The Publicity Paradox

Double Edged

Do you remember the days when you first applied for a job? Scouring the want ads, preparing resumes and cover letters, going to job interviews.

It seemed like everybody wanted you to have experience. The only problem was that you didn’t have any. You may have thought, “How will I ever get experience if I need experience just to get hired?”

Publicity suffers from a similar seeming paradox: You may feel that publishers, agents, publicists, editors, bookstores, reviewers, and even the media want you to have publicity before they will help you get more publicity. That’s great if you’re a celebrity.

Breaking through as a new author is a challenge. You’re an unknown. There are too many uncertainties. How will people react to your storytelling, characterization, and writing? How good is your idea? How will you handle the pressure? How effectively will your market your book? How well will you follow through with your commitments? How much help do you need? How professional or amateurish are you? How much do you need to learn about writing, editing, formatting, marketing, publicizing, social media, and making connections? And most importantly, how will you go from being a nobody to becoming an author with much publicity? Ah, if you only had that publicity (among your target audience) to begin with, that would help to make the risk so much more worthwhile.

How do you get publicity when you don’t have it to begin with?

If you had publicity, it would lend you credibility as an author; it would lend your book credibility, too.

If you credibility, it would help you gain publicity.

If you could lay an egg, you could make a chicken out of it.

If you could make a chicken, it could lay an egg for you.

It’s like you’re on a deserted island with no chickens or eggs, but you desperately need one or the other.

Baaak! Baak, baak, baaak!

I see a similar hurdle for Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books.

If we had authors with more name recognition, it would greatly improve the publicity that we could receive from the media, internal promotions, paid advertisements, etc.

If we had more publicity, it would help us attract authors with greater name recognition.

However, Read Tuesday has a big advantage. There are many indie authors who are experiencing the challenges of marketing their books firsthand who have been very supportive of the Read Tuesday event. This has helped to give Read Tuesday much initial support, and we are fortunate to have the participation of some authors who have achieved some modest levels of success (e.g. top books in their categories at one time, or ranking at around a thousand on Amazon for a limited time in paid sales). We also have a couple of small publishers who will be participating.

(We are fortunate to have every author who has agreed to participate, no matter how big or small—everybody is vital to our success, all participation is valuable, and each author is much appreciated. I wish for every author to have a successful Read Tuesday.)

Read Tuesday also has something to offer. An author with name recognition could gain increased exposure from the Read Tuesday promotional efforts, as the Read Tuesday publicity and promotions would feature this author’s name.

On the other hand, would the author who has risen to the top want to come back down and play with the small fish? Would he or she remember his or her roots? Would he or she support his or her fellow indie authors? Surely, it’s much easier to say what you would do if you get there than it is to do it when you’re sitting at the top.

The thing is, all indies have the same advantage that Read Tuesday has. There is a very large readership that supports indie authors. Why? Because there are hundreds of thousands of indie authors and hundreds of indie publishers, and their friends, family members, acquaintances, and coworkers raise this number to the millions.

Although some people try to paint a poor image of self-publishing, there are millions of people who support it. “This book was published with CreateSpace, was it? My niece published a book through them.” The books that have serious issues aren’t hurting anyone, while the large number of very good indie books and the growing number of successful indie authors show that indie publishing has much potential.

Ultimately, what the reader wants is a professional book. Whether or not the book is traditionally or indie published is secondary. A book that looks professional, pleases the target audience, and is discovered by the target audience can gain much support.

Read Tuesday also has the opportunity to help indie authors promote their own books. The event itself is far more popular than any single participating author. By promoting Read Tuesday in addition to the author’s own book, Read Tuesday has the potential to help authors market their books.

It can be a win-win situation for any author, tiny name or big name. Every author’s participation helps to improve the credibility and success of the event, and the event can help any author promote his or her own book in conjunction with the event.

Back to the publicity paradox. What you have to do to break out of the paradox is start small, work hard, be wise, be patient, market effectively and diligently, keep writing, and spread outward.

You gradually build a following, increase your number of connections, gain a little exposure, and build a little publicity. Continue writing and you’ll have a few books out.

The better your books are from cover to cover, the more they will help you grow your following, connections, exposure, and publicity. The better your marketing efforts, the more they will help you grow your sales.

Eventually, you may achieve some small measure of credibility and publicity. Once you finally get your foot in the door, you have the chance to run with it. Once you have a little credibility, it will help you gain publicity, and once you have a little publicity (with your specific target audience), it will lend you credibility.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook, Twitter

Read Tuesday, Facebook, Twitter

7 comments on “The Publicity Paradox

  1. Good point. I think the only thing you can do is keep spreading the word and talking about it. A club I was in during college created an RPG/Anime convention while I was a member. Started small and grew year by year because they gained more popularity as they grew. It’s all a process.

    Have you posted links to the Read Tuesday blog on Facebook Indie Author groups? I get a decent amount of book attention. If you want, email me a pitch and I’ll post on the sites I do promo work on along with the submission page for Read Tuesday.

    • Yes. Instant publicity is what everyone wants, but it’s the long-term publicity that’s both more plausible and more rewarding, and since it comes gradually, is easier to handle and adapt to.

      That would be great. I’ll send you an email. Thanks.🙂

      • It does seem a lot of people are looking for that blast of 15 minute fame, which they think can be extended. It’s rare when that happens. The slow build creates a much stronger foundation.

        I’ll post on the sites as soon as I get the email.

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