Monday, April 11, 2011

Too Many Hats

I think I've posted before about a writer's need to be 2 persons when working on a project.  One has to be creative, uninhibited and a bit zany. That's where the ideas come from, and the solutions, when you've painted your characters into a corner.  The other must be a persnickety, no-nonsense editor, who finds the misspellings, typos and plot loopholes, and who reigns in the creative other half enough that the story stays believable.

When the project's done, even more personalities have to kick in.  You need to be an outgoing salesperson to get that manuscript under the eyes of an agent or publisher.  You need a back-pocket lawyer to assess each contract.  You need a meticulous accountant who logs receipts and knows what goes onto a Schedule C (even if you don't do your own taxes, you have to know which receipts to keep, and be able to decipher a royalty statement).

The personality I've been the last few weeks has been the publicist.  These days, even in the big publishing  houses, no one's going to put many bucks or manpower behind promotion of your works.  That is, of course, unless you're fairly famous already.  THEN they'll publicize you.  Yes, ironic that authors get too little publicity until it isn't needed anymore, but that's reality.

So writers need to do their own promotion.  In recent years, it's become easier to do this online.  First of all, you need a website, which is your homebase.  Besides author, book and short story info, you can post photos, videos, excerpts, poems, recipes, games--anything that might be fun for the readers and can be tied back to one or more books or to you personally.

Sites like Amazon, BookTour, and GoodReads now all have author pages, letting you post your bio, photos, videos, events, and a link for your blog entries.  These are like mini-billboards for your products, and can all be linked back to your website.  I like the fact that I can list my events on BookTour and have them automatically appear on my home page.

Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with fans.  You can post your events there and invite people, giving mere book signings more of a party atmosphere.  You can post photos of your covers and videos of book trailers.  You can have characters come out to play with fans.

Of course, you'll still have all the old-fashioned publicity chores--book signings/tours to organize, conventions to attend, business cards/bookmarks/postcards to have printed.  I like to bring some kind of promotional item to conventions and signings, too.  With my last novel, I passed out little pill bottles filled with M&Ms.  For DAME AGATHA'S SHORTS, I taped English toffees and butterscotch to business cards.  This year, I have mini Champagne bottles filled with bubble liquid.  Within 24 hours, the Malice Domestic Convention ought to look like the set for the Lawrence Welk Show.

So I've been working on all of these things.  When my FEAR ITSELF cover (above) showed up last week, promotion kicked into high gear.  The great thing about doing publicity--updating your online sites, seeing your cover for the first time, hearing from fans that they're looking forward to the book--is that it keeps you excited, and that means you'll carry more energy into signings and to conventions.

The bad thing is that being your own publicist takes so much time away from writing.


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