Saturday, June 21, 2008

Promotion: What Works, What Sucks

So a fellow M/M author Helen Madden (who, BTW, is featured in the marvelous Coming Together With Pride anthology) posed the question to a list I'm on. What have you done promotion-wise for your work, and what has been the most effective? The question stemmed from a discussion on an EPIC list, and Helen was inspired somewhat by recent challenges to get members of our merry band of Mid-Atlantic authors into area book events. Specifically, there is a book fair in Virginia I plan to attend, yet I cannot bring any of my erotic works. Luckily, other venues are more accommodating of the spicier stuff, but I find as an author being prolific has its advantages.

Anyway, back to the topic. What works in promotion? For romance and M/M specifically, I would say cover art plays an important role. Good cover art gets you noticed, as does bad art. Both can work for you if you have a good enough sense of humor to weather any snarking that comes your way. Great cover art...well, it can be a boost to sales. I submit for my example the cover of this pending Phaze release by L.E. Bryce, a print collection of M/M novellas in Bryce's Water Lovers series (Ki'iri, Becoming, and Still Life). It's simply gorgeous, and will look stunning in print. It's a great example of what can happen when an author and artist cooperate to create a look that best personifies the writing. I know many people who buy books after the art catches their eyes. I've done it myself. So if you have a pending release coming up, make sure the art is top notch.
What else? I wish I knew, honestly. I think of all the works I have available, including my M/M works, different promo methods have yielded different results for each title. One could argue with a work of M/M erotic romance written by a woman, the scope of possibilities is limited further. Indeed, I faced the "we don't review gay" policy once when I bought into a magazine ad (another grumble for another day), but at least the cover got some exposure. Of course, the nature of the cover was such that one couldn't tell it was an M/M work, and with no review to back it up...yada yada.

I would have to say personally what works best for me as far as advertising is simply writing. A publisher once told me that the best thing you can do for your first book is to write the second book, and I have to agree there. With M/M I have only one series, the stalled Cards series featuring Jack of Hearts and Jack of Diamonds, but I have noticed sales of the first went up after the second was released. At this writing, I am planning to expand the universe of Surveillance with a follow up story, as well as an all M/M story in my Dareville series with Phaze. Why, Why, Zed? will likely not have a follow-up due to the nature of the story, but never say never.

If I had to summarize what has worked best for me: it would have to be writing and blogging. As the blogs are better cached in search engines than static pages, it is essential that every author should have some kind of blog for promotion. Pepper it with the right keywords to attract the readers, and once you have them there talk to them about the work. Create a relationship with your readers and nurture the good vibes. You might find, as a writer, you will be inspired and driven more to write. Giveaways are nice, as are interviews and chats, but truly the best way to a reader's shelf is consistency and quality. They in turn will promote you.

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