Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back scratching

I'm still a little high from seeing and handling the copies of my novel. It's a heady feeling seeing my name on the cover of the book, reading the acknowledgments and the dedication and seeing the cute little airplane at the end of my bio on the last page. I always believed it was real; holding the book in my hands makes it even more real. It's a feeling I hope I never lose no matter how many of my books are published. It's better than drugs and almost better than sex. Sex while holding my book and reading from it might just be the best of both worlds. Now the real work begins.

I've always believed that a writer's work ended with the finished manuscript and once it was in the hands of the printer and publicist I could go on to the next project. I'm hopelessly old fashioned in that belief. This should have happened to me when I was in my twenties and early thirties because I was more amenable to public appearances and doing stints as a carny barker. I'm not so interested in the limelight, preferring my words to take center stage while I hang out in the wings. That's not the way it works nowadays because the world is upside down and inside-out.

The mere whisper of rumor that Stephen King, David Baldacci, Stephanie Meyer or J. K. Rowling has a new book out is enough to send fans to the bookstores to camp out and line up around down the street and around the block for miles the day before the release. Online book buyers order copies well in advance of release. There is no need for the publishers to throw tens of thousands of dollars at public relations firms and publicists to promote the books. The market is there and it's a strong market. That is not so for the up and coming or mid list writers. PR dollars for their books are in short supply, and no wonder since publishers offer six- and seven-figure advances at celebrities who seldom, if ever, make back their advances and the big PR dollars go to authors who've already made international names for themselves. Who would want to miss a new book by David Eddings or Christopher Moore or the latest Harry Potter adventure, sadly now finished? That's where the upside down and inside-out focus comes in.

If publishers spent their PR dollars wisely, they would realize that the big name writers who've been selling millions of books for a few decades aren't going to be around forever and when they are gone the mid list and up and coming authors are all publishers will have left. It's only good business to look to the future and that future is in the hands of mid list and new writers, so why not spend those megabuck PR funds on promoting the next generation of writers? Put a little power behind them and publishers would have a growing list of writers who soon will be on a level with best selling authors and be the fuel that keeps the publishing engine humming at a brisk pace. There is no sense promoting authors that need no promotion and denying promotion to authors whose work is good, but needs a bit of marketing. All that is left is for authors to give up their precious writing time to promote their books if they want publishers to continue to buy their writing.

That's what I'm facing right now. L & L Dreamspell is a small publisher, but a legitimate royalty paying publisher. They don't have the budget to put on splashy PR campaigns and it's up to the authors -- to me -- to promote my books and make money for the publisher and for me. I already have a day job, review books and do critiques in addition to my writing and I don't have time for promotion and yet I have no choice if I want my book to succeed. That means contacting reviewers, bookstores, book clubs and anywhere there could be a market to publicize and sell my novel. That takes time, time I don't really have to spare if I am to keep on top of my other obligations and continue writing and editing more books to be published. There are only so many hours in the day and I do have to sleep to continue to function at a level anywhere near normal. Getting older means I need less sleep, but some sleep is still required.

I spent a good part of last night and this morning contacting reviewers and bookstores and sending out releases, scheduling chats and interviews, and doing all the things a publicist should do so I can get back to the business of writing. Something has to give. It will probably be housework and laundry because I cannot shirk my other responsibilities and stay afloat. So, I turn to you for suggestions and to help me get the word out. For those of you who are writers, what goes around comes around.

Since the publishing community has put us on the back burner in favor of the big name, best selling authors, we have to band together and promote for each other. As you promote my books, I will promote yours. Get the word out. Send links, talk about the book, get people interested. Every little bit helps. I only wish I could follow Mark Twain's lead and put books in the hands of door-to-door salesmen working on commission who will crisscross the nation selling my novel. Unfortunately, most people have "no salesmen" signs on their doors or aren't even home and they're all tired of telemarketers, and we're back to helping each other. If a couple videotaping their creative and fun dance down the aisle at their wedding, it shouldn't be too difficult to get the word out that books are not just for geeks.

Past Imperfect is already for sale at Amazon (and it's been discounted) and will be available on Kindle within the next few days. It will also be available as an e-book to download from Fictionwise on Monday, August 3, 2009 and will be available through Barnes & Noblesome time in the next few days.

Reviews help, but the only real way to make a book successful is to get the news out to the public. We don't have big publishers or their megabucks for PR, but we can go viral one writer and one book at a time. It all adds up. In the meantime, while you're scratching my back, let me know where I need to scratch yours. As always, we're all in this together.

That is all. Disperse.

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