Can you succeed even without a solid publicity plan?

Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.

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Question: Would a great book succeed even without a solid publicity plan?


Answer: No, and I’m speaking from experience.


When I first began writing, I tried to tell everyone that my book was out, it was great, well written, edited, the whole shebang, but who did I tell?


Consider the question. With no publicity plan, who is there to tell that you have a book, and that it’s great, and that everyone should buy it?


With no publicity plan, you have no Twitter followers, no blog followers, no one subscribed to your website, no friends on FaceBook or Goodreads, no contacts on LinkedIn, etc. You must have a receptive audience. You must be able to tell receptive people, who are already interested in your kind of writing, that you have released a book, and how can you have people following your every move without a publicity plan?


The publicity plan builds exposure; by its nature, it calls people’s attention to you. Then, when people know you exist, you can let them know what you’re peddling, and how it’s different or better than what’s on the market now.


Exposure is absolutely necessary, and even books that are not so great tend to fly off the shelves when a publicist somewhere says, “these are great.” However, since such a thing was said to numerous individuals, who then told others, who then told others; the exposure led to readers, which led to conversations about those books regardless of how great those books were or weren’t; if they were terrible, they surely had great sells at first, because of a publicity plan, and then tanked when they failed to live up to the hype, but that’s a different discussion.


It’s tough to build a publicity plan, for sure. It’s even tougher to build a free publicity plan, but it is not impossible.


The simplest way to build fans is to engage with likeminded people. People are social creatures who enjoy discussing their likes and dislikes. They value their own opinions as well as the opinions of their peers, so it’s imperative that you, a writer, ask yourself some serious questions. What genre do you write? For whom are you writing? Like whom do you write? How are you different? Better?  More important? Be friends on FaceBook, Google+, Goodreads, and Twitter with those likeminded people. Discuss what they like. Discuss what you like. Start a book review blog or vlog—learn more about that here!!!


In the meantime, write your book, hire an editor, and engage beta-readers. Then, once you have loyal fans, show them that you’ve written a book, too.


There are other routes as well. If you have the money, you can sign on with netgalley and get your book in the hands of serious reviewers. Reviewers are important because those people discuss their likes and dislikes with likeminded people, so they are promoting for you; of course if your book sucks, you’ll never sell, or at least not for long. You can also purchase media release packages. Kirkus has some great packages, but you better have a fat wallet already. There are cheaper media packages, but even if you find them, they don’t guarantee great results.


I’ve personally spent as much as $100 on media packages, and saw virtually no increase in sales, so you get what you pay for, and no, Kirkus won’t guarantee you sales either, but their reach is far more extensive than any cheaper media package you’ll purchase. I still believe that spending money is the quickest and easiest way to inform potential readers that your book is available, but that exposure won’t guarantee sales. No exposure of any kind guarantees sales, but the more people you reach, the more likely you are to land a sale. It’s always a numbers game.


Free promotions, though slow moving due to the inherent difficulty in reaching people, by way of engaging likeminded audiences before releasing your debut novel, are far more efficient because what happens is that you build loyal fans who wish to discuss your book with others, and word of mouth is the best way to sell a product; you don’t buy Black and Decker because an ad told you to buy Black and Decker. The ad only informed you that Black and Decker exists, that it’s great, that it’s a deal. You buy Black and Decker because you asked your neighbor what brand of drill they use, and they informed you that they like Black and Decker; it’s the same with books.


Books are just a product. It doesn’t matter how great your book is. If no one knows it exists, no one can buy it. On the flip side, just because your book is great doesn’t mean that everyone will like it. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like Harry Potter.


On top of everything, it’s important to know that you aren’t selling a book anyway; you’re selling an idea. The title, cover art, and blurb portray that idea, and then the book explains the idea, so with no publicity plan, there is no way to sell anything.


Once again, be sure to read this article from Journal. I explain how to earn money from reading, but the importance of the article is that by design, the plan reaches numerous readers, so that when you do release your own book, you already have hundreds and maybe thousands of receptive fans.


Even Stephen King, who I can’t stand, tells writers that to be good writers they have to read a lot. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about because reading a lot doesn’t make anyone a good writer, however, if you do read a lot then chances are that you discuss what you read, which means that if you have an audience for your book discussions, you have audience for your original material. Of course, King doesn’t explain that…. He should be telling aspiring writers to engage readers because they build exposure, and they learn what their peers enjoy reading.


Before anyone jumps me, I won’t to point out a few things about King. I don’t believe he reads much. I don’t believe that he read much before he started writing, and even if he did, and you do, the idea that reading a lot makes you a better writer is invalid. Think about the fact that the version of The Stand that you read is not the version that King wrote. The version you read is the one rewritten by his editors, and you’ll never write like an editor because editors change their voice based on their authors’ voices, their publishers’ voices, and their projected readers’ predilections.


On that note, be sure to follow my blog on Quora, where I often discuss editing tips as well as other topics revolving around reading, writing, and selling books.


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