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Instead of Promotion, Try Participation

image by Georgali/Kappa/Regoukou

It’s no secret that regardless of how you publish, a huge part of publicizing and marketing a book now falls on the author’s shoulders. The downside is, of course, that there are already so many demands on our time, it feels like we just don’t have a minute to spare. But there’s an upside too. Being able to connect directly with readers through social channels and other means gives you an exciting, sometimes inspiring, degree of control. When someone else is making and executing on decisions about how your book gets promoted, you’re distanced. In the best scenarios, you and your publisher are both investing in getting your book into the hands of readers. That is truly the best! But regardless of your publisher’s level of engagement and/or investment, you still have the power — and the opportunity — to connect with potential readers yourself.

But it’s exhausting, right? Telling people about your book in short form and long form or with links or without, promoting and describing that book, writing essays about yourself and your book and trying to get them published, organizing giveaways, holding Facebook launch parties, Tweeting and Instagramming about yourself and your book over and over? It can feel like screaming into the void.

So if you don’t want to do that, don’t do that. Problem solved!

For the paperback launch of my novel WOMAN 99, I’m doing some local events, but most of the time I’d usually spend on promotion is going to another project. It’s only tangentially related to my own book, and it may or may not have any impact on sales, but it makes me happy, and that’s a pretty good goal too.

For Women’s History Month the last two years running, I interviewed women writers on my blog with the hashtag #womenshistoryreads [1]. I’m not even sure how many interviews I ended up with, but it was well north of 75, and it took a whooooole lot of my time those Marches. Three questions and an answer for each post. Invitations and followups and editing, oh sigh. (There was, thank goodness, a spreadsheet.) This year I decided to do something simpler and just ask authors I knew for one book recommendation each — one book by and/or about a woman — for a series tagged #read99women [2].

Spoiler alert: it still takes a huge amount of my time. (Headshots! Bios! Intros! Links! Another spreadsheet!) But since I’m just about officially done with my next novel THE ARCTIC FURY [3] and have no other writing projects on the immediate horizon, it’s time that I actually have, for a change.

And it’s been great. Not only am I reaching out to authors I know across genres (not just historical fiction and nonfiction), I’m making connections with new authors I didn’t know before. I’m seeing reminders of books I loved and recommendations for books I’ve never heard of, old and new. It reminds me what a supportive and wonderful community fellow writers can be.

Participation. Not promotion.

And yet, if I look at it with a cynical marketer’s eye, it’s doing most of the things I want promotion to do. Bringing new people to my website every day. Putting and keeping my name out there. Reinforcing my existing connections within the writing community (I hate to say network, but yes, it’s also my network) and forging new ones. Giving me a reason to tweet and Facebook and ‘gram every single day, and engage with readers who respond.

It probably has no immediate effect on sales — I don’t have a way of tracking that — but then again, neither does most promotion, right?

Q: Are there any ways you engage in participation instead of promotion? 

About Greer Macallister [4]

Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister earned her MFA in creative writing from American University. Her debut novel THE MAGICIAN'S LIE was a USA Today bestseller, an Indie Next pick, and a Target Book Club selection. Her novels GIRL IN DISGUISE (“a rip-roaring, fast-paced treat to read” - Booklist) and WOMAN 99 (“a nail biter that makes you want to stand up and cheer” - Kate Quinn) were inspired by pioneering 19th-century private detective Kate Warne and fearless journalist Nellie Bly, respectively. Her new book, THE ARCTIC FURY, was named an Indie Next and Library Reads pick, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and a spotlighted new release at PopSugar, Libro.fm, and Goodreads. A regular contributor to Writer Unboxed and the Chicago Review of Books, she lives with her family in Washington, DC. www.greermacallister.com