Sunday, May 23, 2010

Funny Business

Gabriella Herkert
Catnapped and Doggone

Do I like doing all the marketing and social networking required to be a successful modern author? At first I thought this question was rhetorical. I am, after all, s socially-inhibited introverted troll who needs a week of rewrites and an editor to sling a pithy comeback. I write in my pajamas sporting Don King bed head. I see my neighbors crossing the street to walk their dogs (which I somehow fail to causally connect with the evil laugh I am rehearsing to resolve the onamotapaiec challenge in my next scene) and instinctively cast them in the role of stalked prey. That this intellectual leap on my part is readily identifiable and will rationally lead them to mention me as the pj psycho to their police officer brother-in-law eludes my native intelligence. Turns out, that blind spot is located where my marketing gene should be.

Now, not all authors suffer from my genetic dysfunction. Some of the non-fiction authors, for example, are relentless self-promoters and it has lead to fame and riches. Yes, Ann Coulter, I am talking about you. I may not agree with her about, well, anything, but I recognize that she knows and is willing to do anything to sell her books. Her editors and publishers probably adore her. She makes herself available to huge crowds and there isn’t a microphone she won’t lunge for. Even if I could fake that enthusiasm, I wouldn’t. My numbers aren’t as big and I’m sure there are business people who would tell me to check my personal issues at the door, but then my idea of marketing may not match the textbook definition.
Gabi’s marketing 101 is to remember why I write in the first place and not forget it when the business side takes center stage. I want people to read my books. I want to entertain. I want to challenge. I want to open the door for anyone willing to overlook my innate anti-social writerness and felony fashion choices to engage with me. Whether it’s on the internet, at a conference or at my dentist’s office, I’m not marketing to potential readers. I’m talking to them. Not to them, with them. I like to hear what they think about my books even if it’s not religious devotion to my point of view. My marketing technique may not lead to action figures or fast-food tie ins, but then my potential readers aren’t marketing targets. They’re would-be friends of mine and my characters. I once asked one of the staff at Seattle Mystery Bookshop why then never went to the conferences. His answer was he couldn’t find a recommend a new author to someone he didn’t know and would never get a chance to know. How could he do his job if he couldn’t build a long-term relationship? There’s a reason that bookstore played such a big role in putting both of my releases on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association best seller list. They never think of it as marketing. They think of “the necessary evil” as a chance to make new friends and to share their loves, their passions and their adventures from the comfort of their arm chairs. I’ve adopted their approach as my own and when I focus on that, the business number crunching and personality challenging stresses recede. I would gladly hire someone to do the paperwork, to keep the website up, to send press releases and organize signings but in the end, despite my personal need to hide in my room and write, I need to be the one there, present, to have the conversation that will lead to the lifelong friendship and support that readers offer so generously.

Social networking is a little different. I’m a technophobe. My website has had rheumatism for more than a year. People actually look for my picture (I am so not photogenic) on Facebook and tweeting still sounds like something I shouldn’t mention in mixed company. It is a way to reach a lot of people to let them know you are out there in the universe but if there’s a way to genuinely connect that way, I can’t seem to lay my hands on the manual. Then again, I am working on a YouTube video trailer. It may never come to anything but it gives me a rationale for trying to get my dog Koko to remember her lines and hit her marks. I don’t see an Oscar in her future. The blog is different. I met a bunch of new people here who take time to send me emails and comment on these posts. There’s something magical about that. It’s almost like standing in the doorway to my troll cave and yelling ‘Is there anybody there?’ With the blog, someone always seems to yell back. I’m not offended if it’s only ‘Shut up. Can’t you see I’m reading?’

I hope you are.



Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Yea, Gabi! I think you pulled this out of my head and that of more authors than anyone is willing to admit.
Giggles and Guns

Bill Cameron said...

I LOL'd when you referred to Ann Coulter as a non-fiction writer.

Gabi said...

Brain extraction does sound a little like me. I think it's more a case of we've all caught the marketing "bug" and haven't found a vaccine -- YET. Thanks for stopping by.

Gabi said...

It's funny but I laugh harder calling her a writer whatever the qualifier.

Jen Forbus said...

What a great post, Gabi! This is exactly what wins me over as a reader. There are so many great books out there in the bookstores. So, when the author of a great book makes a personal connection with me, THAT'S what gets me to buy and stick around. Plus, I, too, have made friends through those connections. Now granted, I'm not on Robert Crais' Xmas card list, but the fact that amid all this fans, he would remember me by name and where we met after meeting me just once...that's huge to a fan! HUGE!

I'm just like you, Gabi...that introvert. But it's amazing what a difference it makes when you're surrounded by people who genuinely enjoy talking with you and spending time with you. It makes a difference, so keep up the good work!

Kelli Stanley said...

Gabi, you enrich my every Sunday, and I'm proud to call you friend. Loved the post! :)

And I will now make it a mission to photograph you at B'con, because I think you are totally photogenic!!


Meredith Cole said...

Very hilarious! And I like what you say about blogging. It can create real connections with people and provoke actual conversations. I think FB has that potential, too, but very likely the brevity keeps it a bit too shallow for us novel writers...

Gabi said...

I'm with you about so many books, so little time. It's so much better when the author becomes someone you can imagine pulling out his or her hair while trying to make you laugh or cry. Those are the people you put on your calendar for their next release date.

Gabi said...

I can agree to one of those out of focus papparazzi shots with my hand over my face. Or better yet, one for Jen with my nose stuck in City of Dragons -- which I happen to be reading now.

Gabi said...

We can practice our editorial skills on Facebook -- as soon as I figure out how to get to my own wall. Direction has never been my long suit.

Shane Gericke said...

"It’s almost like standing in the doorway to my troll cave and yelling ‘Is there anybody there?’ With the blog, someone always seems to yell back. I’m not offended if it’s only ‘Shut up. Can’t you see I’m reading?’"

This is a GREAT line, Gabi. And the rest of your post was so dead-on. Marketing needs to know its place, and should be kicked soundly when it starts thinking it's more important than it is.

Anyone else think we need Gabi photos????