Thursday, January 5, 2012

Warning--Publishing Can be Hazardous to Your Friendships

A friend drew my attention to a great post by a writer I've never heard of, February Grace. In her post, she respectfully voices her opinion that with this new age of Indie publishing where anybody can publish a book . . . that she's been unhappy to realize the negative effects this has had on many author relationships.

Her post is an interesting read. Check out her post, Why I Won't Try to Sell You my Book.

Those of you who know me and have seen my Writing Journey Video know that over the thirteen years I've been writing, the greatest blessing to me is the friendships I've made on the journey. Sure, I've enjoyed writing my 5 books and improving in my craft and the contest finals and wins are always rewarding, but the best most enduring blessing is the dozens of wonderful people I've met through writing groups, conferences, my work as coordinator of The Sandy Writing contest and the Crested Butte Writers Conference.

And now that anybody can publish a book--and are--it seems the publicity frenzy is reaching all-time highs. I'm certain it's a simple matter of economics--the law of supply and demand. The supply of new fiction books is even greater now, that authors are becoming even more competitive (dare I say, even desperate?) in their publicity campaigns. We haven't reached the levels of annoying politicians campaigning--and God help us if we ever do reach that soul-destroying place.

I'd like to blame editors and agents for fueling this competitive publicity frenzy, but I'm not so certain that they are. For the most part I hear them telling authors to spend more time writing a stellar next book than encouraging their authors to spend hours every day aggressively selling themselves and their books.

So right hear and now, I ask each of you to gently refer me to this post if ever I turn into an annoying, overly-aggressive marketer. I do have a strong competitive streak. It's genetic. Yes, I'm going to blame my parents for this one. However, I want to always remember what is most important to me --people. I want to give, entertain, and build us all up. Not just through my blogs, contest and conference, but through my writing. And I don't want publishing my books to change this!

Success is fickle and fleeting. Family and friendships are far more enduring.
What are your observations? Have you noticed a new wave of aggressive publicity campaigns among writers?

***ETA--Just to be clear, I am NOT saying anything negative against self-published or E-published books. My only point is that with these non-traditional avenues proliferating, there are a LOT more authors "hawking their wares" so to speak. There are more published authors now competing for the same readers. Supply and demand.

26 comments:

Donnell said...

Hi, T. I don't fault anyone Indy, small press or NYT published author for trying to sell their books. It's business after all. But what I'm seeing here is that we are guilty of preaching to the proverbial choir. Our blogs have gone from topic related into a car-salesmanlike approach. I like to talk about my journey to pubication, I think like your journey, that's something we all find interesting.

I like to talk about how I wrote my story, and post excerpts if applicable, but if you're trying to reach the best seller list, you're wasting valuable time. 1) I haven't met very many wealthy writers, and 2) they're trying to hock their own wares. LOL

Thoughtful post, Theresa!

Donnell said...

one addition to my comment...

but if you're trying to reach the best seller list VIA WRITER'S BLOGS, you're wasting valuable time. 1) I haven't met very many wealthy writers, and 2) they're trying to hock their own wares. LOL

Theresa said...

Morning, Donnell, I guess I'm guilty of being a bit of a hermit. I have to admit, I don't read many blogs unless they come up in a search or a writer or writers group loop points me there.
Years ago blogging was a novelty, now it seems to be a requirement for all types of professions or hobbies--and what started out as fun is in danger of becoming more work.
Everybody's doing it --whether they have something to say or not, so it can be time-consuming to filter content out.
I like that we don't blog unless we have something to offer readers. We don't blog just to put content up there.

Karalee Long said...

Hi, Theresa. I don't feel self-published authors are necessarily any more likely to overdo promotion of their books than e-pubbed or print pubbed authors. We writers are constantly told we need a platform, we need to get our name out there, we need to interact on social media, we need to blog. We're told that's what agents and editors expect us to do. I think it's a writer's responsibility to learn how to promote herself or himself in an effective and gracious way despite the barrage of voices yelling, "Promote. Promote. Promote." A balance must be struck in order not to alienate prospective readers, and it would work to everyone's advantage if writers paid attention to that.

Karen Duvall said...

I'm still on fence with this whole Indy publishing thing as I watch from the sidelines to see how it all transpires. However, authors publishing their backlists of out-of-print books is just amazing! That's a definite plus.

