Friday, January 13, 2012

The Luck Factor: Word-of-Mouth Publicity

On this Friday the 13th, it seems appropriate to consider the role of “luck” in the publishing game. To succeed as a writer takes practice, diligence, determination, experience, skill, patience, and oftentimes a large dollop of luck.

From a pile of writers magazines I’d saved, I pulled out the June-July 2009 issue of The Bulletin of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This paragraph particularly resonated with me:
“Like most of publishing, the truth isn’t really out there. It’s all kind of made up. Like a story. Most of us have anecdotal evidence of writers who never earn out, yet continue to receive increasingly enormous advances. Or writers who hit the bestseller lists, and yet their advances stay low. An agent said of a friend of mine, ‘I don’t understand why she doesn’t have a career. Her books are good. She’s got so much talent.’ Then there are books most would agree are badly written that turn their authors into millionaires.” — from “Great Expectations” by Nancy Holder

Luck? Yes, to an extent. A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time with the right book. Success can hinge entirely on word-of-mouth publicity. In this age of social networking, getting one’s book in front of the right blogger or opinion leader can send sales skyrocketing.


Of the various hats a writer must wear—creator, storyteller, self-editor, critiquer, file formatter/word-processing whiz, blogger, social networker, e-publisher, advertising copywriter, saleswoman—I am least adept at the last two. I studied journalism, not PR.

I love to write, and I’ve devoted decades to learning how to do it to the best of my ability, producing six award-winning books and crafting a seventh that will also do me proud, I believe, when it comes out this spring. As an editor, I have a reputation in certain circles for magically turning sow’s ears into silk purses.

Social networking, which I initially resisted as an enormous time-waster, now strikes me as kind of fun. I don’t let a month go by without blogging, and I’ve recently joined Facebook and also created an Author page there.

Mere months ago, I was an e-publishing novice. Now I’m something of an expert in formatting files for Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords.

But publicity? Marketing? Those, I suck at. I’ve got my WATERSPELL website and my Amazon Author page. I’ve told just about everyone I know that my first two novels have been published, and the third is in the pipeline.

To reach a wider audience, though, I need reviewers and opinion leaders to plug my books on their websites and to their audiences. I need word of mouth.

If I’m going to beat the odds, I need a little luck. Happy Friday the 13th!

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