Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Inform and Entertain

I recently attended the Love is Murder Conference in Chicago. One of the panels I emcee is called Stump the Stars, which involves asking the bigshot guests of honor questions about their own books in a gameshow-style format.

The audience loves it, because authors often don't remember characters or lines from their earlier novels, and laughter ensues.

But Stump the Stars isn't just about entertaining the fans. After questions are asked, the author has a chance to explain more about the book in question.

The result? People watching have a good time while also learning about the authors and their books, and then buy them.

This is basically a microcosm of what every author needs to do to promote themselves.

Information on its own can be useful, especially if someone is seeking that information. I get hits on my website and blog all the time from folks who have no idea who JA Konrath is, but they've found me because they've Googled topics that I write about.

Remember that anyone looking for you can find you. One secret of self-promotion is to get people to find you when they're looking for something else.

Entertainment by itself is why most of us write. Our books are diversions, like TV or music. We're seeking fans who are actively seeking the kinds of stories we write.

Information can help to sell information. And entertainment can help to sell entertainment. But it's only with a combination of the two that an author can reach the widest audience.

When most authors begin to promote themselves---both on the Internet and in person---they seem to forget to entertain. As a result, they become walking commercials for their books. No one likes commercials, and their effectiveness is questionable at best.

So you, as an author, must provide more than simply what your book is about and where to buy it. You have to prove to your potential audience that they'll enjoy the book. This involves a combination of information and entertainment. If you can provide this for free, all the better.

Speaking of free information and entertainment, if you live in or near Chicago, I'll be doing a talk and signing at Susanin's Action House on 900 s. Clinton, February 13th from 7pm until 9pm. The event is hosted by the 24/8 Book Club. It's free, and they'll be selling books there.

Joining me are mystery authors Laura Caldwell and Marcus Sakey. I promise it will be fun.


Rob Flumignan said...

Stump the stars was great. Lots of fun, and I learned some interesting things about the authors. It was my second favorite part of the conference. The first, of course, had to do with a cup.

Wendy Roberts said...

It sure sounds like a lot of fun!

Bernita said...

"I get hits on my website and blog all the time from folks who have no idea who JA Konrath is"
I get those too - ever since I unwisely titled a post "medieval porn."

Sean Chercover said...

You and Laura and Marcus? Dangerous combination. It will be en entertaining evening...until the police arrive.

You were great at Stump The Stars, Joe. As always.

Anonymous said...

That's an excellent point. Instead of slipping into advo-speak, if we remember why we had such fun writing it and communicate that sense of joy and entertainment to our potential audience, they'll want to participate.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saying this! I have started reading so many author blogs simply because they entertained me, and then later decided to buy the author's books. But if the blog is just self-promotion? I don't bother to read it, and their promotion goes unread, at least by me. An occasional promotional post in the midst of entertainment, however? That works well, I think.

Steve MC said...

Stump the Stars sounds like a great idea. It not only helps everyone not take it all so seriously, but if I was there, I'd want to read those books just to get in on the jokes.

Conda Douglas said...

Great post, Joe. And it brings up the excellent point: don't fall into the trap of "sell, sell, sell." That's an easy one for us writers eager to do just that. I've attended conferences where the panels only seemed to be "buy MY book, right now!" Boring. And doesn't make me want to buy the book.

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