I adore my Harlequin Luna editor and the fulfilling relationship I have with my wonderful agent. I really enjoy the team approach to the publishing process and love the support I get from my publisher. I think that's a huge piece that's missing from the Indy publishing model. I suppose self-published writers can create their own team with the people they hire to do their cover and editing and whatever, but it's not the same.

Theresa said...

Hi Karalee,
You brought up a great point--a distinction I should have made. I'm not accusing self-pubs of being particularly aggressive promoters-- I apologize profusely if that's the way it seemed.
My point was that because there are now so many more authors getting published due to non-traditional avenues, that I've noticed this tendency of authors to become almost annoyingly aggressive promoters--all authors regardless of their mode of publication. And it saddens me.

Kaki said...

Oh please, please, PLEASE tell me you're not talking about me! If you are, I'll stop. I HATE all this self-promotion anyway. Yet if the author doesn't pimp her/his books, who will? Still, I agree, it can get annoying, especially when you get a dozen fb or twitter posts a day from the same person telling you what he/she had for breakfast, etc. I see the social media as a necessary (evil) tool, but the whole thing smacks of desperation. But then, I'm a curmudgeon, so what would you expect me to think.

Here's an interesting article about publishing predictions for 2012 that might be of interest: http://bit.ly/sPhyjU.

I also heard today that a vast marjority of the books on the best seller lists out this week have ebook editions out-selling their print editions. Add that to the 9% decline in print book sales during 2011 and it's a scary place out there.

And yet, for all the ups and downs and disappointments in this tough business, the whole process has greatly enriched my life--as have all the friends I've made along the way. Wouldn't trade it for anything.

Donnell said...

Kaki, you nut. They were talking about me I promise to stop too. So there LOL Which isn't hard because I'm in my cave!

KL Grady said...

Kaki, don't be silly. Your posts are hilarious. We don't need to know what you're eating unless you're a food writer or unless you're trying to recreate an Old West recipe. Just tell us about snake guts in your hair and your adorable grand-sprogs, and occasionally remind us when your next release is available. You're doing it right. ;)

Theresa said...

Kaki, of course I'm not talking about you--or Donnell. Any of my close friends, I would tell you when you're wearing on my limited patience--as I hope you'd remind me not to get too big for my britches --or take life too seriously.
Selfishly, I do with that blog tours were less popular because I want to support all my writing buddies and read & comment on each of their blogs when they have a book come out, but I don't have the time--and that allows that old Catholic guilt to kick in.
So if I only make it to a couple of your blogs, remember I still think the world of you guys!

Kaki said...

BTW, Scribers, I love the new look of the blog. Especially the background dribbles of blood, sweat, and tears that are characteristic of the writer's journey. And I don't miss the photos. It's always disheartening to see pics of younger, prettier women. Or so I heard.

February Grace said...

Wow, thank you so much for finding my post worthy of mention and discussion here, I am honored and truly humbled.

To be truthful- my post is a hail Mary pass to try to get some of the people I know to just consider that they might be overdoing it a tad. I've had so many 'friends' just drop me this past year because they only want to associate with other
published authors (however they're published) that it's heartbreaking.

Those of us who have not rushed into the fray of being published (especially self-published) yet are then set aside as only good enough to do their blog tours or promote them on FB or whatever and it just feels awful.

Watching the response to my post though it seems that the people who most need to hear the message are the least likely to get it- and the ones who say "oh my gosh, is it me? I'm sorry if it's me!"...it never is. The fact they worry about alienating their friends is enough usually in and of itself to prevent it from being them.

I loved the line you wrote about friendships and family being more enduring- that was exactly what I was (probably badly) trying to get at. That if you give up the people who really care about you trying to grasp for something as elusive as fame, it may get very lonely, however it turns out.

Thank you again, so much, for the mention. Will definitely visit this blog again!

best,
~bru

Theresa said...

Hi February,
If you knew me better, you'd know that I am brutally honest and . . . forthright. Okay, blunt. I'm blunt. I'd better admit it before one--all-- of my friends tattle on me .
And I wouldn't have mentioned your blog if you hadn't touched me and if I hadn't really thought I had something to say about the topic.

You brought to the forefront and named something that had been bothering me for a while now.
And forgive me for making the observation that I don't think your "friends" are really friends at all if they'd dropped you to hang out with published authors in their desperate quest for the holy grail of more sales.

