Friday, January 13, 2017

What Authors Can Learn from Donald Trump by Jacqueline Seewald

About a year and a half ago, I initially wrote on this topic. I decided to update it because I believe the opinions expressed are proving to be truer than ever. Draw your own conclusions.

How do writers become bestselling authors? Publicity seems to be one crucial element or factor. To get fans, writers have to become known in the first place. Donald Trump has a talent for drawing attention to himself. Trump has observed in the past that there is no such thing as bad publicity, only publicity--which attracts attention to an individual and his or her work.

In the case of writers, publicity traditionally would be accomplished through the efforts of a publisher who has a PR staff that solicits significant reviews and promotes an author through numerous channels. But nowadays, this is often not the case. Many publishers now want to know that writers have the ability to promote and publicize their work themselves via social media before the publisher will issue a contract. Also, many writers are currently self-publishing their work. This too changes how publicity can be obtained.

Trump is an example of someone who breaks the rules. He promotes himself as a maverick in politics.  Perhaps what Trump offers to writers is the idea that we need to free ourselves. We have to look for creative ways to promote and publicize our own work--just as writers shouldn’t feel it necessary to write to any pre-conceived formula. We need to express what is unique to ourselves in our own way.

My belief is that we must write exceptional work that stands out from the herd. This is one important way we can get recognition and acclaim. Not every reviewer will give a fair or just review, but if we continue to provide quality work, eventually we will get noticed for it.

As for me, I have a new novel, THE INHERITANCE, a romantic mystery from Intrigue Publishing, which I hope will excite reader interest. There have, in fact, already been some very good reviews from readers which I greatly appreciate:

In regard to Mr. Trump, it will be his actual ability to serve the country with good sense and integrity by which he will ultimately be judged. The key to success is having something of quality to offer.

Authors need to be unique and original, not imitative in their writing. Hopefully word-of-mouth will follow and help build a readership. Promotion and publicity help but they have to be backed by more than mere promises and rhetoric.

Fellow writers, what are your thoughts and opinions on getting recognized? Are you of the opinion that bad reviews are better than no reviews at all? Is there anything you recommend in particular in regard to promoting your own work that has worked well for you?

Readers, what would like to see more of from writers? 


Susan said...

A very timely and thoughtful post. Personally I loathe publicity - I can do it, it was my business for many years, but I simply loathe it. I sincerely hope that quality will triumph over showmanship, but am not holding my breath. Right now I'm concentrating on writing the best books I can and forcing myself to do at least some publicity. I do think that for most authors - especially those without heavy publisher backing, whether indie or trad pubbed - one primary factor is luck, and that cannot be manufactured.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I agree with much of what Susan, above, said. There are lots of ways to get attention, not all of them good, and I think we have witnessed a series of ways that I for one would prefer not to imitate. We are told often now that the days when a good book will find its readership are gone, but for most of us, our books do find appreciative readers, though perhaps not in the numbers we would like. Publicity helps, but constant marketing can be soul-numbing. In these changing times, my main goal is to write the best book I can, and do enough reasonable marketing to get it before readers who will probably like it. The rest is out of my hands.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Susan and Susan,

I agree with both of you about writing the best books possible. Marketing is difficult even in the best of times. The writers with big publishing houses are at a great advantage. And as you point out, constant marketing can be soul-numbing. It detracts heavily from our creative energy. My husband often reminds me not to worry about finding an audience and just to write because it's what I really want to do.

Anonymous said...

Your choice of who to emulate regarding publicity is stunningly inappropriate. Basically, when it comes to publicity we should act as con-men, pandering to the lowest common denominator, no matter how shocking, racist, sexist, or ignorant that may entail? To be a best-selling author, then, it is less important to write well and more important to rend asunder the boundaries of common decency and decorum? I would rather write one good book, sell just one copy that the reader prizes and cherishes for a life time, then to stoop to the level represented by the individual you include in your blog.

Maris said...

Jacquie, I think you picked an excellent example of someone who has successfully used social media as a promotion tool. Most of us would like our stories read by more than just one person. Most of us, also, would prefer to write rather than sell. But, we've been pushed into the marketing part of the book business, so it is wise to study how others do it. Whether one agrees with Trump or not, his strategy has been successful. We can learn from it, avoid what we do not believe in, and use what we do feel comfortable with.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

The concept of no such thing as "bad" publicity rang true for Mel Gibson with The Passion too....great topic, Jacquie!

Good luck and God's blessings

Anonymous said...

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a famous story about sex and money that I have heard in myriad variations. A man asks a woman if she would be willing to sleep with him if he pays her an exorbitant sum. She replies affirmatively. He then names a paltry amount and asks if she would still be willing to sleep with him for the revised fee. The woman is greatly offended and replies as follows:

She: What kind of woman do you think I am?
He: We’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling over the price.

This joke is retold with different famous individuals filling the roles. Often Bernard Shaw is mentioned. Did anything like this ever happen? Who was involved?

