Showing posts with label book publicity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book publicity. Show all posts

Keeping Our Spirits Up for the Good of Our Writing Careers

The Best of Times, Not the Worst

Keeping Our Spirits Up 

I was excited to be given an honorary membership to a site designed to help writers keep their spirits up in spite of Murphy’s Law, Writer’s Block and all the other boogeymen we writers have convinced ourselves are out there. I know I wasn’t so chosen to go on the forum to complain about my down days, but the brilliant (truly!) site owner had no idea that “no moaning” is my modus operandi on the rare occasions I feel stuck.

No, it’s my grandmother’s Wedgewood sugar bowl. On the rare occasions I begin to ruminate on the time I frittered away between the time I knew I wanted to write and the time I got busy focusing on it, I go to that sugar bowl where I’ll find dozens of scraps of paper. Some scraps are unreadable, but I’ll always find one or two that I scribbled on long ago that pull me out of my funk. They may include an image I didn’t want to forget or an improbably idea for a story or book. Sometimes I don’t find anything all that useful in the moment, but I always find myself smiling or laughing out loud at myself.  Once, I found enough images to write what poets called a “found poem; ” that poem eventually worked its way into a chapbook I published with another upper in my life who partnered with  me on the Celebration Series of poetry chapbooks. An Aussie (seems Aussie’s are always uppers!), Magdalena Ball runs a review site (, and always seems ready to collaborate on some misery-fighting project. 

I have a ton of other such antidotes for any mood that aims to defeat me. I have never felt compelled to visit to a therapist or a psychiatrist, but I wouldn’t rule that out if necessary. I address some of those techniques in my first how-to book for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter. It includes sections on overcoming fear of marketing, fear of success, and fear of failure so I go back to my own book when I begin admonishing myself about what I might have achieved if I had started publishing earlier.

I bring a background as publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to my practice of staying pretty jolly and focused. Having other careers has helped. When we bring a whole slew of life's experiences to a new pursuit, we can feel secure much more quickly. That's something I keep reminding myself of, too. Years of retailing, as an example, helped me figure out how to market my first novel when my first small publisher failed miserably at that pursuit so it wasn’t the struggle to switch gears it might have been otherwise. 

My biggest hurdle was related to a recognized problem that psychologists sometimes call the “I’m-Not-Good-Enough” syndrome. With "only" a bachelor's degree and some study overseas, I did feel insecure about reaching out to the academic community. A man at a party encouraged me not to let that hold me back, assured me that UCLA would be interested in me as an instructor because they often take experience rather than solely academic credentials into consideration. That was how I started with my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers which I needed to teach marketing to writers back in the early 2000s (most marketing books were written for businesses and marketers in those days!). Though I don't remember that mentor's name (maybe I never knew it?), I will be forever grateful to him. I am here today—and was maybe chosen to be part of this authors-aid site-- because I like the whole "pass it forward" idea--no matter the industry. And I firmly believe we are never so darn smart we can't learn from both newcomers and old-timers. 

So you want to know about this miracle site. Here’s the sad part: This site didn’t take off. Authors can’t use it to share and encourage one another. I hate the old saying, “There is more than one way to skin a cat!,” (disgusting, isn’t it?), but it is a truism. And sometimes a sad event leads to reexamining other possibilities, other opportunities and other says to look at downers.

So, yeah. I can take a minute to feel sad, but lots of social networks, writers’ associations, really texty—you know, dry and boring, based on principles and not real experience. And mostly not for writers. That wasn’t a downer. It was an opportunity.
and educational programs that might otherwise be thought of as support groups are out there. All are filled with people willing to share—rather like a therapy group. That’s sort of why I was determined to teach a class in marketing for writers back in the day, so determined I overcame my fear of academia with a little encouragement from the gentleman I met at that party. That lead me to writing a “text” for the first class. The texts on public relations and marketing I found were 

That experience turned into my multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. It includes both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter 
and The Frugal Editor and How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.  (I hate seeing authors spend money on stuff they can do better than anyone they hire!). In the case of the winningest book in the series, The Frugal Editor,I hate to see authors assume that an editor assigned to them from a big publisher is always in a better position to make choices than they are!

Most of all, I believe that the best way to keep our spirits up is reveling in the successes of others and learning from failures. We can be there for one another. This is not a competition but a sharing experience. Forget the negative words. There is a way to succeed in a notoriously difficult field. This is the best time for that. We can take control of our own futures better than ever before! 