Life is too short to expend energy on those people who don't give back to a relationship and who only keep friends that are useful to them. Not that you solicited my advice, but drop them and find new friends.

Sappy though it is, I've been very fortunate to find honest, good people who still make time for me after they published. My friends and I enjoy lifting each other up and celebrating all our achievements--both writing and hobby and familial.

That's one of the things I love most about coordinating The Sandy Writing contest and running the Crested Butte writers conference. All kinds of published authors make the time to volunteer to judge for me and come to the conference each year to give back and hang out with us. Real friendship.

What is it you write?

Viola Estrella said...

Hi Theresa,
Lots to think about! I'm both annoyed and impressed by authors who try to repeatedly hit me over the head with their books. I get the occasional writer newsletter that I didn't sign up for, and I sigh and send it to the trash bin (as an example). But then I realize this person's name is now in my memory and when I see her book somewhere, I'm going to remember that I've heard of it before. It's going to draw my attention. In that sense, I think they're brilliant...and, well, ballsy. Which is something women, in general, are not known for (the ballsy part). Of course that brings up another topic--if it were a man promoting his book to death, would we see anything wrong with that? Or would we expect it? This is something I've wondered lately... I do expect authors to try to sell their books. Like Donnell said, this is a business after all. Then again, I wouldn't expect anyone to buy a book in a genre they don't read. I'm not going to sell "Uncle Bob" my spicy paranormal romance. That would be weird. Bottom line--over-promoting is something I can overlook for the most part. I guess. Just don't subscribe me to a newsletter list. Please. :-)

Viola Estrella said...

PS - I very much hope all my author friends have the courage to share good news. I love to see my friends succeed, and I hope they want to see me succeed. But I think that's a lot different than promoting. Just wanted to make that clear.

Kaki said...

Well, damn, Viola. Now I'll have to go back and delete your name from my newsletter list.

And Bru, I agree with Theresa. Those are rather shallow friends, and when you do publish, I doubt they'll do anything to help you promote. These ladies here are fabulous pimps. AND wonderful friends. You need people like that around you, whether you're pubbed or pre-pubbed.

Theresa said...

Hi Viola, Nice to hear from you, lady! Mostly I'm tolerant of pushy people--'cause I don't like confrontation, however I reach a point where I feel bullied and then the Irish/Italian stubborn sets in and there ain't NO WAY I'm gonna buy that damn author's book even if I'm DYING to!
I feel the same way if it's a man--though it's an interesting question. To me, it's a matter of respect and good manners and that is gender and race blind in my eyes.
But I do understand that competitive fever, so I count on all your friends to keep me respectful when I stray!

Donnell said...

Actually Bru, you just made me wake up and smell the coffee ;)

Viola, My Uncle Bob loves your spicy paranormal

Great topic, T.

Viola Estrella said...

@Donnell - Sweet! LOL

@Theresa - I totally understand about being stubborn.

@Kaki - My inbox thanks you. I'm going to look up what you write now. ;-)

Lori Corsentino said...

Wow - definitely a thoughtful post as well as comments.

BTW - I actually HAVE an Uncle Bob and I just published a spicy paranormal! Needless to say, one of the topics at Christmas this year was my story and their excitement on getting a copy to read. Yikes!!! I agree with Vi when she says it's a bit awkward thinking about my 77 year old uncle reading that rather spicy love scene I wrote!

I didn't read February's original post, but did see her response to Theresa's. It saddens me to see some of February's "friends" have gone their own way after being published. I think this is inevitable and will happen to a certain degree regardless, but those that are truly your friend, that have more of a stake in your life, will find a way to stay in contact and keep common interests. Some may also "reach back" to help you along the same path. Those that were just friends through common interests will likely continue on without you. As sad as that is, it's probably for the best to have it happen sooner rather than later, when you have more invested.

I agree that as authors we are expected to do a lot of our own promotions. I also agree that a balance must be struck on where and when you promote, and options should be given to the receiver of the promotions.

I definitely want to hear the news a chapter-mate/fellow writer has to share, and I want to know about awesome blogs, and new releases/re-releases too. What I do not want is a constant commercial, or getting something (a newsletter) I didn't request.

And Vi - I agree. If guys were pushing their wares like this, I don't think anything would be said. Funny that, huh?

