Showing posts with label promotion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label promotion. Show all posts

Mar 5, 2018

Authors in Strange Situations


Image result for cartoon convict



Nobody tells you that promoting the books you write requires you to be adaptable and have a sense of humor. We picture authors jetting all over the country, sipping champagne and telling adoring fans about their latest novel, but that's not reality for the vast majority of us. I loved the story one author told about arriving at a bookstore where he had an audience of one. The fan told him he'd really liked the book, though he admitted he might not have chosen to read it except, "It was the only one they had in solitary confinement."

I haven't met any ex-cons who are fans (that I know of), but I have ended up in strange situations. I want to state here for the record that I am EXTREMELY grateful to libraries and bookstores who allow me to come for a Sit & Sign or, even better, a talk. However, it doesn't always go the way one might imagine.

*** There was the library where they'd booked two events at the same time in the same room. The other event was a League of Women Voters meeting (in a Presidential election year), so I ended up in the children's room, with those cute little 2-foot high tables and miniature chairs.
Image result for cartoon images roof collapse***I spoke once in the Library Annex, a building so old I worried about the roof collapsing. And if any of my audience had allergies to mold...








 ***Scheduled for a Meet the Author Sit & Sign, I arrived to find the librarian who'd contacted me had retired, and no one on the job seemed much interested in her program. They'd scheduled another author to give a talk at the same time, so I got to sit and watch people file into the conference room to hear him. (They didn't even have to pass by my table to get there.) I heard every word of his speech from my table in the hallway behind the door. It was very entertaining, and when he was finished I watched people leave with his book, not even aware I was there.

***I once sat in a bookstore promoting my historicals and heard a customer ask at the front desk if they had any historical mysteries. Asked what era, the woman said she liked medieval and Tudor. The clerk led the woman RIGHT PAST ME to a section where she introduced her to a few of her favorites. Ummm, chopped liver here?

***At one library my audience was very small--three people. When I started chatting with them I realized it was the librarian's mother and her two sisters. She'd called them when it became clear no one else was going to show up!
***Recently I stopped at a library where I'm scheduled to speak and found that nobody there knew about it. The librarian had been reassigned, and yes, they'd love to have me come, but could it be Saturday, not Thursday, and in the morning, not evening.* (It's a good thing I don't have a day job!)

Ask any author who's done a book tour and they'll tell you about being asked where the bathroom is, if "you" carry the New York Times, and what books you can recommend for a fourteen-year-old who really doesn't like to read. They'll tell of events where none of the employees knew an author was coming, and a table had to be cleared really quickly for her use. Of librarians who schedule a talk mostly so they can pick the author's brain about how they might get published. And about the homeless people who attend because there are refreshments afterward. And sometimes there's absolutely no one. Time doesn't fly in those cases.
Image result for cartoon bored person

Still, it's fun. I enjoy the exchange with readers and with the people who serve as guides for reading: librarians and book store clerks. It's just that authors, like the rest of the world, have to adjust their expectations once in a while. The world doesn't revolve around us; in fact, the world doesn't ever intend to.

* The event is at the Port Tampa City Library, March 10, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. I'll be speaking on mystery writers who are very good but don't have the big name recognition.


Oct 26, 2015

Plain Talk for Writers: It Takes Longer than You Think


What takes longer, you ask?
Everything.
It takes longer to sell a book than you'd like.
It takes longer to produce a book than you estimate.
It takes longer to become a familiar name to readers than you expected.
It takes longer to to keep up with promotion than you ever imagined.

Let's look at those one by one.

Sell the book. Five years is the estimated average time it takes a writer to find a publisher. If you're hoping for a big publisher, it could be even more. Yes, I know you read about an author who hit it big with her first book. Hooray for her, but most of us don't have that experience. We just don't talk about it because the average reader thinks if a book is "good enough," it's going to get published.
Yeah, right.

Produce the book. Once your book is accepted by a publisher, you're on their timeline. You can tell all your friends about it, but they're likely to have to wait more than a year to see the book in print. My publisher puts each manuscript they receive into a queue, and the publication date will always more than a year away due to the process: editing, re-editing, cover designing, formatting, submitting for review, and copy-editing. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
If you self-publish you're responsible for all that, and while that's beneficial in some ways, it's a lot more work--more time spent not writing.

Become a familiar name. Try this one: Who are Adam Johnson, Nathan Englander, and Eowyn Ivey?
They were the top three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2013 (Johnson won it). If we don't take note of these authors' names, why would we recall the author of the murder mystery we read last week?

