Today, I am not having a fun time being writer. In fact, most of this week hasn’t been fun. Why, you ask? Well, instead of working on my next novel or having imaginary conversations with Gayle and Oprah about my book, I have had to put aside my creative hat and focus on my marketing hat. I have made 15 phone calls to bookstores about possible book signings. I have sent out over 50 emails to book stores, book clubs, book reviewers, and members of the press about the release of the book and upcoming events. I have visited half a dozen bookstores and I have given out tons of flyers and postcards. I have made posts to Facebook and Twitter urging my family and friends to write reviews and post them to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million and Goodreads. And I’m not even counting all of the hard work my husband Robert and other friends have done to try and get the word out. Whew. No one said this writing thing went beyond sitting at a comfy desk with a nice mug of tea while the writing muse has its way with me.
Okay, okay. Before you say, “Blah, blah, blah, stop complaining. Wasn’t this your dream?” Let me just say, yes, you are right. But it doesn’t change the fact that this part of the process is not fun. I am an extroverted introvert, meaning, I can turn on the charm when I have to, but in all honesty, a great day to me is a day when it is just me, my muse, and my keyboard. Making phone call after phone call where I have to spark enthusiasm in the hearer on the other side of the phone is not my idea of a good day, hence why I never went into sales.
I was teasing a friend the other day when I said I have heard everything this week but “It’s not you. It’s me,” when I called various bookstores trying to set up book signings. Nobody told me that most bookstores are not interested in granting signings unless you are already well-known. Whodathunk? It’s like being back in the day when I was a new job hunter and I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t have a job.
But you know, in spite of that fact, those of us who write and publish can’t give up. Even if 9 out of 10 people turn us down and make us feel like our life’s work is not much more than a blip on the radar screen of publishing, we can’t give up. Why? Because of that one success, and yes, that one success matters.
So, here are some tips to writers who are interested in publishing:
1. Make sure you spend some time building your presence on social media. Promoting your work becomes a little easier when your friends, family and colleagues are also helping to get out the word.
2. Get ready to be a cheerleader for your work. If you are too timid to shout about your work from the rooftops, you have probably selected the wrong career path. Yes, there are authors who write in isolation and never interact with the public and somehow find a way to get their work to its intended audience, but really, those writers are few and far between. Make sure you enter into the publishing process believing you will have to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing your work. Even those who publish with the large presses are finding themselves having to utilize their skills as marketers to plug their work.
3. Get organized. I have half a dozen templates of letters, emails, press releases, etc., so when I find a new outlet to send material to, all I have to do is tweak my template and then Voila!, it is off to my new potential resource without me having to spend hours recreating the wheel.
4. Schedule your day so that you are not trying to market your work and write creatively in the same time and space. There is nothing that will suck away your creativity more than knowing you have to send off press releases, type up mailing envelopes, or talk on the phone with individuals who might be lukewarm, at best, when it comes to talking to you about your work.
5. Delegate or ask for help. Once you are in publishing mode, you need a team – a team of unpaid (or paid if you roll like that) “staff” who can take some of the burden off your shoulders so you really can spend more time being creative. As I’ve said repeatedly, my husband has been my rock throughout this entire process so far. My great friend, Lauren, who has hosted an event, helped with the copy editing, and sent out reviews and press releases, has been invaluable in this whole process, and daily, I am asking her to do more and more. So, whenever people say, “Is there anything I can do to help you publicize your work,” take them up on their offer! Get them to make phone calls. Get them to send out books for review or press packets (to those who still want hard copy packets). Get them to show up at your readings and help with all of the behind-the-scene duties that will overwhelm you on the day of your signing.
So, I offer you writers this advice, not to discourage you but to prepare you for those days when the writing life just doesn't seem rewarding. When literally and figuratively you are getting doors slammed shut in your face and you say to yourself, "But I have an ISBN number. Ain't I a writer too!" Just remember, unless you are already Alice Walker or Toni Morrison or any of the other rock stars of publishing, don’t expect the red carpet to automatically be rolled out to meet you at every venue you imagine yourself reading in. Unless you are a literary giant already, don’t expect the New York Times to come knocking down your door to do a book review for your book. Instead, go into this publishing thing like it is truly a business venture that in the beginning, there may not be very many individuals believing in your work besides you and your good old Aunt Susie. And that is okay. Just make sure you help Aunt Susie learn how to send a tweet, because, really, initially, she might be all you’ve got.
Now, back to marketing my book. Oh, and by the way, do any of you have Oprah on speed dial? Okay, okay! Just asking. Sheesh! :)