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October 26, 2005

Get Over It

Get Over It

by Susan, the Cranky Book Tart

Look, I understand the need to whine.  I can bitch with the best of them (ask my mother—she’s listened to me complain for so many years she's gotta be on the fast-track to sainthood).  But reading Elizabeth Royte’s essay, “Publish and Perish,” in the New York Times a few days ago stepped on my last nerve.  She talks about the “fleeting” excitement that writers feel upon publication of a book, fleeting because of the “tortured journey” one must take to promote, which “can only be described, in hindsight, as self-induced misery.”

So, Elizabeth.  Promoting a book is misery and torture?  No one paid as much attention to you as you’d hoped?  Oprah didn’t embrace you with open arms and let you jump on her sofa yelling, “I’m in love, I’m in love!”  Didn’t have tribes of drooling fans showing up at your every store event?

Well, boo-frigging-hoo.

Bring on the Kleenex, 'cuz I'm crying me a river.

It’s sort of like when my tiara pinches my skull and gives me a headache, and my arm gets tired of doing the beauty-queen-wave from the back of the Book Tart Mobile.  Man, it sucks, it really does.

What, my possums?  You detect a scintilla of sarcasm in my tone? 

Sigh.  You got me.

I’m no good at pretenses, so I’ll be blunt--or maybe just crabby--as usual.  What I’d really like to do after reading this woman’s essay is to grab her (and the other unhappy authors she quotes) roughly by the shoulders, shake her ‘til she’s dizzy, and say, “Lizzie, darlin', get over it.  You’re published, and you’ve got honest-to-God books on the shelves to promote.  Put on your big girl pants and deal with it.”

For Pete’s sake.

Maybe my sympathy is in short supply these days, particularly for authors with big-name publishing houses who act slighted when their realities don’t live up to their dreams.  Hey, this is the big, bad world, right?  If you’re not Donald Trump and can’t pay for the end results, you’ve gotta take what life deals you.  And sometimes it isn’t exactly what you imagined.

As y’all already know, it was years before I finally got published traditionally.  I didn’t take shortcuts (because no one cared to give me the directions, and I didn’t have any relatives in the biz to play the crony card, dammit).  And when I was finally pubbed by a small press that did 2,500 print runs of my books, I worked my ass off to sell whatever copies were out there because my publisher did nothing to help.  (And, yes, Charlaine Harris will tell you that I have no ass left.  Ask her.)

The basis for everything I know about promotion and the publishing business (like how vital distribution is above all), I learned while I was a small press author.  I had to figure out how to market my mysteries because my publisher admittedly didn’t know beans about the genre.  It was hard, hard work, and I spent more time and money publicizing AND THEN SHE WAS GONE and OVERKILL than I should have.  But I felt that I had to do whatever I could.  That might've been my only opportunity to get my foot in the door and pave the way for something more, the career I’d always wanted.

Fortunately, that work paid off. I found an agent and landed a three-book deal with Avon for the Debutante Dropout Series.  "Oh, boy," friends warned. "Look out.  You’re a paperback original author.  No one at your publishing house will lift a finger to help you sell your book."

My God, like that would scare me?  Hello? I came from being unpublished for a decade, to banging my head against the wall daily in small press hell, to getting a series deal with HarperCollins.  Nothing that would happen from that point forward could frighten me.  And I knew what I was capable of, both on the writing and promotional fronts.  (My mama didn't raise no sissy.)

So I used what I knew, and I promoted my Debutante Dropout debut, BLUE BLOOD, while the publisher made a solid effort behind the scenes to earn my book wider exposure.  I traveled like a demon, sat on panels at conventions and conferences, spoke at libraries, book fairs, schools, women’s clubs, and reading groups, anywhere they’d have me.  I’ve learned to do this promo thing year-round, too.  It’s part of my routine.  Strangely enough, I enjoy the hell out of it.  I’ve made friends across the country whom I stay in touch with, no matter if I’m touring or not.  I spend far more time emailing than I should, but, geez, gotta have a vice, right?  I’m not sure how other people handle promotion, whether some only do what their publisher arranges or if, like me, they go all-out and accept as many invitations as humanly possible (even cutting into writing time).  Or if they sit home, light a candle, say a prayer, and hope for book sales.  Whatever works, I say, so long as you smile and do any whining behind the scenes.

The point I'm trying to make, beyond the babbling, is that I take nothing for granted.  I am a published author.  I am living my dream every single day.  If you ever catch me publicly pissing and moaning about how awful it is to promote my books, please, do me a favor and kick my nonexistent ass.  Because I’ll deserve it.

