By Rosemary Harris
I didn’t realize when I got my book deal four years ago that the less glamorous (insert tongue firmly in cheek) part of being a published writer would be the months spent giving myself a crash course in promotion and publicity.
Lest you think this is turning into yet another rant against the Jennifers, Heathers and Sarahs who populate the major publishing houses, it’s not. Witness the emails I get on weekends and after eight p.m., the hundred and fifty books a year an art director I know works on. There are just thousands of books being published every month. How does a writer stand out even in his own publishing house? How do we find our readers? Our champions?
If I’d written a book on potty training I’d be home free. There’s a built-in platform and potential readers are easy to find online, in magazines, in groups, even on maternity store mailing lists. Affinity groups. The same is true for Civil War buffs, Red Sox fans and men named Ralph who think the world is going to end in 2012. Direct marketing companies have been using lists for decades. The technology may have changed and paper labels may be replaced with keystrokes, but the idea is the same.
Fiction writers have a harder time of it. It pains me to write this, but no one needs our books. Unless we are JK Rowling or Nora Roberts no one is waiting for our books. (I am always waiting for the next Carl Hiaasen and I do have a lovely reader, Cynthia in Ann Arbor, MI who is anxiously awaiting my next book, but these I fear, are exceptions.) For the most part genre fiction writers have to beat the bushes to find readers. Social networking has revolutionized this activity and I don’t need to repeat what others have said about websites, blogs, facebook and twitter, although I would be truly scared if anyone other than my husband wanted to hear from me more than three or four times a day, and some days he’s only good for two or three tweets from my direction.
So, after forty-odd years of avoiding groups (bad Brownie experience) I’ve become a joiner. And I don’t just send a check. I show up. Virtual pals are great and I’ve had some nifty conversations online about defunct ice cream parlors in Brooklyn, or whether beer really attracts slugs, but nothing beats pressing the flesh.
I will be driving to most of my destinations and doing drop-ins along the way. Some authors cringe at the prospect of “doing the driveby” as another writer calls it. Last year I dropped in on 103 Barnes & Noble stores and dozens of Borders. Only once did I get the stony “and you are?” stare. Every other time employees have been helpful, interested and engaged. Of course it’s all about putting a face to a name, and hoping that your brief conversation at the information desk will turn into sales and the neat stack of bookmarks you leave behind will find their way into readers’ hands.
Our publishers didn’t adopt us. They give us a shot, but it’s up to us to keep the ball rolling by writing better books and when we’re not doing that, talking about them.
To that end…DEAD HEAD is the story of a suburban woman revealed to be a fugitive from the law who’s been in hiding for decades. Amateur sleuth Paula Holliday is hired by the woman’s distraught family to find out who dropped the dime and who still wants her dead after all these years.
"Fast, funny dialogue, clever description and a good mystery make Harris' latest a very strong, entertaining cozy. With excitement and a surprise ending, this one's a winner." 4 stars! Romantic Times
Rosemary Harris is the author of the Dirty Business mystery series from Minotaur Books. Her debut novel Pushing Up Daisies was nominated both an Agatha and an Anthony for Best First Novel. She is past president of SINC New England and currently vp of MWA’s New York Chapter. Visit her at www.rosemaryharris.com