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.