Monday, April 12, 2010

Marketing your book, yourself

More and more writers email with questions about promotion, how they can find radio and media outlets in my part of the country--Southern California.

Questions like this, anymore, just stop me. Maybe if I were more organized, I'd have a list I could send to the hopeful writer. When I was a publicist, I did have those lists. But that ended in 1997, when I went freelance.

These days, more often than not, the promotion I do for Orange County Noir and Pen on Fire (now in its 8th printing--yay!), is made up of bits of this and that, not just radio and media outlets. Actually, radio and newspapers make up such a small a piece of the promotional pie. If you want these outlets, you can find them by Googling. I know, I know, you can spend all your waking hours Googling (oy vey!) with little time leftover for writing.

I've done radio shows--out in Palm Springs, up in Portland--and a couple of TV shows (Barry Kibrick's Between the Lines that broadcasts out of L.A., and Maria Hall-Brown's Orange County KOCE show), but otherwise, it's all bookstores, events and blog Q&As.

Southern California has more and more literary events, I'm happy to say, other than my own Pen on Fire Speakers Series. Book fairs at colleges, AAUW, which hosts literary luncheons and monthly events, women's clubs, bookstores, book groups, writers groups. But much of this takes your own so-called elbow grease. So many of the events I take part in are the result of following up on leads, responding to requests, and seeking out organizers. Or I speak somewhere and someone there generously suggests my name to the organizer of another event.

Blogs, too, are great ways of getting the word out. Get your book before prominent bloggers or offer to do Q&As for writers' blogs, big and small.

This sort of promotion fits in with my premise about how busy people--well, how I, anyway--get writing done: It's with bits of time scattered here and there. Amazing how the pages mount.

Likewise, with promotion. Doing a little bit every day, or one full day a week, will result in a busy schedule. Doing favors for other writers, too, often results in those writers doing favors for you. The worst thing is when you never do favors for other writers, never go out of your way to help them in some small--or big--way, but expect them to help you.

Doing promotion out of area is daunting. If I was wanting to do promotion in New York, say, I would write to all the authors/booksellers I know in NY and ask them for one lead. Just one. That's something a person can get their mind around. Asking for a bunch, well, that's impossible.

If you want a bunch, and don't want to do the legwork--and who does?--you can hire a publicist. So many editors and book people have become publicists. Authors know who they are in their particular area. In Southern California we have a few good ones: Kim Dower at Kim-from-L.A., Tricia van Dockum at Ollie Media (out of San Diego), and Debbie Mitsch Literary Services in Huntington Beach (based in Orange County).

It's worth spending the money (on out of area PR) so you can use your time to write and not fret. Because these days, writing and marketing go hand in hand, like it or not. I don't mean to sound cruel; it's just the way it is and if you simply accept it, you can get on with your writing life.

1 comment:

Holly Robinson said...

I loved your most recent blog -- all very true. I did a really interesting promotional thing recently. Since my first book, The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter, is a memoir about my Navy officer dad deciding to raise gerbils and tugging us all along (my mom, especially) in the wake of this fairly bizarre but often comic adventure, I decided to try promoting it to Navy wives & families now that the paperback is coming out in June. Last week, I started cold-calling people who run the Navy exchanges, and sent emails to women who head up the various Navy Wives clubs. These people have been enormously helpful in steering me toward ways I might publicize the book to military families.

The other promotional thing I've done is put myself out there to book clubs. I go visit any book club, no matter how small, if it's within a 3-hour drive of my house, because I love nothing better than hearing firsthand what sorts of responses readers have to my book. When you're spending hours a day alone, struggling with sentences, it's very tough to imagine anyone actually out there, reading what you write, in the far distant future. What a kick it is to actually see it happen! These readers also tell great stories, and I cherish them all.

Since this is my first book, I don't have a lot of experience in the book business, but what has become abundantly clear to me in this first year of being a "real" published author is that NOBODY cares about your book as much as you do, even if you have a very good publicist at a major publishing house (as I do). Publicity has to be a team effort, and very often must be driven by the writer, who knows her subject better than anyone else can, and therefore can seek out untapped markets. It's very odd to feel like a salesperson, when you're used to just toiling away in your flannels in the barn behind your house (as I do), but it also leads to great friendships.