I remember very vividly what it felt like to be unpublished.  To be writing and submitting and getting rejected, and having an old family friend say to me at my grandmother’s funeral, “Are you still writing?”  Like I was the most pathetic creature on the planet.

I will never forget the moment I signed my very first (yes, small press) contract, or when I held my first published book in my hands.  I still feel the same way when I see my books now, or even when I see a cover flat.  I get chills.  I grin like a total idiot. 

Perhaps, I’m odd or strange or just plain weird, but I feel privileged to be out there promoting.  I love speaking to booksellers, librarians and readers, hanging out with other writers, seeing parts of the country I’ve never seen.  It’s an unbelievable journey I’m on, and, yeah, sometimes it wears me out and I feel overwhelmed, but it sure beats the alternative. 

Cheers,

Susan

P.S.  Elizabeth, sweetie, on the off-chance that you actually read this, I do realize your essay was intended to humor, but I needed to rant about something.  So thank you for being my unwitting pin cushion.  And, um, are we still on for lunch next Tuesday?  My treat.

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Comments

I'm right there with you, Susan, having started at a small press, not to mention gay and lesbian press, I learned firsthand what "no marketing budget" meant. Also, my publishers were clueless as well. They thought that putting my book in a New Victoria catalog was enough. Geesh! Of course with the help of the photographer on my book, the ulitmate webmeister Geoff Hansen, we got tons of publicity - even CBS This Morning. Wish I could do that again.
Of course, I bitched and moaned all fall about only a handful of people showing up at Borders during my signings for SECRET LIVES, so who am I to boast. Tail between legs.

Nothing like an "attitude of gratitude" -- good for you, Susan. I enjoyed your piece this morning. Enjoy the journey!

Also, may I add, that it's a lot of fun to do your own marketing sometimes. There's nothing like seeing or hearing that spark of interest on a strange face or at the end of the other line.
As for Carla's comment - I'd enjoy the journey a lot more if I weren't worried that it ended in a 50-foot drop.
Hey - we have snow!

Sarah, you have snow? I'm so jealous! It was cold enough here this morning to have snow, but it's all blue skies right now.

Carla, I really am loving the journey. I think the fact that it took me quite awhile to get published makes me appreciate every good thing that happens all the more, and I make it a point to enjoy traveling and being away from my desk! It's the only "vacation" I get!

I love doing what I can to help my publicist at HarperCollins with publicity. I'm such a control freak that I like knowing what's going on and having a say in things (when I can). I do realize some authors are very introverted and hate promo trips for that reason. I can imagine how hard that must be, but I figure you have to find some fun in it or you will make it torture for yourself.

Susan, I also saw that article in the Times and took a big sigh and put it down. I feel incredibly lucky that my publisher has thrown some publicity my way, including a color ad in the Book Review that blew me away. I'd been hearing all those horror stories about no help on the publicity front but I really have no problem going out stumping for my book. I've met some very nice people (readers, librarians and booksellers) whom I never would have met otherwise and I've been having a ball. I, too, worked hard to get where I am and I think the low expectations do help with attitude.

Sarah, we were in Stowe this past weekend and woke up Sunday to snow. We were really happy to come home to Connecticut, where we've only had a lovely chilly rain :)

I enjoy the marketing end of the game, as well. Part of that is because my "day job" was in public relations, marketing and advertising, so that is a comfort zone for me. Since I'm my own client, I get to test all the theories I came up with over the years that I couldn't get clients to buy in on. It's like I have a big test lab for all my psychosocial experimentation.

Plus, being in promo mode is our chance to actually feel like a celebrity. I think I write the books so I can enjoy the fun of promoting them. That's the reward at the end of the struggle (not that I don't enjoy writing, but let's face it, that's hard work).

Sing it sistah! I don't regard the stuff involved promoting a book--readings, conferences and the like-- as a "tortured journey". My day job is a tortured journey. The promotion is the most fun I've ever had with my clothes on. Hanging out with readers, or, if the readers don't show up, booksellers? Lawd, Br'er Bear, don' t'row me in dat briar patch.

Karen, you hit the nail on the head. It's so important to meet the booksellers and librarians--the people who, if they like your books, will make readers aware of them--because you become a real-live person to them, not just a bio on a book jacket. It makes a world of difference, plus you'll develop great friendships in the process, ones that'll last a lifetime and go beyond the book world.

Shanna, I love the promotion, too! Which makes me feel like an oddball sometimes. It's my chance to get into pretty clothes, comb my hair, and get away from my keyboard, talk to people and make like a social butterfly. It lets me express a whole other side of my personality from the one that must sit still long enough to put a story down on 350-odd pages. I'm a PR major, so maybe that does make a difference. I like being involved, and I constantly come up with ideas for promo on the treadmill, wherever, and can't wait to share them with my editor and publicist (who doubtless think I'm a little insane, but, oh, well).

