The Crazy Business of Book Promotion

 

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I’m just in off the road from my maiden voyage, a two-week tour of the Pacific Northwest, peddling my debut book, CRAZY.  And boy, am I full of wisdom, the kind earned the hard way by jumping in feet first and totally blind!  In no particular order, here are the nuggets, some silly and some dead serious. I’ll let you figure out which is which!

  • I have a wonderful publicist at Eerdmans who has been over-the-top helpful, but road trips like I just did are pretty much up to the author.  I didn’t count the hours that went into the planning, but I know that writing time got bumped by promotional details for six to eight weeks prior to the tour.  In other words, if you think you are going to need the help of an outside publicist, get them on board early in the game, so they can help manage the juggling act!

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  • Assuming you opt to go it alone, be prepared to be totally ignored by bookstores and libraries.  Get used to calling and/or emailing each contact (and that’s probably after having sent a postcard) at least three times.  Be sure to include clips from the best reviews, a good picture of yourself that doesn’t clog email, and a humble attitude.  Persistence pays off.
  • Dry-run the wardrobe.  It needs to travel well, feel comfortable, and be photogenic.  Be sure to wear those new shoes around the house for a couple of days to assure the comfort level you bought them for.  Always pack a back-up pair, just in case.  And consider that both the room temperature and your body temperature will fluctuate wildly during events.

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  • Anticipate the detractors, especially if your book deals with anything controversial.  Trouble shoot your title, the story line, the characters, the theme, or any other facet that might cause a reader to express negative concern.  If you have written a memoir or anything semi-autobiographical, choose your words carefully and toughen your tongue so you can bite it regularly during interviews and presentations.
  • Always bring a dish of candy, a bottle of water, extra deodorant, lots of Kleenex, a flash drive, extra cords to connect to screens, talking points, a sleeping pill if necessary, and a sense of humor.

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  • If you bring your significant other along, make sure he/she has a good book to read, some money to buy a another good book to read, good walking shoes, directions to the nearest coffee shop, an understanding of when you need his/her help and when you don’t, and a signed agreement to stay outside the recording studio during interviews!

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  • Think about and practice what you will write at the signings, keeping in mind you will have friends and strangers from all walks of life, and one phrase doesn’t fit all.

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  • Watch what you eat and keep it light before the event. Bring along your favorite antacid, headache reliever, foot powder, sanitizer, hand lotion, and massager (now this is where your significant other can really find his/her niche!)
  • Keep breathing.  It’s one of the best antidotes of fear known to man.
  • Remind yourself that this is your dream-come-true, and when you post that picture on social media, no one really has to know that you had a zero turnout.  Be prepared for it, as it WILL happen!

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Even with all the ups and downs, taking a book on the road is a trip of a lifetime.  If any other authors out there have wisdom to share, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 


Comments

The Crazy Business of Book Promotion — 16 Comments

  1. Well said, Linda. I especially like your comment about posting a photo even if only one person showed up.

    I’d add:
    1) for local as well as far away events make a sign with your picture on it and either a stand alone easel or a table top one, something to have near your table so bookstore customers don’t think you’re the information person they can ask where the architecture books are?

    2) Consider a colorful placemat, one that compliments your book cover, to set under the bookstand. Placemats travel easily in suitcases.

    3) Small props that mirror something in your story, a small doll or train or basket, for example, something to draw attention and get people to ask questions.

    4) Smile and do your presentation as if speaking to a crowd of hundreds even when only one person is sitting in the chairs. In bookstores especially, folks lurk behind book shelves, listening just the same. You never know if the one person there has the connections for future presentations and book sales.

    I once had only one mother in the audience sitting with a three-year old in her lap. I was so disappointed until I started an interactive reading of one of my children’s books, one that has music interwoven throughout the story. The three-year old knew all the words in the story and all four songs by heart. That adorable child did the entire story and songs with me. It was wonderful.

    Book promotion is crazy even when your book is CRAZY!

    Continued success Linda!

    • Sandra,

      What a wonderful wealth of info you have shared here. Thanks so much, and now I know who I should have contacted before I set out!! Hopefully others will benefit from your tips as well.

  2. What great insights, Linda! I guess it all goes with the territory and I know it’s worth it! I am more than a little surprised about the detractors, though, particularly those who are involved in the treatment of mental illness. While semi-autobiographical, the book was clearly written from your intensely personal, first hand experience dealing with mental illness in a person very close to you. Not just any person, however, but your mother who by tradition, should love you and care for you, and according to social norms, provide for you a navigational compass into adulthood and beyond. How does a child frame that situation? They don’t have the an understanding of the dark world of mental illness beyond their immediate experience or the maturity to see that world beyond how it affects them personally. A child has no ability to understand the juxtaposition of what happens in their family against what seems to happen in the families of their friends. Therefore they find a way to survive their particular reality by calling situations as they see them and describing those situations the best way they can. Those insights are not likely to be politically correct, or objective in any way. Nor are they meant to be didactic beyond helping someone else who may be in a similar situation, to feel they are not alone. This book should be taken for exactly what it is; a touching, personal, in depth description by an innocent young girl, of growing up in and navigating the “crazy” unstable world of mental illness. What it isn’t, is a commentary on mental health care, today.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Vicki. I did, in fact, have someone react to my NPR interview, because he had a negative experience in a mental hospital and was concerned that the interviewer and I were promoting the “bully mental health system.” The incident gave both him and me a chance to dialogue about the many avenues of treatment available today, and I think, in the end, it was a beneficial exercise. But I can honestly say I had not anticipated such an encounter beforehand and am that much wiser now!

  3. Good for you, Linda. I now understand the difficulties of promoting a book and can’t imagine the time and work it took to pull off that kind of trip. I wish I had gone out to California. My high school friends tried to get me to come. Thanks for sharing these experiences. One day we’ll sit together snd share stories!

    • Hi Sheri,

      Yes, it was exhausting but I’m so glad I did it (and I’m sure I will never do another trip quite like it, ha!). Yes, I will look forward to sitting down and talking for more than a few minutes one of these days. Best of luck with your writing.

  4. Love the tips, both from you and in the comments! I’m in the midst of “taking it on the road” at home and I think the worst is sitting there wondering if anyone is going to come. I read the excerpt of Crazy and it looks like a powerful book – kudos to you for tackling the subject in an accessible way, and now there’s one more on my Christmas list!

    Oh, and I grew up in SW Oregon, and while I’ve traveled all over the country with a Navy husband and we’re in the Midwest now, Oregon is still home!

  5. Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. I always love to “talk Oregon” and I’m so glad to meet another Oregonian! And thanks for the kind words about the book. I wish you success with yours, too. It sounds intriguing!

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