Win a free copy of Eldercide! Read this post on marketing to find out how.

Eldercide (2008)“Kathy and I spent almost all day Sat. sitting around chatting, since we didn’t sell one book at the fair!  There were quite a few booths but most of it was junk.  I did, however, make contact with two possible sources for talks; one for our chapter and another for the historical society for me . . . By three we decided to call it quits, went to get a take-out bar-b-q chicken dinner and left.  It was going to rain anyhow . . . I’m due to go to Schenectady this Sat., for half a day this time. So much for the country fairs, anyway.” 

Ring a bell with anyone? A writer friend sent me this e-mail yesterday, bringing me up to date on her latest marketing effort. I’ve changed identifying names and details to protect her identity, although if she reads this post, she’s welcome to weigh in with her real name. She’d previously sent out word of this great sales opportunity to fellow members of our Sisters in Crime chapter, but she only got one taker. They paid for the table, of course, and the event was far out in the country, so the gas mileage must have been significant. I hope the BBQ chicken made it all worthwhile.

My friend’s an incurable optimist, and she’s coming back for more. Me, I’m not into masochism, so more and more, I find myself passing on these events. I’ve written before about how depressing I find sitting at a table, trying to be sparkling and scintillating in hopes people will buy my books, and coming away with one or two sales. Reading other writers’ blogs, I’ve found many feel the same way. Yet there are those, like my two friends from the fair, who genuinely enjoy these meet & greet events. For the most part, they’re the very ones who avoid schmoozing online and think developing an Internet presence isn’t worth the effort.

I’m sure there are plenty of academics out there studying the personality

Edward Munch

Edward Munch

differences between those who prefer online networking and those who like getting up close and personal at live events. I’m definitely an introvert – probably that’s why I’m an artist and writer – and I suspect most writers are the same way. I like a good party every so often; that’s why I just signed up for a BBQ and potluck in Thatcher Park with the Hudson Valley Writers Guild. But as Brad Paisley sang in one of his many #1 country hits, “I’m so much cooler online.”

Which approach generates more success in terms of sales? I know where I’m putting my energies. Last night I had a dream that confirms my strategy: one of my Blog Book Tours colleagues was celebrating because he/she had just signed a multimillion-dollar book contract with the potential for Hollywood options. I was simultaneously jealous and excited, and I was thinking, “I’ve got to do more of what (he/she) is doing!”

Who was it? I’ll leave it up to you to guess. First one with the correct answer wins a free copy of Eldercide. But there’s a catch: you’ll have to write a glowing review that I can post online.

This fall I’ll be reissuing Eldercide with a new cover illustration and a new title, Evening Falls Early. So perhaps someday this first edition will become a collector’s item.

Contest rules: First person to identify the blogger in my dream is the winner. However, I won’t announce the results until  this Friday, July 17th. This way you’ll have more time to weigh in on which bloggers you think are most likely to succeed and why. I’ll discuss the results in a future post. By “Blog Book Tour colleagues,” I mean all participants in Blog Book Tours, not one particular class. Good luck – I look forward to hearing from you!

My blogging story arc – a field of dreams

Available from Amazon or www.virtualbookworm.com

Available from Amazon or http://www.virtualbookworm.com

In my mystery novels, I do my best to build tension, to keep the reader engaged for over 300 pages. More than one successful author has said there should be conflict on every page. And ideally, every chapter ends with a cliff hanger – an unresolved situation that keeps the reader turning the pages.

Readers have told me I’m pretty good at this – once they start one of my novels, they have a hard time putting it down. I’m delighted to hear this, of course. But blogging is a whole different ball game. For me, each post has been a mini-essay, complete in itself. But what keeps readers coming back and wanting more? That’s something I’m still figuring out.

Once again I’m giving a shout-out to one of my colleagues on Blog Book Tours, Alexis Grant. Whereas most of us in this online course are published authors, she has yet to finish her first book-length manuscript. Although an experienced journalist, she calls herself an “aspiring author” and invites readers to follow her along on her journey to publication. At first I thought this was presumptuous – why should anyone care? But her posts are engaging and full of information, and she’s getting tons of followers.