And, Dusty, I'm with you, buddy. If doing publicity for our books is a tortured journey, let the torture continue! (It feels like playtime to me, too.)

Dusty (aka JD Rhoades), just think of the publicity you could have gotten if you had done your promotion work with your clothes off ;-)

Well, Mary, now that you've put the idea in his head, maybe we can expect something, um, extra on Dusty's next tour. ;->

Book promotion is part of the job. If you don't like it, get a different job.

Granted, I can understand being tired and frustrated when no one shows up. But to complain about having to do it period? This non-author doesn't get it. I love meeting authors at books signings. I wouldn't trade getting to do that for anything.

Sarah, I thought of you when I heard reports of snow in Vermont. Glad you like it. Me? I'll take my sunny Oct. day. Although the high could get higher, if you ask me.

Mark

Yesterday, Lee Goldberg included an excerpt from the article on his blog and I responded then what I'll say now.

Oh my. I didn't realize I should be writing only for fame and fortune. I feel bad for this author. It sounds like the general expectation of what should happen once a book is published, is a bit ... well, unrealistic.

In my mind, the journeys of writing a book, of publishing a book, and of publicizing a book are three different paths that connect but are not the same. We are no longer in the age of publishing when books were the only means of entertainment. Making it much easier (generally speaking) to sell a book. We are in an age when books are one of many means of entertainment and writers need to address all areas - via publicity, via networking, via whatever means makes sense for that author and her genre.

Or I'm full of crap.

One of the two.

And since, I am currently an unpublished novice, I'm probably full of crap.

Lisa - You're not full of crap. Personally, I think the NYT is full of crap for publishing this. I mean, surely the whining about having to do publicity is an old saw, no?
Does anyone here remember the solipsistic (Barrons SAT vocabulary book vol. 23) piece in Salon by the writer - anonymous - who got "rave reviews" and then went nowhere? That was one long pity party about poor wunderkind, the undiscovered "brilliant" author. I do believe there was a bit about publicity in that, too, and how she hated doing it - didn't feel that was part of her, ahem, job description.
Oh, well.

Sarah, that's a great point. I've been on panels with authors who sincerely felt that promotion was not part of their job description, that it was completely the responsibility of their publishers. You know, maybe before there were two billion books published every year, and before the Internet, and before cable TV, and before all the things you have to do to compete these days for the public's attention...maybe it was just a different world. I think authors these days should understand that it IS part of the job to promote their books. And no one is a better advocate of his or her book than the author. It's just the way it is now, and I can't even imagine authors out there thinking, "I'll pass. It's not what I signed on for." When it could mean poor sales versus better sales. Jerrilyn Farmer once asked me, "How many books do you really think we sell through our efforts? Two thousand copies, maybe?" I'm not sure. I don't know if any of us can put a finger on what the "it" fact is that makes a book catch on. Tho' I can't imagine it doesn't increase your odds when you're putting yourself out there, doing gigs, meeting people, not knowing what might lead to something else...or something big. Like Dusty, I just plain think promotion is fun. It's another way to express my creativity, and I get a kick out of it. For those who don't, it would probably be a good idea to find something you do love about it and focus on that.

Coming in 2006:

Good Day in Hell: The Naked Tour.

I yearn to worship the spiky boots of everyone at my publisher who had the least bit of connection to funding promo opportunities next year for me. At all. I don't even care if no one shows up for said promo opportunities but one cranky homeless guy who wanted to get out of the rain and bitch about how cattle mutilations are up again, as long as I don't have to do the dishes. This is because my husband will be saving all the dirty dishes the whole time I get to tour, for me to tackle immediately after I get home. Which is about as bloody likely as me doing them immediately when I'm here, but that's another rant.

Yeah, okay, I'm sure people who have actually toured will laugh their butts off at this, but I'm serious. I also know I will get more sleep on the road (for a variety of reasons I won't depress you with here). That alone is worth my undying gratitude.

The Naked Tour, huh? Has any author ever done a book tour on the nudist camp circuit? You, Dusty, could be a pioneer.

(See, Mary. I told you so.)

Cornelia, I'm glad to know someone else sees road trips as something of a "vacation," even from washing dishes.

Cornelia - After three tours I laid down the law with my family. No. I am not coming home to a house with laundry piled up and dishes in the sink. It's like the cat pissing on the bed when you go away for a weekend.
Now I come home and the dishes are done and so's the laundry, but the rest of the house is a mess.
Susan - my only gripe is that on this latest go-round, I'm writing 3 books in 18 months and there's a lot to publicizing each one of those. I wouldn't mind if I didn't have two kids, including a teenager, at home. In fact, I'd really get into it. Like you said, or someone said, there's a bit of being the celebrity. Also, I like sales.
The family thing is awfully time consuming, though, no matter what season of the year.