Keep up with promotion. Here's what I've done so far this morning: I checked my emails for both Peg and Maggie, answering some, deleting a lot, and sending out codes for one of Maggie's audio books. Then I sent a guest blog post to a fellow author who will use it on November 3rd. I wrote it yesterday, so today I proofed it, added links, photos, and a bio. Monday is blog day for me and Maggie. In addition, each day I try to follow some of the advice authors are given: tweet interesting things, post on FB, send a newsletter to those who opt in to learn what I'm up to. I set up my own book signings and talks, although people are finally starting to ask me to speak rather than me asking them. I'm also preparing for Magna Cum Murder this weekend, which meant answering the panel moderators' questions so they know what to ask about when I get there. In the back of my mind I'm searching for something cool to give away there (It's in Indianapolis) to make people take note of my work in the mash of authors who'll be there trying to do the same thing. (One author gave everyone in the room ten dollars. Impressive, but honestly, I didn't buy her book with it and I don't recall her name!)

The point is there's always something I could be doing to "make it" as an author, and a lot of it isn't writing books.

I'm not complaining. I love everything I do that connects to writing, and I would never discourage anyone from doing it. It's just that it's always a surprise to me when I think, "I can have that book out by the end of the year." ...It's almost the end of October, and I'm not even close.


Oct 19, 2015

Plain Talk for Writers: It's Work

Some things you need to accept:

1. You're not as good as you think you are.
Other people have ideas as good as yours. In fact, it's hard to be truly creative with all the stories that are out there. Others write as well as you do too. Admit it, and you'll be easier to be around.
2. You're going to work harder than you expect to be successful.
There is no Book Fairy who sprinkles shiny stuff on your work and gets everyone to notice it. There's no way to get readers to pay attention if they don't want to. There are things you can do that actually turn readers off, like constantly telling what a great book you've written.
3. Nobody knows what works. If there were a formula--well, there isn't. Badly written books get to be Best Sellers and really good books get rejected by publishers or lie languishing if they do get published.
4. Writing well isn't easy. Note the qualifier. A monkey can sit down at a computer and produce something. An author knows it takes time: time to write a coherent first draft, time to make it better with multiple edits, time to get constructive criticism from others, time to rewrite and rework until it's the best story she is capable of telling.

AND ONE MORE THING

If you're a real writer, none of those things will deter you.

Aug 25, 2014

Feet on the Ground, or Butt in the Chair?

One of the crazy things about being an author is the wide disparity in what's expected of you. The writing part requires long hours of--well, writing. Composing, revising, re-writing, and editing take time and concentration. On the other side of the coin, you're expected to promote your work in order for publishers to have anything to do with you. That means public appearances where you smile a lot and try to stir up interest among readers.

I don't mind the public stuff, but it often feels like time I might have spent writing. Let's say I sign up to visit a bookstore on Friday (This Friday it's Purple Tree Books in Cheboygan, MI.) There's no way to tell if there will be people in the bookstore. If the sun is shining or if it's raining really hard, probably not. There's no way to tell if they'll be mystery readers, either. So two or three hours plus travel time gets me no guarantees that I'll even meet a prospective buyer, much less convince him or her that my book is a better choice than hundreds of other, better-known mystery authors whose books are in the store.

Or I can go to a mystery convention, where hundreds of mystery readers flock to meet their favorites. Now the audience is there and primed, but there are lots of authors, and they have to choose whose books to buy. Hmmm, Peg Herring or James Patterson? Peg or Charlaine Harris? How about Peg or Sue Grafton?

I've learned to do the promotion part with the idea that I'll enjoy the time away from my office. What I get from visiting bookstores is an acquaintance with people who love books. Even if nobody shows up at the store, the staff and I talk books: what we're reading, what we want to read, what we're waiting for. Customers are usually polite and listen to my (very short) spiel about my books. (I'm always amused by some who back away like I'm trying to hand them a rattlesnake when I offer a bookmark. I want to say, "Really. It's free, and there's no obligation to buy.") And often I have enjoyable talks with readers about books, whether they buy mine or not.

At conferences, I expect to be one of many. It's nice when someone recognizes me and compliments my work but I don't hold my breath waiting for it. My goal at cons is to meet people: authors I've met before and like as people; authors I admire as a reader; and readers of all kinds. It's like a big party for book-lovers, and like any social gathering, the best way to proceed is to relax and enjoy.

So I put my feet on the ground periodically, usually when a new book comes out, to acquaint readers with the fact that I'm a writer. The rest of the time I practice the "Butt In The Chair, Honey" principle that demands less socially but more creatively. Success as an author requires both, much as we'd like to go with just one or the other.
 Released August 9, 2014  

Available in e-format or in print
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Killing-Despair-Loser-Mysteries-Three-ebook/dp/B00MKBH3MU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408968479&sr=8-1&keywords=killing+despair

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/killing-despair-peg-herring/1120104924?ean=2940150674912


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