For effective promotion, I'm thinking consistency is best. Blog a couple days a week and promote the blogs. That way you're allowing the readers of your posts and tweets to choose whether to visit your site/blog. Feathering the nest (bribing) a bit should help get some good readership.

I'm a new reader to Five Scribes and am enjoying it so far!

Lori Corsentino

Theresa said...

Welcome to 5 scribes, Lori.
I love it when a blog post turns into an interesting discussion like this one! I'd rather my old uncle read my love scenes than my children. It's one thing to tell them I think my hubby's hot and remind them we still have a sex life (they're all over 18) to gross them out and get a reaction, but it's another thing for them to read one of my sex scenes. That is WAY more personal.
And I must disagree that it's inevitable that published authors must go their own way after publishing. I have many published author friends and most managed to not change too much other than having a little less time, but most still manage to maintain our friendship as well as before they published. Perhaps I'm just more fortunate in my friends?
I agree that consistent promotion is probably the key. Good point!

Theresa said...

Lisa has computer difficulties, but this is her two cents:
Amen, Theresa, to picking and choosing amongst blogs! I feel as though that's all I've worked on this week. Anyhow, just as I thought I'd break into my publisher's office, steal and shred my contract, and forget I ever even wanted to write, let alone be published, my marketing rep eased my vertigo, brought on by promotion.

First, he said: It's not all about, as Kaki says and I chuckle every time I quote her, "pimping oneself" by pressing SALES, SALES, SALES! It's about getting out to the places where your readers hang out and simply doing readings or presentations without any mention of a sale, which will come vicariously as you build your reputation and enthusiasm for your subject.

Second, he said: Take 10-15 minutes ONLY every day to make one contact---via phone, e-mail, or even two cups strung together (yeah....some of you know what I'm talking about by the latter). By the end of 365 days, you'll have had many events, and more opportunities will arise from those (probably not from the cup and string device, unless you live in a hotel with lots of guests/tenants and holes in the walls and ceilings).

As a newbie author, I don't know if any of his advice works, but I do know that I appreciate this timely blog---puts me in my place before I make a fool of myself! Maybe I already have? YIKES! P.S. Love the new site!

Lisa P.

jessicaaspen.com said...

I used to wonder why RWA made such a big deal over no promo on the loops (and I still think they go a little overboard) but now I know. I'm starting to understand those people who complain all the time about the loops being clogged. As publishers do less and less promo for authors and the Indie scene grows, you are right, it's going to get more crowded out there. But what is really appalling to me is dropping a friend due to their publishing status. That's terrible. Striking a balance between promotion and writing is tough, doing so much promo you lose the people who helped you get there in the first place is much worse. Sorry February for your loss, but all I can say is what my mom would have said in Jr. High, they likely weren't as good a friend as you thought. I've made some wonderful friends during this process and I hope all of you have too. Here's to friendship and not spoiling it by overpromoting! Cheers!

Donnell said...

Jessica, what a wise comment. So is your mom!

Chris Devlin said...

Awesome post, don't mind if I promo it a little on twitter!

This topic, the balance of writing to marketing and how you go about doing that interpersonally, is very much on my mind these days as I prepare to self-publish. I hope I don't become obnoxious and I really hope that people feel safe telling me if I do.

I've noticed a lot of spammy self-pimping especially on twitter, and I just quietly drop those people. How boring if they don't even try to converse or connect.

Thanks to Bru and Theresa for a great, thought-provoking convo.
(Anyone else start playing writing games with the captchas? Today's word is 'horrie' which sounds to me like a character in an Edward Gorey story.)

Theresa said...

Welcome Chris. I don't tweet and won't until forced to 'cause I hear more negative things and I read more inane chatter when I follow others' twitters.

Do you guys think that the relative anonymity of this social media communication almost encourages bad manners? And are people so insecure and self-absorbed that they think everybody cares what they're doing every minute of the day and eating?

Afterall, you don't have the instant feedback of seeing facial expressions and other nonverbal cues when you bore the beegeezus out of people--or hurt their feelings with careless remarks or rudeness. You don't have that instant feedback to gently reprimand a careless or misunderstood comment.

And I don't know many selfpubbed, but do you guys think they are unintentionally greater offenders as they feel the underdog and don't have ANY marketing help from a publisher? Just wondering what others have observed.