I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to self-promotion. Absolutely none. I don't have a brand - I've written everything from sci-fi to fantasy to femdom - and I don't have a set plan for what I should do every time a book comes out and at best, my efforts have been met with either a) indifference or b) laughter.
Take Tigerlily, for example. I went on a blog tour. I sent it off to every review site going. I talked about it on forums and twitter and I did a giveaway. In short, I did everything shy of walking around naked in the street with the cover painted across my tits.
And it sold about three copies. Probably to Bertha, my best mate, and some random person who thought they were buying Peter Pan. Who then returned it, crying, and tried to sue Total-E-Bound for ever selling it in the first place.
But on the other hand, there is Past Pleasures. I did nothing for Past Pleasures. I didn't do a blog tour. I didn't talk about it that much on Twitter or anywhere else. Sue me- I was thoroughly disheartened by Tigerlily and felt sure, by that point, that I'd never be anything like an erotic romance writer. In fact, that feeling still persists today.
Though I have to say, it has been somewhat mollified by several rather astonishing things that happened to Past Pleasures. First of all, some pretty important authors apparently read it, and liked it. They did so in its first month of release, and talked about it a bit, and so the sales for my little futuristic menage were quite a bit better than Tigerlily's sales.
And then All Romance Ebooks chose it as part of its Twelve Days of Christmas promo, which basically made it a free read on their site for a whole day.
Now, I didn't do anything to encourage this. I didn't send it to them - my publisher did. I didn't write long, pleading letters, begging them to help me promo my book, though God knows I've thought about doing that very thing, often.
"Dear Fabulous Person,
Please look at my book. Go on. Just look at it. It's right there! I have money. My boobs are quite nice. If you'd only look at my book, I swear I'll show you my boobs. And my money. In fact, I'll pin the money to my boobs and maybe dance around for you a little bit. Would you like that? I don't even care if you don't like that, I'm doing it anyway. Here is the link to my youtube trailer for the book, entitled "Money On Boobs, by Charlotte Stein".
Nope, I didn't do the above. They just picked it, and put it up for free, and lo and behold I was a bestseller on there for about five hundred years. It actually hit the number one spot in their erotica chart- and not when the book was free. Oh no no no! It had cost actual real money for about two weeks when it hit number one.
I was flabberghasted. My ghast was well and truly flabbered. Here I'd done absolutely nothing, and just by chance I'd become some sort of moderate bestseller, with loads of ratings on my book both there and on Goodreads- most of them in the three to four range which as any expert on Goodreads knows is the equivalent of God coming down from heaven and saying hey, you did okay.
But see- here's the thing. Here's the real kicker about self-promotion. It only looks like I did nothing. When really, I did the best thing you can possibly do where self-promo is concerned.
I wrote a story that people wanted to read.
Now, I know what you're thinking. That I'm all arrogant and an asshole and up my own butt, playing the bongos on my own brain because my brain is so magnificent and look at this story that I created that's so orsum. Or maybe you know me and understand that the chances of me ever thinking that are about the same of me having sex with Armie Hammer's face.
But I digress. When what I really wanted to say is- it's not my writing. It's not this book I've written. It's the idea of the book, and how it's described in the blurb. Seriously. That's about ninety percent of what it takes to make it as an erotic romance writer. Just write a story about an idea people want to read about. It's not rocket science - well, it is for me because I seem to typically write the opposite of what my audience wants - because you can see just by looking around what most erotica and erotic romance readers like.
Threesomes, BDSM, alpha males and female submission are all popular. But more than that, when readers find combinations of the above by an author who can actually write really hot sex, these things begin to build a momentum. Maybe the author's first book doesn't do so well. But as they build a backlist and a reputation - not just as a brand, but as a reliable writer of a certain heat level - you can see their books getting more and more attention.
Take Selena Kitt, for example. She built a readership not on some brand, but on the power of her sex scenes. That's it for me, really. I buy her books not because she always writes about alpha males or always writes MM. I buy her books because her sex scenes are always the hottest, wettest, most amazing things ever. She could write about a chicken screwing a dog and it would still be hot. She writes about incest - one of my squicks, for sure - and it's still somehow hot.
So, the lesson is, I guess: write hot. Write often. Write about things people want to read about. And don't look back.