Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shameless Shilling for Dummies

WARNING: There will be shameless self-promotion in this blog. You are warned.

In my twenty-eight years on this planet I have worn many hats. Jobs I held ranged from radio DJ, bookseller, lab assistant, crisis hotline volunteer, government investigator, and now author. The one thing I have never had to do is promote myself in any way. I'm told I'm a people person, because I'm just so darn nice, but in reality I'm an introvert who can act like an extrovert for short periods of time. I'm a writer, I spend most of my day alone in a room inside my head and like it that way. So now that I have to promote not only myself but my book, I have begun to panic.

In the olden days of yore the publisher took care of it all, both time-wise and monetarily. They had a stable of marketing and PR people reaching out to the world. They set up and sponsored public appearances--and still do if your last name is Patterson or Evanovitch--took out ads, and even got you on radio or TV back when writers were consider cool like Truman Capote. Not so much anymore. If you're lucky, as I am at Midnight Ink (love you Steven and Courtney), they send out galleys to reviewers and fly you to BEA to sign said galley. Now, it's all on the writer. That advance check you got and were dancing around with glee as you held it in your hands like it was a Wonka Golden Ticket? Gone in 60 seconds when it's time to promote. Gas money, hotels, flights, bookmarks, business cards, printing hand-outs, stamps, the list is endless on what is needed to shill. And expensive. Your dream of being flown around the world to speak about your work of art? Just that, a dream. You're lucky if your library will allow you to speak. And even then it is a major hastle, not to mention time consuming. You have to find the person in charge of programs, play phone tag with them, come up with an interesting talk with a PowerPoint presentation, get your bookmarks and hand-outs made, research who to contact at the local paper and pray they will print something about your event, and figure out how the heck you'll sell the book there without a credit card machine. It takes forever and then there's no guarantee anyone will show up, let alone buy your book.

Tired yet? It gets worse. Say you're a penny pincher like me. If I have to pay for anything but gas, i.e.-hotel, rental car, I'm not going unless I'm almost guaranteed to get a reward from my investment. (Or I get to speak on a panel at ComicCon. A girl can dream, can't she?) So I do a few talks or signings at my local libraries and book stores. What about the rest of the country? How will they know how fabulous my book is and give me money? The wonderful, funderful internet. This blog is a prime example. It has over two hundred followers (and I love everyone of you, buy Mind Over Monsters in October!) who now all know my name. Not bad for only having to post a blog once every three weeks. The catch is that I have to do this type of thing a lot.

And I mean, a lot.

Not only on my private blog, Tales from the Darkside at http://www.jenniferharlowbooks.com/, but I have to post comments on other people's blogs, join forum discussions, Tweet, re-Tweet, follow people who you hope will follow you, Facebook updates, have a presence on Goodreads, solicit book bloggers, agree to review books so they'll review mine, beg said bloggers to interview you, write to everyone I ever met and tell them about my book and ask they pass this information along like a chain letter, all while trying to write frigging books! And I had to learn how to do all this by myself!

I've just scratched the surface of what needs to be done, (like designing bookmarks. I have to design a bookmark?!?) and even if you do it all there is no way to guarantee the book will sell. I'm learning as I go and have miles and miles to go before I sleep. It helps that I have people I can reach out to--Lois and Alan I'm talking about you, kisses!-- should I hit a wall or have a question. Because that was the most important thing I've learned so far. Writers are so giving and helpful to other writers. Though we may be in our rooms alone with our imaginary friends, if needed we come to the aid of those who are floundering in promotional hell. Because they've all been there. Like I will be whenever I'm needed. I am not alone, and for whatever reason that makes me feel better.

I have to go now. Gotta set up a giveaway at Goodreads, update my website, make hand-outs for an Anime convention, Tweet, solicit more book bloggers, and post something witty and urbane in the Urban Fantasy Amazon forum. A shameless shiller's work is never done.

I will just leave you with...Mind Over Monsters, out 10/11 wherever books are sold. Pre-order at Amazon.com today!

(Had to get one more in. I'm shameless that way :P)


Lois Winston said...

Jennifer, here's another piece of promo advice: take advantage of the links feature in Blogger. There were several places in your post where you could have included links for people to click over to see you at other places and for buying your book. And don't forget to add a jpeg of your cover.

Beth Groundwater said...

Yeah, that coming up with something witty and urbane to say on your personal blog 3,4, or 5 times a week is a real killer! Many times I resort to vacation or rafting trip photos, but interestingly enough, those are some of my most popular posts. Photos of any kind do make a difference.

PS. Here's my blog: http://bethgroundwater.blogspot.com/

Deborah Sharp said...

wow... you're doing so much! You ask, ''Tired yet?'' Yep, I am ... just reading about all the online work you're putting into it. I hope you're taking time to enjoy, too. You only get one first-book launch, so do take some time to slow down and smell the pages (this perspective from an author who is twice your age, and three times as tired, and on book No. 4 ... Which comes out in September, and is titled MAMA SEES STARS, speaking of shameless shilling ;-)

Keith Raffel said...

Jenna, thanks for the insight into the glamorous life of an author!

Alan Orloff said...

I've found that when you're looking for something witty to say, it's easiest just to steal someone else's good lines. You know, like plots.

Robin Allen said...

I'm right there with you, Jennifer. And yes, I'm tired.

Darrell James said...

Jenna- Your post has me exhausted and it's only 8:40 am here in the west. There is a lot to do. But I just returned from the California Crime Writers Conference. Two days with writer friends and it all becomes worth it. Good luck with "Monsters".

Lisa Bork said...

Twenty-eight years old and already you've accomplished so much. Good for you! Best of luck with your new book.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Try to have some fun with it! Your first book is a big deal! Congratulations.

Terri Bischoff said...

Jenna - collect all the wisdom you can from your fellow Inkers - they've been thru it all. But I would especially listen to Deborah. Make sure you take time to enjoy it!

Shel said...

The book sounds great and just went on my "to buy" list for August :). And now you know that it is, indeed, all worth it.