So I’ve decided I’m going to share my journey as well. Not to publication – I’ve already published two mysteries I’m proud of – but to getting a first-rate agent and a well established publisher. I’ve tried the traditional query-letter-SASE-sample-chapters routine, and I hate it. Baseball diamondSo I’m trying the Kevin Costner “Field of Dreams” approach instead – “If you build it, they will come.” I’ll just put myself out here online, build the best blog site and internet presence I can manage, and have faith – when the time is right, with a little nudging, that agent will appear.

I’ll post my journey online – not daily, but maybe once a week. I’ll devote the other four weekdays to other topics. But my quest for fame and fortune, however modest, will be my story arc, the tale that keeps people coming back – and I have every intention of hitting the ball out of the park.

This is a weird metaphor for me, since I absolutely loathe baseball – or playing softball at least. When I worked as an art therapist at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, we used to have picnics at the boathouse by the river. Occasionally I was forced to play softball, and I’d scream and run away every time the ball came near me. The patients thought it was hilarious. 

Norman Mailer admired my chest – because I was wearing my book cover!

Commenting on my post about blatant self-promotion, Marvin D. Wilson advised me to “let it all hang out” when it comes to hyping my books. The phrase brought back a treasured memory from 2007 – the night Norman Mailer gave me a beatific grin while he ogled my chest.

Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer

Mailer was at the New York State Writers Institute in the spring of 2007 reading from his latest book, and as it turned out, his last – his controversial novel The Castle in the Forest, about Hitler’s childhood. Page Hall was packed to overflowing. Though Mailer hobbled to the stage with difficulty, his reading and the Q&A that followed was strong, lucid and entertaining. As I recall, he said he was still following a disciplined writing schedule. Someone asked if he was planning to write a sequel about Hitler’s adulthood, and he replied that realistically, he didn’t believe he would live long enough. He died later that year, on November 10th.

I bought the book, of course, and joined the long line for autographs. We admirers had our instructions – he would sign his name only. No personal inscriptions, and no chitchat. As I inched slowly toward his table, I could see how frail, fatigued and bored he looked. I was wearing my turquoise tee-

Order from Amazon or www.virtualbookworm.com
Order from Amazon or http://www.virtualbookworm.com

shirt with the cover of Mood Swing emblazoned on my chest. I threw open my jacket and proclaimed, “This is my first novel!”  His face lit up, and he blessed me with a radiant grin I’ll always treasure in memory. 

I know he wasn’t grinning at my feminine endowments, because I haven’t got anything to brag about in that department. But I like to think I brightened up the signing for him. I’m not a huge fan of Mailer’s, and I know many women detest him as a male chauvinist pig (does anyone use that phrase anymore?) But I admire him as an American master of great stature and productivity. The flyleaf of The Castle in the Forest  lists 35 books, fiction and non-fiction, covering an enormous range of topics and spanning almost six decades. You’ve got to admire that kind of self-discipline and dedication.

I’m going to wear that same tee-shirt tonight. There’s a free dinner for members and staff at my local YMCA, so I’m going to don my bra (which I almost never wear, as an underendowed and aging child of the Sixties), flaunt my chest and flog my books. But I doubt anyone will give me a grin as great as the one I got from Norman Mailer. 

 

BSP, or Blatant Self-Promotion. Why should it be a no-no?

“I’m going to become a world-famous author through my mastery of the Internet.”

That was my response yesterday when our minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Society  passed around the mike and asked us what goals we could set for ourselves over the summer. We were observing our annual “Flower Communion,” in which we bring flowers from our gardens to share. Reverend Sam Trumbore had segued seamlessly from imagery of flowers and buds to the theme of what might be budding in our own lives and ready to burst into bloom.  

Chihuly florabunda rose

Chihuly florabunda rose

These were not the roses I brought. I do have a Chihuly rose bush blooming in my garden, and the blooms are absolutely breathtaking, but I was too selfish to share them. I brought some crimson Blaze climbing roses instead, more than adequate for the occasion. 

This blog isn’t about roses, though. It’s about my grandiose statement of world domination. Had I gone over the top? Am I escalating into a manic episode? Grandiosity is a common symptom of mania, as I and others with a bipolar diagnosis know full well. But I wasn’t being manic – just realistic, or almost, though it may take more than one summer to attain my dreams.

 

Why do we authors find it so distasteful to brag? Especially we women authors? Blatant self-promotion (BSP for short) is frowned upon on many Internet sites, and it’s said to be a turn-off when authors promote their work too openly at panels and signings. Yet why be so ashamed? I believe it’s ingrained in our upbringing, drummed into us from an early age, especially if we’re of AARP age or above. But how will anyone find out about our books if we’re too reticent to brag a little?