Sarah, three books in 18 months? Can you borrow Harley's au pair? It's tough, I know. I always look to my buddy Charlaine for inspiration, writing two series, raising a family, active in her church, doing a couple book tours a year. This woman leads an extremely busy life, yet writes damned good novels and is a great promoter. It's hard--as I'm sure she'll tell you--but it can be done. And what can't be done for lack of time...well, hell, don't beat yourself up for it! We can only do what we can do. And it's different for everyone, obviously.

Well, I'm the Tart who's not crazy about the PR angle of this biz. I just don't have the mental stamina for both a well-done campaign *and* a completed book and a half every year. I can't do both, and I figure it's better to write a quality book than get out every weekend to plug my latest title. I know I should. I'm willing to spend the money to hire somebody to do it for me, in fact. I just don't have the time to find the right somebody! For me, the book must come first. I don't say others shouldn't do the PR thing. I'm saying I can't. Fortunately, my Blackbird series seems to sell well and continue to do so. And my publisher has sent me out a bit & done a good job of lining up events and media coverage. I just wish I had a driver.--I can't see well enough to read a map *and* those overhead signs. (Especially in Virginia! What's up with the signage there??) I'm grateful for what's done on my behalf.
N

Okay, Susan, this means war. You cannot compare me to the lovely and gracious Charlaine. I mean, hell, I have enough maternal guilt as it is every time I leave for a weekend of touring or a conference, etc. without you bringing up a fellow Episcopalian vestry member/mother/New York Times bestselling author/mystery organization leader.
I need Charlaine to fly in on Sookie's broom (yeah, I know) and save my ass here. Though, I think she has a new book out. Probably on tour.
Hey - I'm not writing and I need to clock 3,000 words today!

I've mentioned this before but, since I'm nothing if not redundant and repetative, this seems like a good time to bring it up again: I find it less than thrilling when an author I have gone to see spends the first fifteen minutes or so of his or her talk complaining about how much it sucks to be on a book tour. It can be funny, and I get that they're trying to be candid with their readers, but how are you supposed to respond to that? "Gee, I'm sorry for dragging you out here so I could listen to you talk about your work and buy your book"?
Anyway. Looks like the grumpiness is catching, or maybe it's just the weather (a lovely, drizzly day here in the Bay Area).
[Oh, and Cornelia, I know you. No, really. I'm in your writing group. Only I've been telling everyone to call me Marjorie for some silly reason. Possibly because it's my name.]

And here I was looking FORWARD to promoting my book. A tortured journey?

Imagine having to hang out with people who like to read and are interested in what you have to say because you're a writer. All torture should be as sweet.

I come from the movie business and, thanks to the entertainment shows, most movie watchers think the actors and directors make up all the lines themselves. Writers? Who needs 'em.

Daisy - I forgot to tell you that the commandments you came up with for my blog were Awesome! Man, if you can knock those off just like that, I can't imagine what the rest of your writing must be like.
Rob - Touring is fun. Really.

Rob, you will have a blast! Trust me! Looking forward to meeting you somewhere along the book trail. (Maybe we'll even catch Dusty on his Naked Book Tour...he should be easy to spot.)

Sarah, I would never compare you to Charlaine! She has a duck named Spigot, and you don't. So you'll have to adopt a quacker before I can do that.

Daisy, you're in Cornelia's critique group? Now that's a group I'd love to drop in on and just fill-up my ears!

I agree the author has to promote, who else is going to do it? I get the long days on the road, bouncing from one city to the next, away from your families, suffering jetlag, and trying to remember what state you have been dropped into, hoping you are on the right flight. Yes, I've done it before, not book touring, just business meeting and conventions lined up back to back.

I hate to travel, and I really hate to fly, but if I were fortunate enough to take the dictionary and arrange the words into a story that can grab someone's attention and get published, well, I'd be out there talking to anyone that would stand still for a few minutes. Hard to say what the sales numbers are from book signings, conferences and talking to people, but there's also that word of mouth thing that you just can't track. I have a new appreciation for authors after reading this Blog.

There are other evil factors screwing up your sales, namely the bookstores that should be promoting and selling, gasp, books!

Last night, I was apparently suffering from memory loss about pass experiences from B&N, and decided to hit them up for a few books. Namely, Sarah's Secret Lives, Harley's Dating books, Susan's Debutante Mysteries, and Nancy's Blackbird Mysteries. I have only read Sarah's books in the past, but wanted to get books by the rest of you as I've enjoyed this Blog so much. See, self-promoting does work, I found three new authors here that I'm anxious to read.

