By Jackie King
Today’s writers promote both on line and in person. I love the online stuff. It’s much easier for me and, IMO, for most writers. We tend to be introverted folk, preferring to listen rather than to speak. So it came to me as a shock to me when I learned that as a published author, I’m also responsible for promoting my work.
I learned about the necessity of self-promotion after I sold a novella as part of an anthology. My experienced coauthor, Peggy Fielding, told me the facts-of-(a-writer’s)-life. This “older girl” said that fame wouldn’t be carried to me by the fame-stork, but that I must birth my own success through brazen self-promotion.
“The book won’t sell itself. That’s YOUR job. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.”
“Me?” My voice actually quavered. “My job? I had hoped the publisher might send a limo for pre-arranged book signings.” I was joking and Peggy smiled, but her answer was serious. “In your dreams. The three of us must sell this anthology ourselves, that’s the way of a published writer’s life.” The oldest of our trio, gave me her wise-and-patient-teacher look. The one that makes me feel as if I’m about 10 years old. My petulant answer reflected this same age.
“That’s not fair! I’m a writer, not a promoter.”
“You’ll add many chapeaus to your hat rack before this adventure is over.” She gave an impish grin and then continued. “You must talk to bookstore owners and sell each one on the idea of a book signing. Then you must ignore your innate shyness and tell every relative, every friend, and even every stranger about your new book. Dress your self-praise in honest enthusiasm and discard any polite modesty taught to you by your mother. And of course you must setup many public-speaking gigs.”
“Me, speak in public? You can’t be serious!” I shouted. “I’m the shyest of the shy. Timid is my middle name. My Clairol-red hair turns white at the very idea of speaking in public.”
“So you’ll develop a new skill,” she said as if the matter were settled.
So true to my writer’s nature, I decided that what I must endure I must also write.
We authors are frugal to the bone, the original recyclers and spinners of golden stories using straw named misery for our raw material. Such economy is both smart and competent, and it helps to recompense us for the agony of spattering our life’s red blood onto white inkjet paper every day of our lives. And of course for being required to speak in public.
Plan and develop your promotional strategy in the same detailed way that you plotted your book. Give careful thought to location and avoid stereotypical ideas.
Remember your home town roots. America takes an interest in her youth, especially small town America. There are a myriad of folk who remember you as a child and as a teen. Many of these people are readers and will be interested in buying a copy of your book. You must not disappoint them. Always set up at least one book signing in your home town. These signings can take place in any type of store, business, church, club, or even in the home of a relative or friend.
Paula Alfred, the glamour-gal member of our writing team, arranged for us to speak and to sign in her home town of Poteau. I was astonished to learn the gig would be at the local nursing home. Nursing home?
Years ago Paula won the town’s first “Junior Miss Contest.” She used her scholarship prize (awarded by the Junior Chamber of Commerce) as a stepping stone toward becoming a lawyer. When a local girl comes home with a published book to sell, the town shows up with cash in hand. And when the author sends hand-written invitations to everyone on her parents’ Christmas list, people think of the event as a social opportunity and as an honor.
My coauthors, both experienced speakers, stood and gave their talks. Timid and unsure of myself, I feared that my own knees might collapse. But the audience listened and smiled and I grew bolder as I spoke. To my own surprise I was soon enjoying myself.
Afterwards we signed books, and signed books, and signed books. People from
kept crowding into the room. These book-loving, generous hearted and charming
small town people lined up to buy our books as if our names were Sue Grafton,
Mary Higgins Clark, and Carolyn Hart. I was thrilled, overwhelmed, and
passionately in love with small LeFlore County
We sold 36 books!
Signing outside a book store with Peggy Fielding on a hot summer day.