Monday, February 10, 2014

Wordcraft -- Raising your book above the crowd

The bad news, Dallas Morning News writer Joy Tipping told this month’s meeting of the local Mystery Writers of America, is that a writer’s chances of getting publicity for her novel through reviews is vanishingly small.

The good news is that there is a far better method than reviews for raising awareness about our books. Last week I wrote about the many ways of getting reviews. This week it’s how to get the word out without reviews. And it doesn’t require bundles of bucks for full page ads in the New York Times Review of Books.

In preparation for the day my Great American Novel (currently in version about 4.0) gets published, heaven only knows how many books, blogs, websites, you name its, I’ve read or had recommended to me about how to promote a book. I hate them. I hate the gimmicks. Just reading about them makes me tired.

Gimmicks, in Tipping’s opinion, aren’t the point. The way of attracting readers to our books is through simple word of mouth, the most ancient form of networking.

Last Monday I wrote that Tipping told writers not to pin their hopes on getting reviewed in big newspapers. Today I’ll tell you she says, “don’t pin your hopes on reviews in any publication.” Instead, get the word out about your writing in social media. “I want you to get rid of the word ‘reviews’. . . Get people to comment on Facebook posts. Or ask them to write min-reviews on Facebook. It really is all about knowing people.”

And if socializing by introverts sounds contradictory, the answer, thanks to the Internet is that it doesn’t have to be.

“In high school I was really shy,” Tipping says. “If you’d told me my career would be
networking with people, I’d have crawled under the table.” (She says she’s now gotten over her shyness.)

“Social media is where it’s at,” Tipping says. “I send two to three hours of every day blogging, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and so on.” (She also uses Google + and Pinterest). “It’s so important that you have those accounts--that’s your platform.”

Don’t have a book to offer yet? “Start putting your opinions on Twitter when you start writing your novel, and when you finish your book, you can tweet about it.”

For those of us still feeing too private to put opinions out on the Internet for the whole world to see, let me just say I’m always amazed by the number of writers who show up in workshops proclaiming themselves too shy to divulge their writing to outsiders. Yet they yearn to become bestselling authors. It’s as if we don’t understand that selling books means displaying our opinions for the whole world.

Oh, and give back. In her discussion of reviews (yes, I know you’re still interested in them), she told us one of the best ways to get reviewed was to write reviews of others. The same degree of support for others, I believe, applies to networking. I see more
“likes” on Facebook for writer friends who promote other friends’ writings than for those who only promote themselves.

Although Tipping advocates treating social media as our personal cable channel, she cautions that we need to treat it as we would a broadcast.  "Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t want to see on the CNN news crawl.”

And no matter what your Facebook privacy settings are, there is nothing, she warns, that her twenty-something year old son couldn’t hack in minutes. “There is nothing on social media that is private.”

She also cautions users to consider the differences between various social media audiences. “Don’t set your Facebook settings to send everything to Twitter. They’re completely different platforms, completely different readers.”

And for more about Tipping, her books (yes, she’s written travel books), and opinions, see

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