Now for the extremely frustrating part. Couldn't find Sarah's book anywhere, um hello? Best sellers list, they got to have them somewhere, (Bubbles I found). No books by Nancy, Harley or Susan either. Oh, come on this has got to be a joke. I searched in every section, literally, except travel and audio, but nothing. I gave up and asked someone for assistance, a mistake that almost cost him his life.

I asked where Sarah's book might be located, and the barely out of high school aged genius replied, he's never heard of her, so I must have the name wrong, or she's not a published author. Jaw clenches and visions of picking him up and dropping him on his head are very vivid. I replied with, She's on your stores best seller list, so yes, I'm sure I got the name right. Do you think you could go over to the computer and look it up for me? He grumbles and stomps over to the computer with me behind him looking for a large heavy hardback to smack him with, but I resisted. He hovers over the computer and I attempt to spell Strohmeyer, but he ignores me, and I can see him type in stomayr. 'Nope, nothing, you should check again.' He grins at me like I'm an idiot, and I think War and Peace will leave a nice mark on him. A few attempts to get him to listen and spell, and another employee shows up to 'help'. She informs me he knows all of the authors in the store, and if he hasn't heard of this author, she just doesn't exist. I inform them not to move, (demanded in truth) and retrieved several Bubbles books from the shelf to show them. They were still there, huddled around the sacred computer, as if I might learn some covert code to sink the store into the oblivion if I get a look at the screen. The response from him, I'm sure, would've been considered justifiable homicide if I would've acted at that precise moment. "So if you found the books then why are you asking where they are located?"

I gave up and walked away, knowing anything I said next would probably make him and her cry. I was afraid to ask for any other authors, knowing it would result in the very least, a body on the floor, and jail time for me. I wasn't going to give up though, one of the books I was seeking has to be in this mess disguised as a book store.

So Sarah, my Pitt Bull tenacity paid off, and I found the book on the bottom shelf of the display marked New in Fiction, when you come through the door, I missed it the first time, because it was partially hidden by other books. Nancy, I did find the first in the Blackbird Mysteries, after scanning the mystery section intently. You were located between Mc and Me authors. The best part was when I found the second book, as I went to the next section of bookshelves, stuffed between authors beginning with Mi, right in the middle, not one book, but eight total. Two Murder Millionaire, and six Dead Girls. Sadly I couldn't find any books by Harley or Susan under any letter of the alphabet, and I did look hard for them. I did, however rearrange the books to the proper place on the shelves, and put Sarah's book on the top of the display, and shelved a few in the fiction section, and in the mysteries section by the Bubbles series. I probably saved that kid's life by doing this, as the next reader might've taken him out.

If B&N has switched to a different alphabet code, I wish they would share with the rest of us. So many books were out of order, it was scary. The signs on the shelves assure the consumer the books are arraigned in Alphabetical Order, but it doesn't state which language they base their alphabet on.

This gives you an example of what you are up against with some of these places, and it is a pathetic story in my opinion because books are their lively hood. Now I have to go to Amazon to order the books. I try not to use Amazon and support the community, but at least at Amazon I can fumble around and find what I'm looking for with minimal challenges, and no smug sales people looking to die.

My apologies for running over at the mouth and keyboard, but I wanted you to know what other nasty factors may screw up your book sales.

Sarah, even though it was a hassle to find, I'm enjoying Secret Lives, so it was more than worth the hunt. Claire is becoming my new hero!

Nancie! I'm sorry you had to go through all that. If it's that tough for folks to find books they want in local stores, it's no wonder so many order online now and have books delivered to their doorsteps. I've been told by my publisher that folks who've run out of stock of BLUE BLOOD and THE GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER (unless otherwise motivated) won't likely reorder until the third book in the series comes out late in January. Doesn't even matter if the books have sold well for the chain, or even for their particular store, but that's just the way it goes because of limited shelf space. Anyway, I feel awful they put you through that. Finding books you want at your area stores should be a pleasure, not a pain in the ass. Did you eat some chocolate when you got home?

Geesh Nancie - we hear stories like that all the time. We LIVE stories like that all the time. The thing is, how many readers are willing to go through what you just went through? Thanks for being such a star.
And New in Fiction is supposed to be a plumb spot. Being an "S" I often get shelved at the bottom, though.
Thank you, though, for pushing to find our books and for rearranging! If you email me which BN it was list, I'll send them some bookmarks.

