Friday, May 20, 2011

Scared Stiff of Promoting

by Patricia Gulley

NO SHAME, that's the keyword. 

A recent blog by an author who hates the whole promotion thing, made me start thinking again. I know, dangerous, but what else are we humans good for? I've been around marketing all my working life, so having to do it seems second nature. Doesn't mean I can make it work. All the advice given is correct and effective; it will work a little bit or a lot, but don't count on any of it being a major success without a bit of luck. Sad, I know, because that means you have to work at it, work at it, spend more money on it, work at it, stop all together and try to write more, go back to working on it, spend more money, work….. Sorry, but that seems to be the way it works. Even if you have a top publisher that does a lot of promotion for you, the author still has to put herself out there and do a lot of things she doesn’t want to do, is afraid to do and embarrassed to do. “Mom said I shouldn’t act that way!!!” 

Marketing is the one place you cannot be a good girl, do the right thing and be rewarded. So, try to remove that bit of proper behavior from you mind. The modern author has to put aside centuries of belief that the author only has to write the book and all promotion is done by the publisher. Shameless hussy-ing is the best bet now with a grain of good manners retained. What is scary and hated is standing out there bragging about one’s self and telling people what to do (read: part with their money) and not feeling ashamed of themselves. Let’s face it, no matter how nice and polite, sweet toned and unassuming we try to be. It is getting in people’s faces, badgering and accosting them, and there’s that nasty feeling that we are letting mom down. Few of us have been raised to do anything like this, yet we must find a way to do it.

Deep breathing, arm extensions and chanting before an event might help if you are hidden behind a curtain prior to your introduction, but even if you are sitting out in open view of everyone you came to talk to, rehearsing what you intend to say is a very good way to calm nerves. You really can do it like chanting. Actors have a speed reading thing they do with each other before a performance that helps them with their memorization and (they claim) their nerves. If it is a reading, start with who you are, what you wrote and a brief reason for writing it. (A second book in a series is good enough.) Maybe if you are feeling good at that point, a bit about your protagonist. Some of these talks are timed, so establishing and keeping on file 1, 2 and 5 minute speeches is a good thing. Pre-published authors are told to prepare their blurbs, log-lines and elevator speeches and know them by heart; well this is what you change to afterwards. However, most readings are 15 minutes, so practicing reading the part of your book that you intend to read from is very important. You can’t wing it. Read in front of a mirror, speaking out loud and time it. Watch your body language and listen to yourself. I prefer to explain how the book starts, read from the first good action section, maybe explain some of what is going on next and leap to another action section and most definitely conclude with a chapter or pages that ends with one of your best cliff hangers. A bow, a sincere thank-you and you are done.

Believe me, only practicing at home but not before you go on will leave you with the jitters. Practice and stay focused on that practicing before your turn comes keeps your mind off the fear. It works the same way with panels. The moderator talks to you about the topic before hand (hopefully by email), there is a practice session the day of (or there should be) and it allows you to come face to face with each other and find out a bit about each other. You will be surprised how much knowing something about each other helps. 

Let’s face it, a billion words has been written on the subject of what to do; the problem is how to over come those terrors that anyone without a natural pension for facing people and talking their head off might suffer. Try not to think of promoting as cold-call selling (standing in a mall grabbing passer-bys’ arms and trying to interest them in your book) very few people can do it and you have to have the personality of a telemarketer to succeed at it any time during your career. Find places where the buyer comes to you: conventions, book fairs, library or store readings. Single bookstore signings for newbies is hard on the author and the store unless the author has a multitude of friends and family in town who can be seriously threatened with bodily harm if they don’t show up. I like group signings however the fear of no one getting in your line is a problem. So what to do if the author next to you has lines out the door and no one even looks at you? Shameless Hussing!! Offer to take pictures of these fans with the popular author (fans always want to do that) and laugh and talk, say nice things about the other author, joke a little. Okay, maybe they won’t grab one of your books and buy it, but they will look over, note your name and pick up a bookmark, postcard or favor, IF YOU REMEMBERED TO PUT THEM OUT, and that’s the start of recognition. Ya gotta start somewhere. 

Go forth authors, and promote, promote, promote.

The end.


Steve Ulfelder said...

Fun post, thanks! Valuable to a newb like me who's out talking about his book for the first time.

I've never understood the writerly distaste for trying to sell books and maybe, just maybe, make a little dough. Sales is an honorable profession, for one thing, Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross be damned. And selling something you're proud of, something you put years of work into - hell, that's something to brag about.

Joyce said...

Speaking of selling--if you haven't read Steve's book yet, I highly recommend it!

Jenna said...

Good advice.

Patg said...

I so agree, but I think if you've done sales and liked it you can handle it.
Darn tootin: DOAS and GGR be Damned!!
And I like people too much to not want to get out there and blab my head off.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Thanks for the valuable post. I was dreading all I had to do to promote my debut mystery, but I'm finding doing PR is merely another way of communicating with people.

Anonymous said...

All good advice Pat and I also think that if you believe in your writings, truly believe, than whats to be afraid of?

Jo P

PatRemick said...

Enjoyed the post, Pat!

Kaye George said...

I'm glad my first signing will be just that. I have yet to give my first, um, presentation, I guess. I'm NOT a good public speaker, but I'll sure work on it. Of course, as most of us, I only wanna write!

Fiona McGier said...

I'm not scared so much as, like you said, I don't feel comfortable pushing my books in front of people, expecting them to buy. Few are willing to part with what a POD costs for an unknown author...and I don't know that many people who have e-readers, despite all I keep reading about how popular and ubiquitous they are becoming! So on we trudge...

Marja said...

Thanks for some great advice. When I talk to potential buyers, one thing that works for me is to talk to each person as I would to an old friend. It seems to put them at ease, and it definitely puts me at ease.

Celia Yeary said...

PAT--my mother's words do ring in my ears--"don't act tacky, and don't make a spectacle of yourself." As if I could.
I'm not shy, because I have done a teensy bit of public speaking, plus teaching teenagers to appreciate flora and fauna. However, I do have that self-efacing attitude or feeling, and I know I do it, but cannot stop.
If someone compliments me to my face on my book, I say something stupid, such as, Ahh, it's not on the NY best-seller list, you know..just a simple story... ugh.

So thanks for the pep talk. I know just about everything I SHOULD do to promote, and do quite a bit, but often I think..."I'm making a pest out of myself."

Angela Verdenius said...

Great post, Pat. I can do a lot fo things, but I doubt I could sit and do a reading! LOL. That takes guts!


Kaye George said...

I agree! I really, really dread reading my stuff out loud. I'll probably use a monotone and it'll sound SO boring.