Just know you are not alone. 

And make yourself an equivalent of my antique Wedgwood sugar bowl.


Case Study: Failed Star-Studded Book Promotion

A Case Study: Determining What Went Wrong to Get the Future Right
This is a case study from the last decade that still holds some lessons for writers today.

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter

Once upon a time, way back in the last decade, author and researcher Sylvia Ann Hewlett's publicity predicament illustrated to the world of books what we authors suspected all along: Huge amounts of publicity surrounding a release don't necessarily translate into massive sales figures.  In fact, the result of a major publicity coup could turn out to be the most bitter dose of rejection we ever encounter. That may be true even when the publicity is the stuff of which dreams are made-in Surround Sound and Technicolor.

It is reported (variably) that Hewlett’s Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children sold between 8,000 and 10,000 copies. Many authors would be ecstatic with sales figures that look like that but everything is relative. Talk Miramax paid a six-figure advance for this title and projected sales in the 30,000 range for hardcover alone. Considering expectations for the book, the figures do appear dismal.

Therefore, smart people in the publishing industry searched for reasons for its less than stellar performance, especially with the kind of publicity this book received and I mean biggies like Time magazine (the cover, no less),"New York" magazines, "60 Minutes," "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," and "NBC Nightly News" lined up behind this book, for heaven's sake. Even Oprah's magic book-sale-wand was not effective.

Hewlett’s book made great news! It warned young career women that they have been mislead by petri dish miracles reported in the press. She pointed out that women have come to believe that they can put conception after career and be reasonably sure they can have still have both. She attempts to exorcise that notion in Quest.

So, just what did go wrong?

The title is not scintillating, many said, nor is its cover. Those in the know wondered if that influenced book sales. But that’s a huge burden to put on bookcover or title choice under the circumstances.

My 37 year-old-daughter who had just returned to college to embark on a career in anthropology suggested that women don't want to hear the dreadful news. She says, "I just flat out don't want to hear this bad news in the middle of something rewarding, exciting and new! Why would I slap down the price of a book to get depressed?" Another unmarried friend who is also caring for an aging mother said, “I wouldn’t buy it. What am I supposed to do with that kind of information once I have it?”

All this searching for answers may reap results, may help publicists and publishers and authors determine cause and effect so that this syndrome can be avoided in the future-or not.

I figure that all this soul-searching and hullabaloo is misdirected. As an example, the media that chose to feature my novel may not have been as stellar, the publisher not as dazzling, the expectations not as astounding. But when I spend a half hour being interviewed by a host syndicated on more than 300 radio stations and do not see the figures on Amazon rise even an iota the next day, I get this inkling that it is not all that unusual for a book to languish in spite of the tumult that surrounds it.

When my novel won its third award or was honored by my publisher for sales and I still did not see evidence of my title on the LA Times bestseller list, I have to assume that sales are not necessarily affected by such news. The rejection feels every bit as tangible as a polite “Not Quite Right for Us” message.

Of course, my book is a novel and Hewlett's is nonfiction. That alone could account for a discrepancy between what results in sales and what doesn't.  This kind of convoluted reasoning allows me to sit back on my laurels and say, "That's the way the ball bounces." This kind of examination is no more fruitful that those exercised by Hewlett’s publisher and publicists.

Even Hewlett says, "I don't know what to make of this absence of huge sales." One can see her shaking her head in disbelief. If someone with her research skills can't figure it out, can anyone? It may be the economy, stupid. Or retailing. Or the book biz. It's surely something completely out of the author's control unless someone had thought to run the idea by a focus group of career women the age of the book’s expected audience.

But there are more lessons to be had. I think the most valuable lesson that can be learned with this kind of rejection—any kind, really—is that it is not personal, and that it does pay to search for the lesson. For me the lesson is that I must keep the faith. I must keep writing and keep publicizing, because if I don't, I’ll never know if I gave my book—or my career—the best possible chance at success. If I don't see direct or immediate results and my faith should slip just a tad, I don't have to feel too bad. Thanks to Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

This Is the Place was published. It is my first novel and the one that taught me a whole lot about book marketing as opposed to general marketing. It is now out of print and only available using Amazon’s new and used feature. There are at least two more lessons in this latter day situation: 1. Because of the Internet and online bookstores, books can stay alive much longer than they once did. 2. Authors who are more interested in readership than selling books will find it easier to persist through the ups and downs of publishing and eventually build a writing career. Find my HowToDoItFrugally series of how-to books for writers at

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