realism as well as a powerful sense of place. I'm drawn to place, and I won't apologize for the emphasis, but it is worth noting what unexpected things can happen. With my novel, for instance, I encountered two audiences that had issues with my book from the start: Catholics and non-Catholics. That's actually a pretty large group... So, what had I done to incur the ill will of so many good readers? This quote from Flannery O'Connor goes far in explaining my problem with Catholics.
Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you.
Another challenge appears to have been that non-Catholics assumed that my novel would be preachy or "overly" Catholic in nature. I don't believe it was, and that has never actually been acriticism that I have received from anyone. Catholicism deals, after all, with every aspect of what it means to be human. I don't think that a work can be a work of fiction can be too Catholic, but I certainly can see works being so preachy in tone that it distracts or annoys the reader.
In conclusion, however, it should be noted that there are some reasonable steps one can take to minimize the problems outlined above. You don't have to lessen the quality of your work in order to give it a more broad appeal, but it does require careful thought and reflection. In the case of my mystery novel, for example, the next work will likely not contain religious symbols on the cover, and it will likely not be so closely set in the heart of a bustling city like Seattle. More details another time...
Second, beyond the initial announcement, there are no ongoing publicity efforts: nothing. As I understand, this is pretty standard in the self-publishing industry. It's important that your book is more than a simple revenue stream to your publisher. If they don't promote their authors or their products, you should seriously consider going a different route.