There’s been quite a lot of talk about promotion lately. Nicola Morgan’s excellent blog on Tuesday looked at the issues of how to promote ourselves without bugging the pants off people. In this age of social networking frenzies, that is extremely important. But another equally important consideration is how to promote ourselves without running ourselves ragged. I think we’re all aware that nowadays, it’s important for us to be willing to put in some work to promote our own books. But how do we make sure we protect ourselves - and our writing time - in the process? And how do we make sure that what we’re doing is worth it?
In an attempt to answer these questions, I’d like to share something that I devised for a workshop with the Scattered Authors’ Society a little while ago. I call it the ‘Is it worth it?’ formula. (Warning: if you believe that weird mathematical equations do not have any place on a writers' blog, look away now!)
(S¹º + P⁵ + W³) ≥ T ¹º + C³ – E³ - G³
Benefit...................must be greater than or equal to......................Effort
S = Sales; P = Payment; W = Word of Mouth; T = Time; C = Cost; E = Enjoyment & G = Good causes
OK, before you run screaming for the hills behind which you left your maths ‘O’ level many moons ago, let me explain.
The idea is that the potential benefit to you of any promotional activity you take on has to outweigh (or equal) the amount of effort you put in. I’ve categorised benefit in three ways: Sales, Pay and Word of Mouth. Effort is categorised as the Time and Cost minus a couple of mitigating factors.
One of the mitigating factors is whether the activity is something we enjoy. We are likely to feel a lot more comfortable about putting time into something if we’re not hating every minute of it and resenting everyone in the world for the fact that we are doing it. And I've called the other one Good Causes. Is the activity something that’s going to help the local community in some way? Is it for a charity? If so, again, you might be more willing to put yourself out to do it. So these last two are offset against the time and cost.
Now then - putting it into action! The idea is that you give each element of the formula a rating, up to the number shown for each one. Bear in mind that as much of this is about trying to assess things that in reality we haven’t got all that much chance of knowing, the formula is really just a fun guide rather than something to seriously sit down and do before every bit of promotional activity. But it does have a tendency to work.
So let's put it to the test. As blogging and social networking in general constitute a big part of our promotional pie, let's start with that.
As an ABBA contributor, I write a blog per month. Is it Worth It? Let's see...
Sales – This is always going to be virtually impossible to assess, but we can make a guess. I don’t think that ABBA will put on that many sales, but you never know, it could alert a few new people to my books. So let’s give that a 3 (out of a possible 10)
Payment – Well, I don’t get paid anything, so that’s a zero.
Word of Mouth – I think this is the main strength of ABBA, so I’m going to give this top marks. So that’s a 3. My total 'Benefits' score, then, is 6.
On the Effort side of the equation…
Time – it does actually take me quite a while to think up, write, post and illustrate each blog - but there again, it’s only once a month. So I’ll give this a 6 (out of 10).
Cost – it doesn’t cost me anything, so that’s zero.
I enjoy doing it quite a lot. I’ll give this 2 (out of a possible 3).
It doesn’t contribute to any good causes in particular, although I have used it to mention a charity that I’m involved with, so I’ll give this a 1.
So the effort side of the equation is 6 (from T & C) minus 3 (from E & G) which equals 3.
My end result is that ‘Benefits’ equals 6, and ‘Effort’ equals 3. Which means that the benefits of being an ABBA contributor exceed the effort. Which is quite a relief. Yay! I'll keep on doing it then!
It doesn’t always work out like that though, and there are times when all of us find ourselves putting in many hours, shelling out our own cash and not getting much back in terms of sales, pay or ‘buzz’ about our books. Those are the times when we have to practise doing something that all self employed people find hard to do.
The world won’t end. Your book sales won’t sink into oblivion. Your publisher won’t turn their back and refuse ever to do anything for you again. Honest! It’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of the time, our reason for saying no is that we need more time to actually write our books. And at the end of the day, that’s something that publishers and readers alike will always be pleased to hear!
Why not try putting the ‘Is It Worth It?’ formula to the test with your own promotional activities? It might help you to feel more positive about something you have to do, or might help you have the confidence to say no to something you've been dreading. At the very least, it’ll give you an excuse to mess about playing with a silly idea and put off doing any work for another half an hour!
If you do give it a go, let me know how you get on – I’d love to know if the formula works for you!