Yes, Nancie, thank you from me too. Hell, I'll SEND you my books, just for going through all that. Is it possible that B&N has in fact switched over to the International Phonetic Alphabet, or maybe the Cyrillic Alphabet?
Also, may I say I'm with Sarah & Cornelia on this one: the first thing I do, when I get home from tour things, is clean the kitchen. Even when they "clean" it, it's not really clean. But I try to do it in the dead of night, so as not to hurt anyone's feelings.

Boo-freakin-hoo? ROTFLOL. I love it. People who whine because they are published should be publicly flogged in the town square! Jeez, life could be a whole lot worse. Time for a reality check Elizabeth.

Nancie-you go girl. Tell those flunkies at B&N that they know nothing! This is why I like Amazon, no flunkies. Teehee

Update: I have a B in the Anatomy & Physiology class and, get this, a 93% in my math class! Woohoo! I am not yet brain dead despite my 43 years of life, my 19 yrs of marriage and my two teens. I feel pretty good with the B as half the class flunked the big exam!!!

Rock on ladies!

Nancie, if you ever want to join my Street Team, let me know..... :)

Jerrilyn Farmer once asked me, "How many books do you really think we sell through our efforts? Two thousand copies, maybe?"

But there are more things to factor in then one book signing. For example, I bought Jerrilyn's first book when her fourth had just come out because of a book signing she did. I read it six months later, and immediately went out and bought the other three. So she might not have sold that many from that particular book tour, but I have not bought every one of her books and have steered friends to her books. So what she told on one book tour is only part of the story.

Similarly, I actually read Harley's first book because she had a second coming out and I wanted to know if I should buy it/get it signed. I loved it and bought the second. I recently read a book by another author because she was going to be back in the area for a signing on her second book. (I only buy one book by an author until I try them.) Now I know about her books and can recommend them as well.

The moral of the story: if you want me to buy and read your books, plan an annual pass through Southern CA so I can collect your books autographed. :)

Mark

Sarah- Thanks! It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're trying to avoid making your powerpoint slides.

Susan- I just joined the group, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that you're welcome to drop by any time. Well, any time that happens to be in the evening on alternate Mondays.

You go, Janice the Brilliant! I know I speak for all the Tarts in saying we're so proud of you!

Nancie, ditto what Harley said. After all that, I'll send you a book, girl!

Daisy (aka Marjorie the Minister of Manolos), where do you meet exactly? Is it anywhere near St. Louis??? I'm thinking not. But I may drop in sometime anyway. You never know.

Well, on a cosmic scale Berkeley and St. Louis are essentially the same place. In practical terms, not so much. But you'll definitely be welcome the next time you're in town.

Ya know, I saw this brilliant idea on tv while my husband had control of the clicker and we were watching poker ... (yeah I know). They showed players complaining about losing a hand badly (from their POV) and no one really cared so these two guys set up a table and for $2.50 they would listen to the sob stories. Brilliant! I dibs the idea for authors.

Susan, I just don't get it. I've been on both sides of the retail industry, buyer and sales person. You can't sell what you don't have, and if it sells through, you order more. The math is very simple. Limited space I understand, but is it really that important to have nine copies of every Steven King Book published? Not knocking King, just making an observation. I do like his books. The amount of business lost because they adopted the Cyrillic Alphabet as Harley pointed out. If they don't see it, they leave, fearing the goober who knows all authors to 'help' them. You have to wonder though if they will continue to hunt for the book elsewhere, or just skip it altogether? I wish I had answers for that, but I don't. I did treat myself to Haagen Dazs Almond Hazlebut Swirl Ice Cream, damn those sweet pimps. Yep, it contains chocolate.

Sarah, e-mailed you the B&N location. Good luck with that. I've pondered going back there today and fixing all the books.

Harley and Susan, this wasn't a plea for your books, just a moment in time of a frustrated reader that gets excited when I get my hands on a novel. I seriously appreciate the offer from both you, that's above and beyond. I still plan on buying the books, so no worries there. Pitiful little sales people can't stop me, HA.

Rob, okay I'm curious, what is a Street Team, and does it involve heavy artillery?

This Blog rocks, and I'm so glad I found it!

I REALLY dibs this idea. :)

Okay, in that last post, it was supposed to be Hazelnut, not Hazlebut. Yeesh! And I had an incomplete sentence, or thought rather. Emergency interruptions (really non-emergency, but explain that to people, yea right), and not proof reading will get ya every time.

'The amount of business lost because they adopted the Cyrillic Alphabet as Harley pointed out.' Should've contained, this on the end. 'Is another factor you have to consider as killing your sales.'

Another author who had a book released Tuesday is also feeling the pain of readers not being able to find the book, and had only 12 copies of her latest release at a book signing she did Tuesday evening.