Blaze of Glory climbing rose

Blaze of Glory climbing rose

FUUSA‘s book club met last night, and we were talking about selections for the fall. One man suggested the group choose my book Eldercide, which I’ll be relaunching in September as Evening Falls Early. Another man seconded the motion, pointing out that perhaps copies of Eldercide will become valuable collectors’ items once it’s no longer available under that name. Both men were present at the morning service, so I guess my boastful declaration didn’t turn them off. Would the group have selected the book if I’d been silent when they handed the mic around? I’ll never know.

The Chihuly rose is a recently introduced florabunda, named for the famous glass artisan Dale Chihuly. It survived my northeastern Zone 5 winter in fine form, and I heartily recommend it. The blaze rose shown here is “Blaze of Glory,” a Jackson & Perkins introduction from 2005. My own blaze climbing rose is the more traditional crimson version, and it’s really taking off this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bookstore panel: Audience outnumbers authors – by one!

Thursday night I participated in a panel discussion at a beautiful independent bookstore, along with three other members of the Sisters in Crime of Upstate New York. Four authors, five people in the audience – not counting two authors’ spouses and the owner of the bookstore.

Most of us drove a considerable distance to get there – an hour and a half each way for me, even more for others. One of us sold one book, with 40% going to the bookstore, so she made about $10.00. But I don’t consider the evening a total loss: I got to visit with some author friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, the store took four of my books on consignment, and my husband and I had a pleasant al fresco pub meal afterwards (which set us back $40).

The women in the audience (and yes, they were all women over 50 – a typical demographic for these events) appeared engaged and interested in what we had to say. One complimented us by saying we all had such great personalities, it must be easy for us to write sparkling dialogue. But the interest didn’t translate into sales. Unfortunately, this scenario is by no means an isolated incident – it’s happened at other bookstores, and at libraries too.

Why do we do it? The smiles and compliments don’t pay for our gas money and the wear and tear on our cars. We say we’re building our reputations, getting our names out there, and the bookstore owners usually say, “You just never know.” And yet we do it again and again, just as we keep turning out books – like rats in a maze, squirrels in a cage, or maybe lemmings.

Maybe our next event, at the East Greenbush Library on June 6th, will be different. Or maybe people will be in more of a book buying mood in the fall, if they’re less worried about the economy. On the other hand, maybe I’d rather just stay home and blog.

What do librarians really want?

 How do librarians decide which books to buy? How much can authors influence their decisions? My local Sisters in Crime chapter learned the answers to these questions and more at yesterday’s meeting with Eileen Williams, reference and outreach librarian for the Guilderland Public Library.

I confess I’ve tended to take libraries for granted, and what goes on behind the scenes has remained uncharted territory for me, but I came away much better informed. Eileen spoke primarily of her own library and the others in the Upper Hudson Library System, but her comments probably apply to others. In deciding what books to buy, they rely primarily on four major sources: Kirkus, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly and Book List. Books by bestselling authors like Danielle Steele are ordered automatically and in multiple copies through a service called Automatically Yours. Newspaper reviews are important too, especially those in our local papers – which unfortunately review pathetically few books these days.

So what’s a little-known local author to do? Fortunately, there’s hope. She and her colleagues are receptive to personal phone calls and drop-in visits. She’s less fond of e-mails, and frequently deletes them unread. The library’s definitely interested in local authors, but they’re more apt to purchase books for which they receive a lot of reader requests. So get your friends to come in, talk up your work and fill out purchase requests. They’ll order from Amazon. It’s okay to donate your own books, but with the understanding that they may be donated to book sales if they don’t meet the library’s standards.

I asked if she’s noticed a decline in readership due to online technology and other distractions. On the contrary, she says – circulation is definitely up. She attributes this in part to the economy (fewer buyers, more borrowers) and to the growing number of retirees, who have more time to read.

This particular library offers a lot of community programming, including several book clubs, one of them targeted to mystery readers. She was intrigued by our group, which she hadn’t known about before, and we’ll probably be on their calendar for a program in the near future.

I’d welcome your comments. Any experiences or advice to share about building good collegial relationships with your local libraries?

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