A question I often hear in my Book Promotion 101 workshops and from consulting clients is, "What should I do?"
Like a good therapist--which I'm not officially, though much of what I do is Publishing Therapy--I ask back, "What do you want to do?"
That stops the questioner short. She's been totally focused on what other people think, not on her own desires. (And it usually is a woman; men tend to ask what they could do, not what they should. Time for women to think similarly.)
One client has a two-year-old short story collection from a small press. She'd worked with an excellent freelance publicist when it came out, and it got decent attention and reviews, and even won a prize. Should she do more publicity now, maybe even set up some bookstore events?
Well, what does she want?
Turns out she's a little tired of promoting the book by now (ya think?), and has written another short story collection and a novel, for which she's seeking an agent. AND she has a demanding day job.
I pointed out that, after two years, it's highly unlikely any bookstore would have her. Instead, she could set up events at organizations whose interests tie in with the book's themes. She lives in Manhattan, so there are plenty nearby. To make those events appeal to a broader audience, she could round up authors who write about similar themes, for panel discussions. She could reach out to book groups, via her website and through such sites as ReadingGroupGuides.com. And to raise her profile in the literary world, she could 1) update her fusty website and 2) pitch herself and/or a panel to book festivals and writers' conferences. I steered her to some literary agents who handle her type of work, as well as to some website designers.
Another client has written a first novel (which I loved!), to be published in spring. Should she write a sequel? She wants to, but her agent was dismissive about sequels.
"Write what you want," I said, "not what your agent wants. If it's good, you bet she'll sell it. If it isn't, you'll have gotten it out of your system and you'll write something else."
My client was heartened by this, even more so when an author I pitched for a blurb for her turned me down because...she's busy writing the eagerly awaited sequel to her first novel.