People need to wake up out there, and pay attention to this ugly trend; by people I mean buyers (not readers), the storeowners, and the publishers. Hello, you can't make money if you don't support the very people that write the books, without them, you are nothing.

You, the authors, can only do so much with everyone working against you, so I'm even more impressed by the extreme measures all of you go through to get your books in my hands. If any of you want to give me a list with names and addresses, I’ll go smack a few people around for ya!

PK, that is hilarious! I think we should definitely do that for authors. We could make a bundle!

Nancie, you're right. It is hard sometimes, when you can start to feel like things are working against you; but I try to look at all the things going right. And there are lots of those, too. It's tougher with some of the chain stores, as the staff tends to change a lot more frequently than at the indies. Thank heavens for indies (and chains) that have competent, knowledgeable staff who are there, year after year, so you get to know them and they get to know you...and they do work hard to keep your books in stock and make customers aware of them. It's a bummer that every store can't be like that. Did you read Tess Gerritsen's blog where she talked about stock signing in Hawaii after VANISHED came out? And half the stores had no clue who she was. It's crazy.

Yes, I should mention no offense to any of the stores that are doing whatever they can do to get the books into their customers hands The comments were not meant for them, or the publishers or buyers that do everything in their powere to promote sales and awareness. There are some really great stores out there, just none by me, bummer.

Focusing on the things that work is the best way to find more avenues for other things that work to get your name and books acknowledged. Wasn't trying to jump on a soapbox here, but I am just amazed at how little support you are receiving from the industry that profits from your books. Mind boggling to the extreme. I'm no expert in the PR game, but it seems to me, after reading comments posted on this Blog over the past several months, the best source for gaining new readers, are your current readers. Do the four of you agree of disagree with my observation?

Confession here, this is the only blog I read, and I so look forward to it everyday, no matter which one of you is writing.

That blows my mind about Tess Gerritsen, but I imagine all of you go through that at some point. That had to be a disappointment for her, and authors all over. I read her books too, and enjoy them.

What are the answers, not sure. Wish I had them though, but for now I'll put the soapbox away. I've got Secret Lives to read, so that'll keep me out of trouble for a little while.

Nancie, you can stand on your soapbox whenever you please. You made some very valid points--and it is one of the most frustrating things for a writer to hear that a reader can't find her books at the local bookstore (particularly if the employees act like ninnies and don't offer much help...yeesh). I just tend to look at the glass half-full, so I'm kinda the Pollyanna of the group. If I didn't have a positive attitude, I hate to think of how this business could've gotten to me by now. But I'm doing pretty dang well for myself at this point, and I feel fortunate (also feel like I've worked hard for everything I've gotten).

And, yes, I agree with you. Word of mouth is one of the best--if not THE best--means of selling a book. When one reader tells another, "You have to pick this book up...it was great," that's priceless! We appreciate it immensely. Like that old shampoo ad about, "You tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on." It really does work.

Finally, how cool that we're the only blog you read! I feel honored, truly. Hope we keep you amused, entertained and thinking for a long time to come, chica! We love having you here, that's for sure.

And speaking as a reader, ahem, you hate the horrid exhausting tedios work of publicizing your book, Stay the hell HOME. Sheesh. I mean, look guys, I REALLY do know it's tiring, and fun though I think hotel rooms ARE, I can imagine it gets just to be too much. You have to be ON all the time, someone forgets to meet you at the airport, the bookstore goes "who?" I mean like everyone, I've heard the stories. BUT DEAR GODS. Whining about having to publicize your book? Show of hands - how many of us know JUST how tough it is to get published to begin with? We've all seen those reports of HOW many manuscripts are out there, HOW many agents, WHAT percentage actually see print. And HOW few writers even GET to go out on tour? HOW many don't even see the inside of a bookstore for a signing?
I know there are really shy private writers out there for whom touring is difficult. I know that talking about your book and dealing with some of the inane questions has got to get on your last nerve. I know that you really wish you could just be HOME for one night and not have to deal with room service and signing your name again and again.

but yeah, boo friggin hoo. You're a published AUTHOR in America in 2005. Why aren't you out there celebrating how lucky you got. DON'T get me wrong fora second guys - I KNOW it's talent and not luck; but the luck comes in the form of SOMEONE paid attention, someone GOT what you were saying, someone fought for your book with their boss, that sort of thing. WE all know good writers who got dropped - you think they'd trade with this poor tortured soul to be able to be back in print and doing publicity?

