Columns > Published on March 31st, 2022

Book Marketing Like a Rock Star

Header art by Matthew Revert

Look, straight up, for roughly the past 4 years I’ve royally sucked at promoting my own writing. I’ve half-assed the marketing of my books. I'm not sure why, but I haven't given it much of an effort.

It’s probably because I’ve been more of a publisher than a writer in recent years. Not that I'm complaining. I really do love the publishing process, but marketing books is a demanding endeavor and I have finite energy. So I focus more on the books I publish than the ones I write. Turns out, I'm better at promoting others than I am at promoting myself.

Maybe that’s only partially true. The last four years I’ve also been writing songs. Looking back, I’ve noticed that more and more of my “writer” energy is going towards music. I've been practicing a lot, and during the pandemic I finally got a band going. The passion I once had for writing has drifted more and more towards the band.

We recently wrapped recording on an album and just put out our second single, and I’m shamelessly promoting the fuck out of it. Hell, I even went and hired a publicist. Where I was timid and lazy about promoting my writing, with my music, I'm all in. I don’t care about coming on strong or annoying anyone. I’m proud of these songs and I want people to hear them. It’s a very different approach for me, especially compared to the promotion of my writing.

If a book concept doesn’t hook someone (which is getting harder to do these days, because there are so many books!) you are out of luck.

So why do I feel different about sharing my music? Why is it easier for me to share a song instead of a book?

I think promoting both has its difficulties, but with a song, I only have to make someone curious enough to listen for 10 seconds. That’s it. That’s the gig. After that, it all comes down to whether they dig the song or not, but at least they gave it chance. And it only took a moment of their time.

Books require much more attention. If a book concept doesn’t hook someone (which is getting harder to do these days, because there are so many books!) you are out of luck. The irony is I've found that while it's easier to get paid as a writer, it’s much easier to get your music heard.

I’m writing this column at the gym. I took a break and was telling the Boomers I play Pickleball with to check out my band. Why can’t I be this aggressive as an author? How do I harness those shameless musician vibes to promote the written word? 

Like musicians sharing a clip of their song, writers should have a killer whoa-this-is-awesome paragraph at the ready. Or at least a few great lines. If you don’t, you need to focus more on writing than promoting.

Musicians can use band photos to give off a vibe, to give people an idea of what they sound like, a reason to check their stuff out. For a writer, a nice selfie might get likes, but it won’t necessarily get someone to check out your book.

With music, you can put out a single before releasing an album. Short stuff is easier to promote. You can do the same thing as a writer. Publish short pieces at cool places. Even if you have a novel out, you can still attract interest with a killer story. I’ll use Lindsay Lerman as an example. I saw an uptick in her novel sales after she put out this banger at NY Tyrant Magazine.

Putting out our first single, I was reminded of how much reviews play a role in all art forms. If you have none, it’s hard to get one, but if you have a few out there, interest starts to pick up. Maybe it’s just social proof – if something is already vetted and seen as “good,” others are more likely to check it out. Getting positive reviews for our single ‘Stars’ got other places and listeners interested. Maybe it's FOMO. So if you have a book coming out, try to have at least a few semi-positive reviews lined up. Having a foundation makes it easier to build momentum. People want some kind of proof that your art is worth checking out. The trick is achieving that before the album or book is released.

A mistake I see a lot of newer writers make is they sit back and expect people to come to them. They make no effort to get to know anyone in their field and think people are going to automatically check out their work. They are not engaging with anyone else’s work and then they wonder why no one is looking at theirs. Writing strong, insightful reviews for others is the best way to amass an audience and show you are a thoughtful creative. Show you know the genre you work in and maybe its fans will get excited about your work.

Approach promotion like a rock star. Stop giving a fuck and be more interesting online. Share something about yourself that will make people care, or at least get curious about you and your work. Be open—openness leads to open-mindedness from others. Give of yourself and give people a reason to pay attention. You have to find a way for strangers to engage with you. If none of that works then be crafty, find a way to reach unsuspecting people, like writing an article and putting your book or music link at the end of the piece.

Listen to The Dionysus Effect’s new single single here

About the author

Christoph Paul is the Managing Editor and owner of CLASH Books, who have published over 60 books and have been covered by NPR, Poets & Writers, Rolling Stone, Believer Magazine, Oprah Magazine, The Observer, Fangoria, and Publisher's Weekly. The press has had books translated into Spanish, French, and Italian. He has been editing books in almost every genre for over a decade. As an author, he won a humor award and had viral cult success under a pen name. He is the lead singer and bass player of the rock band The Dionysus Effect, who have received positive reviews in Loudwire, EARMILK, and Red Rock Magazine. He sometimes writes songs about the books he publishes because even artists are inspired by their day jobs. Follow him on Twitter @christophpaul_ @clashbooks @dionysuseffect.

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