books aren’t just what we do, they’re who we are

Should You Shut Up or Put Up?

ShutUp,Take3There’s been a lot of discussion lately online and elsewhere that the only useful thing an author can do after the release of their book, particularly their first book, is shut up and work on the next one. A lot of this conversation centered around author Delilah Dawson’s post entitled Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work, but I’m afraid most readers of that post never saw her follow-up the next day, Wait, Keep Talking: Author Self-Promo That Actually Works. And I think you have to see both posts together to truly get the point.

Fact: rampant self-promotion on social media is a bore. Your followers hate it, you hate it, it doesn’t sell books.

But you know what does sell books? Genuine enthusiasm. Excitement. Buzz. You can’t manufacture that, but you can work at it. Want an example?

KT Lit author Susan Adrian‘s debut novel Tunnel Vision came out from St. Martin’s Griffin in January. Since then, she has done over a dozen events with nearly 30 other authors, debut and established, with further events scheduled from East Coast to West Coast, with multiple stops in the middle. Each is an opportunity to connect with readers and sell another book. She’s not constantly tweeting a link to buy her book. She’s sharing information about events, fangirling about some of the other authors she’s appearing with, and talking about favorite tv shows, from Chuck to Supernatural.

Should I tell her to shut up and write? No, of course not. First of all, that’s totally not my style. Even if I am eager to read the sequel to Tunnel Vision, Susan’s online presence informs her followers about her as a person, not just as a writer, and that’s enticing.

Next example: Maureen Johnson. MJ’s third novel in the Shades of London series, The Shadow Cabinet, came out in February, and she had to cancel her tour due to ill health. We have multiple books still under contract to be published, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to tell one of Time Magazine’s Top Twitter Feeds of 2011 and one of Mashable’s Most Interesting Twitter Users to Follow to shut up and get back to work writing her novel. Her online persona sells books. No, it’s not a one-to-one follower to book buyer ratio, but her social media presence (she would massacre me if I called it her “brand”) informs followers of her work as a YA writer, and sells books. Period.

One of the points I loved in Delilah’s post was a tip about the face you show the world online, and I wish everyone would read it. A quote:

If you compare yourself to other writers and their success, you’re spending time on something you can’t control. If you’re on social media, grumbling about her deal or his hitting list or her new agent or that last form rejection, you’re not working toward getting those things yourself. Being negative solves nothing. Being negative does not attract people and readers and new opportunities. Emailing an agent to tell them why they’re wrong does not make them want to work with you. Staring at Amazon numbers or composing pithy blog comments does not make you a better writer or a better person. Do you think GRRM is Googling himself and arguing with people who don’t like his books right now? Nope. He’s writing. And/or rolling around in an iron throne filled with money.

How is this self-promo? Because showing your negative side to the publishing world is the opposite of self-promo. It is actively damaging your reputation and your career. Maintaining a professional, courteous, and positive attitude is a big part of connecting with readers online.

I pride myself on my optimism as a person and as an agent, and this speaks to me. Put your best face out there, whether it’s your whole self, or an online version, and do what makes you comfortable. That sells books. And isn’t that why we’re here?

Photo above by Flickr user Daniela Vladimirova, used under Creative Commons license.

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