Quote Investigator: The role of the character initiating the proposal in this anecdote has been assigned to George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, W.C. Fields, Bertrand Russell, H.G. Wells, Woodrow Wilson and others. However, the earliest example of this basic story found by QI did not spotlight any of the persons just listed. In addition, the punch line was phrased differently.

In January 1937 the syndicated newspaper columnist O. O. McIntyre printed a version of the anecdote that he says was sent to him as a newspaper clipping. This tale featured a powerful Canadian-British media magnate and politician named Max Aitken who was also referred to as Lord Beaverbrook [MJLB]:

Someone sends me a clipping from Columnist Lyons with this honey:

“They are telling this of Lord Beaverbrook and a visiting Yankee actress. In a game of hypothetical questions, Beaverbrook asked the lady: ‘Would you live with a stranger if he paid you one million pounds?’ She said she would. ‘And if be paid you five pounds?’ The irate lady fumed: ‘Five pounds. What do you think I am?’ Beaverbrook replied: ‘We’ve already established that. Now we are trying to determine the degree.”

So when it comes to publicity, writing, and fame & fortune, anything goes as long as it works, right? Sad...

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Maris, Pam, and "Anonymous",

I appreciate your thoughts and comments. I, of course, realize that this blog would prove controversial. But this is an open forum and each person is entitled to his or her own opinion.

Brenda Hill said...

All writers want to write a book that readers will love and cherish, but if we, as writers write that book, no one will know about it unless we draw attention to it with some form of publicity.

I learned years ago in my bookstore that I could depend on walk-by traffic only so long, then I had to do something, in the form of publicity, to attract customers in order to pay the bills. No matter what we do in life, we must pay bills. The same with our books. If no one knows about them, what happens? Nothing.

I'll guess that most of us dream about being bestselling authors, but in reality, we'll be thrilled if we earn enough to pay the bills. To do so, we must take advantage of some kind of publicity. And, as I learned, there's nothing wrong with that. Once the public is aware of what you offer, it's up to them to decide if they like it or not, but first, they MUST be aware.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Beautifully said. And may I note that in reality very few authors write bestsellers, and generally it takes a lot of promotion and publicity to make that happen no matter how fine a book might be.

jrlindermuth said...

Not sure I'd want to emulate any of Trump's behavior, though it doesn't seem to hurt him. Even the worst things he does seem to roll off his back like rain falling on a duck.
I'm just going to keep on writing, hoping to steadily improve and attract as many readers as possible. I'm not dreaming of riches and fame (admittedly, little of either would be nice). I enjoy what I'm doing and if it pleases a few others, that's all to the good.

dkchristi said...

I side with the writers that feel Donald Trump is a poor example to emulate. Fortunately, the majority of people on this earth with whom I've had contact are people of integrity and their word can be believed. Their importance and notice and publicity is not a measure of their ability to buy fame & power & tell the big lie but rather their importance is based on character and their contributions to a better and more loving society.

As an author, I feel instead it is our job to call out those who live by lies and subterfuge and destroying other people and call it like it is, the worst of society and a rotten example of the accident of acclaim and wealth that may result from being born into it and exploiting it at any cost to others because of a lack of a moral compass.

I once was "nearly famous" as a motivational speaker but just didn't have enough contacts to keep it going so I settled down into a quiet and ordinary life. At least I earned my near fame as a good citizen of this earth who cared about my fellow travelers and worked toward the betterment of those who needed an extra hand up for their success.

If an author wants publicity, they need to write words worth reading and get connected to those who influence readers - agents, reviewers, publishers, organizations and celebrities. No, publicity is not worth being notorious and living in the gutters of decency and examples like Trump may be one path, but it's a lousy one. The cost to my soul is too high.

Anonymous said...

I'd be much more likely to buy a book from dkchristi or jrlindermuth or anonymous than one from writers who use and subscribe to Trump and his tactics.

There are many ways to accomplish a task; they may all work, but that doesn't mean they are all morally correct, and certainly not something to emulate.

I've had advertising shoved in my face for 50+ years; I've found I'm much more likely to NOT but something if the commercial is annoying than I am to buy something simply because the advertising it out there.

Don't writers who think the Trump approach is valid likewise worry that they will turn off potential buyers, of get negative reviews because of their opinions?

I don't subscribe to the notion that any publicity is good publicity; tough sometimes to distinguish between bad publicity and out-and-out scandal. Do you think Anthony Weiner of NY thinks his email scandal can be classified as publicity, and therefore good?

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I'm troubled by the fact that you feel you must communicate as "anonymous" since you have such strong opinions.

Anonymous said...

Since you don't seem interested in responding to my questions regarding the topic, I will leave. Part of dialogue is addressing dissenting opinions. Same with writing a novel; you're really not going to learn anything or improve your text if everyone who sees your manuscript tells you it is wonderful.
Good luck to you with your new publicity approach.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I am so confused by this series of posts. From what I can glean from reading them, no one wants to imitate our incoming president. Quite the opposite. We all loathe, dislike, hate, disdain marketing and promotion to some extent (some to a quite large extent), but recognize that we have to do some of it to get our books into readers' hands. That hardly makes us whores or worse.

