Promotion – how much is too much?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that indie and self-pub authors – or even authors with big publishers who don’t get the lion’s share of the promotional budget –  will gripe at the amount of coverage given to those whose previous claims to fame guarantee them market saturation.

Where Memories GoI’m avoiding the word ‘celebrity’ because that smacks to me of someone famous for being famous and I don’t put Sally Magnusson in that camp. She’s an established broadcaster and writer like her father and mother before her and in Where Do Memories Go she has a great story to tell as well as the theme of dementia,  a major topical concern.

I heard some of it on Radio 4 last week and found it really heart-breaking. Then I noticed Sally is coming to talk in Bristol – if it had been another day I would have bought a ticket and possibly the book as well.

The following weekend I also saw a feature she had done for the Telegraph Magazine’s back page photo feature. Okay, fine. The Magnussons and Sally’s book are now firmly lodged in my head. If I’d seen it in a bookshop that day I might have been tempted. But since then I’ve read another feature somewhere or other covering the same ground and seen links to several more. I’m beginning to wonder if there are no other books worth mentioning this week.

I suppose as a Scot of a certain age and reading habits I’m pretty much the target market. They’ve got me covered – and covered again. But have they succeeded? I think the plan has back-fired. A week or go they had me. Now I’ll wait until it catches my eye in the library. If it ever does. The things is, I feel I’ve read it already. Which is quite sad for the author – and for me.

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11 responses to “Promotion – how much is too much?

  1. The Writing Sisterhood

    I find this to be a fascinating topic. I, too, wonder the same thing at times. Sometimes it feels like you’re hearing about the same books over and over so much that you DO lose interest. The books that really catch my eye are the ones that started out with little fanfare, but for whatever reason caught on to the reading public and the next thing you know they’re making a movie. Okay, what was it about that little book that fired up the crowd? Now, that’s the one I want to read!

    Good Topic!
    ♥ Mary Mary

  2. The other way publishers overshare is that the promoted author gets to review/comment on other people’s books, or do an article. Then at the bottom comes the plug: Freda Smith’s NEW BOOK How I Overshared is Now out!!! Hate this. And you are quite right, it puts people off.

  3. Hi Carol – yes, like when they turn up on a talk show and have to pretend to be interested in everything else going on but you know why they are REALLY there – their agent/publisher has sent them. 😦 Ali B

  4. Spot on, as usual. It’s how publishing works, though, isn’t it? They have a release date and build everything around it and are feverish around the statistics of what the buzz achieved in sales, which means they are really pleased, back-slapping and high-fiving at getting a review in a top paper or a spot in a supplement or radio spot. They should have a tick box for ‘over-saturation’ to remind that, often, little is more, that book buzz builds slowly, over time, as readers fall in love with it and can’t wait to read it. But it’s a reminder that publishing is a business and the business needs to recoup the money they’ve expended to get the book out there.

    • Oh absolutely, Janette. There’s always a bit of the sour gapes mentality for anyone who is not part of the action. But it just all seems to be part of the ‘all or nothing’ attitude in the book market. I realise it’s the same with music. Was pleased to see Sheryl Crowe on a line-up recently then suddenly she is EVERYWHERE! Ali B

  5. silverwoodbooks

    This is such interesting piece, Ali. I know what you mean about feeling as if you’ve read it already. I think this is where self-publishing and indie authors have the advantage… in mainstream publishing it seems that you only have a short period to make an impression. I’ve heard it said that an average mainstream pubbed book has a period of 9 months on the shelf to make it (or not). That’s not long. I guess that’s why the publicists cram in lots of promo around publication date. I often say to SilverWood authors that they have the luxury of time to build a following – because if you’re self-publishing, unless your book has a time-related topic that means it has to succeed immediately. You have the freedom to allow your book to build slowly or organically. You’re not bound by any artificial “it has to work now or we move on to the next profitable product” thoughts. You can build interest and readership over years if you want to, gradually bringing more books on stream. That means the self-pub author can create a longterm promotion strategy, rather than feel their books have to sink or swim within months. (And hopefully people don’t get fed up with seeing a constant presence in the media or online.)

  6. Hi Helen – BWW were discussing this last night. We’ve all been infected with the mentality that things have to sell out straight away or that’s it, show over. As you say most books and authors can build over time and this probably applies particularly to those who are new to the market. Very few books have a limited shelf-life. (Similarly the authors, we hope!) Ali B

  7. Thoughtful post. As you know, I’m not one to hide my light, but the best sales month for my first book was nine months after its launch. I’m a big fan of organic growth/drip-drip promotion. I like to find out stuff around the story, research, the author’s motivation. This only comes out bit by bit, and lets the reader enjoy discovering things themselves.

    But we live in a commercial and competitive world and authors like to get their work in front of readers, so gentle promotion is needed…

  8. I know what you mean about the overkill but I’m not sure it affects what I read. Perhaps because I rarely read non-fiction, I often appreciate reading articles about the book (in the dare I say quality papers) so I know what’s going on and don’t have to take the time to read it.

    • Hi Ann – in terms of actual reviews, I think you’re right. they can be a useful short-cut! But I was just wondering if over-exposure of the author might have a negative effect in some cases. Ali B