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Dealing With Book Promotion Fatigue

image by Guillaume Joly

Writers get tired.

The process of writing, of editing, of writing some more, of editing some more, of searching for representation, of reworking the book yet again, of waiting so long to see your words in print that you forget you even wrote some of them, of publishing in its maddening and bountiful entirety… well, some days, it can feel like too much.

Every stage has its own ups and downs, but personally, I find the promotion stage both the most exciting and the most challenging. Many parts of the publishing process can feel out of your control. Partly that’s because they are. But promotion is different because, unlike other stages, it has the capacity to go on forever. The joy and terror of publishing in the social media age is that once you have a book, you literally could be promoting it every minute of every day.

(Note to writers everywhere: do NOT promote your book every minute of every day.)

Right now, my latest book (published under a pseudonym, as regular readers know) has been out in paperback for a few months. Typically, this is when a publisher’s efforts to promote the book taper off and any further promotion is squarely in my hands. Since my next book isn’t out for almost a year, it’s a little early to start pushing that one, so it would make perfect sense for me to push a little harder on promotion of the paperback one.

And yet I spend day after day not doing it. Why? Because, as I mentioned above: tired.

But I’ve been here before, and I always find a way out. I will this time too. In case you find yourself in the same situation, here are my three rules for getting out of a why-do-I-bother, so-tired-of-promoting-this-book funk:

  1. Give yourself permission to be sick of it. Of course you’re sick of it! It’s exhausting! Even for those of us who are lucky enough to have the half-introvert, half-extrovert temperament that lends itself to the cycles of crafting a book from scratch (so private) and then selling the bejeezus out of it (very public), it’s tiring. The nature of promotion is that there are no guarantees. It’s not like you know that if you write personal notes to X bookstores or tweet Y giveaways or buy Z ads, you’ll be a bestseller. All that labor with no guarantee of reward? That can plain tucker a person out.
  2. If you can, take time off. I wouldn’t recommend throwing your hands up in the air, say, two or three weeks before a book launch, since that’s a uniquely important time to promote, but otherwise? Take some time. My latest has been out in paperback more than three months. Nothing is going to happen today that couldn’t also happen tomorrow, or the day after. I went on vacation for a week and did absolutely nothing book-related. As soon as I got back, I thought, Hm, I’ve got some ideas. Time away really can help re-set you.
  3. Make a choice: either do what matters most, or do what you like best. If you can take time off, do that first and then this, but if you’re in a crunch time, here’s how you keep your promotion list from ballooning. Are you going to do what matters most (the task that’s likely to have the greatest impact) or what you like best (the task that feels least like a task)? You can do both, of course. But if you’re tired and you can only muster the energy for one, be deliberate about which one that is.

Q: How do you get your promotion mojo back? Or do you never lose it?

About Jael McHenry [1]

Jael McHenry is the debut author of The Kitchen Daughter [2] (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books, April 12, 2011). Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. You can read more about Jael and her book at jaelmchenry.com [3] or follow her on Twitter at @jaelmchenry.