Back in '94, a writer who shall remain unnamed wrote a review of a convention I worked on, whining about how all the writers just detested having to deal with fans and how they hid out trying to avoid those horrid autographing sessions. The article appeared in a British newspaper and I went ballistic and wrote a scathing response. I was offended, not just on my own account - as a convention runner and fan who likes getting books signed, but on behalf of all the authors who if not cheerfully at least didn't bitch about what an awful torturous job it was that they had. Give. Me. A. Break. Next time? Write the damn thing and stick it in a drawer. There, now you have the FABulous awareness of your own brillance and no one's gonna make you go out there and publicize it.

Think that'll work for her?

Andi, if I could forward that to Elizabeth Royte, I would. I think you covered all the bases. Too bad we can't get your rebuttal in the New York Times. Dang it.

Ahhh, Nancie. You've described the Big Box/Barn nightmare perfectly.

I am an absolutely loyal Independent Bookstore buyer - but I know we're lucky in Pittsburgh to have the Mystery Lovers Bookshop. Forget Amazon - you can order from MLB online - www.mysterylovers.com and help preserve our independence (cue fireworks).

Now, here's a great idea for Halloween. Under the category of Tricks: go into one of these book barns, find a snooty clerk (not a young one - they don't know better yet) and keep at them until they cry. I'm excited about this plan. Perfect time in the lunar cycle for it, too.

P.S. As a reader, I certainly respect and understand that not all authors like to travel and do the Tour thing.

But if you DO choose to do it, for the love of all that is good, do NOT bitch about it at the damn book signing. Makes me feel like I've been jacked, and, like everyone else, I've got better things to do.

Susan, I would agree that you have worked hard at this business, along with your three Blogging Buddies. I have been laughing myself silly reading this Blog, it is so much fun. The guest Bloggers are also a blast to read, and the comments are just a riot. I went through all the back archives, and finally caught up to you four the other day, but it was worth it! It was like reading a huge novel of short stories, informative, funny, exciting and sometimes sad. Bummer about Stripe, losing a pet is always hard. Max is adorable though, and looks like he'll give you a lot of love and some grief as kittens are known to do.

Kathy, thanks for the link, I'll certainly check out Mystery Lovers for my books. I would rather keep it local and support the indies, but no one is close enough to me. I do like your plan about following one of the Big Box workers around until they cry, and I'm stressed enough tonight to form a plan of action.

I am so very late to commenting to this thread, but I loved reading this topic and the comments. You guys rock.

Like Rob, I know I'll be thoroughly excited to tour, whatever that may be. And no matter what St. Martins does, I plan on adding my own tour dates and funny things to do to generate interest. In fact, the whole time I've been working on the book, I've been trying to learn as much as publicity as I can (having no real clue about the field before) and what all I can do. I have a website for the book and kind of a nutty take on that angle, and I've got several ideas ready to propose to St. Martins once the book is turned in.

I always feel like I'm behind the curve on this publicity thing, though. I know I'll learn a lot by going through it, but I'd love to form up teams or something. (Like, if any of you guys swing through the south, anywhere near here, I'd help you get the word out, etc.)

I can understand that some people are terminally shy (I am so far at the other end of the spectrum, it's crazy), but geez, I can't imagine complaining about having to do PR. Sure, it's probably tough and I know there will be plenty of disappointments, but the fact is, I'm getting paid to sit in my big fat leather chair and make up stuff while I watch my husband go out in awful heat or freezing cold to build stuff, or watched my mom as a secretary for years, or my dad drive a truck for very long hours. This is a dream job, and whatever hard work it takes to promote? Sign me up. Hard work doesn't scare me one whit.

Toni, once you've promoted your first book, you'll have a very good feeling about what to do for your next one. You can cut out what didn't work (and what wasted time and money), and home in on what worked the best for you. But there's nothing like getting out there and meeting booksellers, librarians and readers...it's the best thing you can do for yourself and your books. I think it's a dream job, too!

Nancie, how fun that you went back and read us from the beginning! I wish I could put all the columns in a book someday, or at least our favorites, because they're so varied and crazy! I think we're lucky in that the mix of the four of us just clicked in a very good way, even though we're all different and so independent-minded. Anyway, glad to have you--and everyone else--here! We sure enjoy it (both writing the columns and the rapport!).

LOL on worrying about a 50-ft. drop at the end of the journey. I have a similar reaction to Julia Cameron when she says "leap and the net will appear." I know what she's getting at, but I can't help but think of those nets they throw over people to haul them off...

hi,

just wanted to say that as a publicist at a big house, i think that every author should read this essay.

i didn't think elizabeth was complaining; rather, i believe this essay was meant to be a tongue and cheek address to the grandiosity of authors and the inevitable deflation of expectations. and yes, every author does eventually ask his or her publicist "what about oprah."

thanks.

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