Perhaps this post and its comments are an example of how hard it is to hear what is being said when you've already decided what will be said by others. From my reading, and I may be wrong, Anonymous had no reason to be angry with the comments.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


I completely agree. I believe "Anonymous" is misinterpreting what has been said. And I do find that disturbing. I am not encouraging authors to make outrageous statements in order to draw attention to themselves. I am encouraging all of us to write quality work which will ultimately draw good reviews and collect a readership. However, a very reputable independent publisher has recently commented about the frustration of gaining the attention of important reviewers which generates good publicity. And so I state as one editor has, better a negative review than none at all--although neither is what we would wish for.

Alice Duncan said...

Um... I don't think Jacqueline was expressing any bias or political opinion whatsoever. She was just saying Trump seems to know how to work the media. As authors, I'm sure we all wished we knew how to do that! I'm not a Trump fan, either, but he sure knows how to promote himself. Sigh.

Susan Coryell said...

What a hit a nerve or two! While I loathe DT,i admit he won via media masterful manipulation.Good or bad...he hit winning buttons. I will plod one into my non_tech way,happy to be honest end well-meaning.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks Alice and Susan for dropping by and expressing your views on this topic.

Carole Price said...

Whoa, all I can say is that there's always someone looking for the negative, but I praise Jacquie for addressing this topic. And why not? We're all looking for ways to promote our books, but in a positive way.

Sharon Ervin said...

Jacqueline, I guess you struck nerves and stimulated thoughts and comments. The name Donald Trump seems synonymous with controversy. I figure that was your intention. We do not want our blogs to lie quietly. We want them to stimulate. You did good. Enjoy.

Asked why I do not write steamy prose under a pseudonym, I tell people I don't write things I need to hide. I like having my name associated with my books and stories. I am careful, however, not to ask a confessed reader if s/he liked my work. If they don't volunteer it, I don't press it.

Learning to manage social media takes time and practice and skill. You obviously have arrived. Congratulations!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Carole and Sharon,

Thank you both for your comments. I consider my blog rather mild with the intention of being useful to writers and readers alike. If it provokes thoughtful controversy that's fine too. We are all entitled to our own opinions.

Catherine Dilts said...

Nice job, Jackie. I don't think bad reviews work in the realm of "any publicity is good," as well as it does in politics. In this divided nation, writers risk alienating half their potential readers by taking a strident political stance in their fiction. I have stopped reading authors when they started using their fiction to beat me over the head with their political views. Cartoonish depictions of the "opposition" mean you haven't enough talent to create balanced characters while subtly making your point.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I'm not into politics mixed with fiction either. I also don't think that bad reviews help writers since librarians certainly won't purchase books that get them. However, getting your work ignored is equally bad since readers won't know that it even exists. So things don't change all that much. You need a well-connected agent to get read by a major publisher who in turn has entree to the major review publications and can get a book the necessary publicity. Not easy standing out from the herd! That's why I say we must depend on quality and what is unique to us.

Nancy J. Cohen said...

These are good points. Lately I've joined in multi-author giveaways that offer books only, and it's been a good way to pick up readers. You know they like books and aren't just after the fancy prizes in a goody basket or whatever. Being part of an anthology with other authors can also be helpful in gaining recognition.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Interesting trail of comments, Jacquie, and you handled it like a pro!

When it comes to ways to get our books noticed, I'll have to admit I'm a little conflicted. I'll have a new release in November, and I'm struggling with how I want to approach book promotion this time. I'm easing away from my personal page on Facebook and have a tentative plan to finally set up an Author Page and focus my time there, which will hopefully get me away the political hysteria and fake news issues. I'd like to spend more time on Goodreads and Library Thing, solicit as many reviews as possible, and avoid book-signings like the plague. We'll see what else I can come up with. My personality won't fit with the "get attention at any price even if it's negative attention, so I won't go that route (although I'll admit it does work well from some people).

Earl Staggs said...

Interesting discussion, Jacqueline. Like others, I wish I knew a good way to attract a large number of reader to my work. People in all fields have taken the outrageous route to get attention. In music, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus have done it. Their hope, I suppose, was that once they caught the attention of the public via outlandish behavior, even in poor taste, the public would discover actual talent under the trash and will stick with them. I couldn't go that route myself and will have to settle for writing the best stuff I can.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Nancy, Pat and Earl,

I appreciate your comments and insights--and especially because each of you writes quality fiction which I know from having personally read your novels.

Bonnie Tharp said...

Hi Jacqui. What an amazing discussion. Just mentioning "He who shall not be named" seems to cause contention. But you all made really good points being - writing the best story you possibly can, and finding new ways to reach readers. No one seems to support the "He who shall not be named" methods at all. There's another good marketer out there that always made me wonder how he got so much notice - Tyler Perry. Obviously, his work appealed to many. That's where our work has to go - appealing to many. Lots of good luck, author friends, we all still have lots of good stories to tell.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Bonnie,

Thanks for your input which is always sound.

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