10 Tips for Authors to Avoid Book Promotion Burnout
The struggle is real: book promotion burnout. If you're an author, you know what I'm talking about. If you have author friends, you know what I'm talking about. If you're a reader, maybe just hanging out on Twitter or Facebook, looking for that next good book, you know what I'm talking about. The constant tweets and posts about a book's latest review, upcoming sale, 99 cent promotion, release in paperback, very existence. As authors, we get burned out writing about our books. And we know that readers get burned out hearing about our books. But as authors, we HAVE to promote our books, and readers, or friends, or just someone scrolling through their twitter feed trying to find the latest #catoftheday WILL be bombarded by our desperate, but trying-not-to-sound-too desperate (but actually-really-really-we-need-to-pay-the-bills- and-also-think-that-no-one-likes-us desperate) pleas to buy our work. It's a vicious cycle that goes on and on. Necessary, yes, but exhausting.
I can't speak to how readers avoid book burnout, but author burnout is something that's been on my mind quite a bit these days. My first novel, Lightwood, has been out for almost a year. My second novel, Walk in the Fire, hits shelves in January. I'm in that weird dip in the life cycle of an author where I'm tired of promoting one book, but at the same time gearing up to promote another. It's starting to hit me now: as an author, book promotion may never end. In short, I'm on the edge of a burnout and it's only just getting started.
So, how to avoid going up in flames? Here's just a few of my own coping mechanisms—I'd love to hear yours in the comments, as well. (And many thanks to the writers, readers, artists and other creative types who have shared their wisdom on this subject with me over the past year.)
This sounds so simple, even patronizing. Of course authors are going to write. The key, though, is to spend much more time writing new work than promoting old or current work. It can be easy to lose sight of this simple guideline, especially when a book is just released. But the number one way I keep from completely losing my mind in all this is to remember where it started and why any of it matters in the first place: it's about the writing.
2. Ration your promoting
Hit the promotion scene hard right before and right after a book comes out. This is the most crucial time to get the word out and also the time when your friends and family, who really only want to see photos of your kids and dogs making funny faces, will be the most forgiving.
3. Find a balance throughout the first year of a book's life
It's usually the first year after a book comes out that we run frantically on the promotion hamster wheel. After that, we either mellow out or jump onto a new wheel for a new book. If you can space your events out evenly through the year, it creates a less frenzied feeling. This approach requires more stamina than rationing, but makes things less hectic overall.
4. Do one small piece of promotion every day
One interview, one query, one tweet, one instagram post, whatever. You can limit your time as well. Promise yourself that you're only going to spend a set amount of time each day on book promotion. This may be one hour right after your book comes out, or ten minuets once you've hit your mid-year stride. Create a schedule for yourself, make sure it works and then stick to it.
5. Try to promote your book in ways that best suit your personality and temperament
If you're an introvert, you might want to avoid cramming in a stop at every single book store along the way of your tour. If you love talking about your work and being on stage, then stack up the events, but hold back on writing lengthy guest posts that will sap your time and energy. Promoting a book is stressful enough in itself—it can help tremendously if you tailor your promotion scheme to what works best for you.
6. Don't feel like you need to compete with other authors
As I just mentioned, some authors do better at lining up the readings, others do better with pitching and writing for magazines. From the outside, though, it can be easy to feel like every successful author is doing everything, all the time, and they're all leaving you behind in the dust. If there's one thing I've learned from talking with authors candidly over the past few years, it's that we're all nuts. We all suffer from some sort of neurosis, we've all thought that we're not good enough or doing enough and at some time or another, we've all panicked or been jealous or felt like failures. Just keeping that in mind can stave off a ton of unnecessary stress.
7. Promote other authors and their books as much, or more, than your own
If, like me, you have that humble-guilt thing going on, where it makes you squirm to toot your own horn, supporting other authors can help tremendously. It's also, you know, the right thing to do.
8. Stay grounded
Remember that there is a whole world out there that has nothing to do with your book, or with books in general. It's easy to fall down the author well, especially if your friends are authors and the people and sites you follow online are book related. But, really, most people are much more interested in your great-grandma Effie's tuna casserole recipe than they are in your Kirkus book review. So find your life outside of books and writing (cooking, Kung-fu movies, raising goats, whatever) and enjoy it. You were once just a normal person, not an author, so don't be afraid to find that part of yourself again.
9. Talk to other authors
Again, they are most likely going through, or have gone through in the past, the same burnout you're feeling. Ask for suggestions, complain, commiserate. Do this with authors, though, not with everyone you know. Trust me, your dog sitter and the lady at the grocery store checkout do not care.
10. Try to have fun with it all
Like suggestion number one, this seems so easy, but can be so hard. We live in a world where our editors and agents are constantly pushing us to promote our books more. People at parties may not care what your book is about, but they often want to know how successful it is. Your mom wants to know why you haven't made Oprah's Book Club yet. Your friends want to know why you're still at your nine-to-five. Without meaning to, everyone can make you feel like you're just not working hard enough. So when in doubt, do something you actually enjoy to promote your book. If you're an animal lover, ask readers to send in pictures of their pets with your book so you can repost them. (I love doing this, because, really, I just want to look at everyone's awesome dogs all the time). Throw a book party, have a silly giveaway, do an interview with someone whose creative brain you really want to pick. Find some way to promote your work that will energize and fuel you, not just sell a few copies of your book.
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