Getting published is a real be-yatch! Hear about my ups, downs and a few random rants in between.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Independence Day

I love gadgets.

I love things that will make my life easier. I'm a very hip and happening girl, if I may say so myself.

But at the core, I'm an old-school kind of chick.

My Old School playlist, any song that I loved growing up as a kid, is longer than my Head bangers (Hip Hop) playlist. And I love Hip Hop!

I wish stores were still closed on Sundays. I applaud Chick-fil-A for holding to that policy in the face of losing sales. I guess they've realized that if your product is good (mmmm...chicken sandwich)the sales you lost on Sunday will come on back, Monday through Saturday.

And, finally, if an episode of Andy Griffith is playing on TVLand, I watch it. The Brady Bunch too. I don't care that there were never any black people in Mayberry or that the Brady's were scary perfect. They're old school shows about values, that unfortunately seem equally as old school.

So when I read the AP article about the struggle of Indie bookstores to remain an integral part of their community and the book industry, I had to take out my "Go! Go! Go!" pom poms.

Although there are still far fewer independent bookstores now than there were ten years ago, the rumors of the indie bookstore's demise are premature. The number of new indies opening are beginning to rise and those still alive and kicking are digging in their heels.

This is good news for debut authors. Often, the indie bookstore can be a close ally in the war on obscurity.

But what I really love about the indies fighting back is the integration of old school with nu school. Many indies realize they must embrace nu school methods to avoid becoming dusty old relics.

And there lies the synergy between indies and debut authors. Indies don't want to become a thing of the past and debut authors don't want their book to spiral out of print before its time.

We're both attempting to ride a wave versus being crushed by it.

While indies across the country debate whether to put in a cafe, host live music and spoken word performances, or specialize in a particular genre to keep customers returning and happy, authors (especially us newbies) ponder...

To agressively promote -OR- not.

Although the above, for me, is not a dilemma, there are some who believe that a more hands off approach to promotion is how it should be. They're not comfortable with agressive promotion, feel such a technique should be left to the glitzier creative mediums like movies and music and ultimately will do little to no promotion outside of what their publisher provides.

Ya know, write the book and let it sell itself. Old school all the way.

On the flip side are those who can't imagine leaving the success of their books solely to the whims of consumer choice. Sure, the reader may find the book. And sure, the book flap may intrigue them. But that's too many "maybe's" for me.

Both approaches have been known to work.

However, I'd like to point out that praying you don't get pregnant instead of using a condom has been known to work too. But it doesn't come highly recommended!

One of the reasons I'm pro-promotion are my own reading habits. I, like many readers am a loyalist.

If a loyalist is in the book store we're likely there to buy one of our old faithfuls, not some newbie we've never laid eyes on. If the author's name or book title hasn't entered our psyche before we enter the store it's pretty much all left up to chance, luck and good fortune.

And luck does happen.

I bought Tyrannosaur Canyon because of the blurbs. I love Michael Crichton and the blurbs all indicated that T.C. was going to be "better" than a Crichton read.

It wasn't. But it was still good.

I'd never heard of Douglas Preston before walking in the store. Bought his book. Liked it. Thinking about adding him to my list of regular authors to buy.

No idea what Preston did to market this book. Lucky for him, he didn't have to do anything except write a book that received good reviews to snag me.

So, yup, there are authors who may never actively promote and still their book sells. While others beat the pavement and flop. Vice versa on both scenarios.

I'm sure there are some indies who will refuse to do anything else but sell good books; holding fast to the literal meaning of their business, BOOKseller.

It doesn't mean they won't survive. Some have and will.

But others need to do more.

Authors, some of us need to do more. By more, I don't mean donning a costume of the book's character and standing on the street corner singing and dancing. Although, if it's a kids book that could really work.

What I mean, is author's can't be afraid to strike out on their own and toot their own horn.

For the promo shy I suggest:

1. Make school visits your friend. I was doing them before ever receiving a book deal. If you're gun shy about talking about your book, good. Don't. School visits for YA authors are about craft, our rock star lifestyles (stop laughing) and why creative writing isn't nearly as boring as academic writing. And guess what, this is promotion! Your book's name will be mentioned, you'll hand out book marks or your URL and bam, twenty-two more people in the world know you exist.

2. Flip the script. Yes, it would be totally awesome to think that having our book included in the publisher's catalog will do the trick. It may. But when your book is in a catty with fifty other books, odds are you're not standing out. Once the catalog is out, do a personalized letter or visit to those bookstores in your area/region. Exposure + Real-time Pressing the flesh = Recognition.

3. Become an expert. Is there any topic you know enough about that maybe the local media (broadcast and print) might need your services for? Reporters are always looking for sound bites and quotes. If you identify the right producer, writer, editor that will be interested in your topic, you'll gain exposure by being cited as Author of XYZ book, local source.

Relatively painless, no?


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