Friday, February 10, 2017

Face to Facebook

How do you get yourself and your books noticed by the public? We hear that many publishers aren’t doing much PR anymore. How do you stand out from the crowd?

by Paul D. Marks

Set your hair on fire, borrow Lady Gaga’s meat dress, wardrobe malfunction. All of the above. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Everyone earlier this week had so many great things to say, I hope I have some new ones as well as maybe re-hitting some of the previous things in my own inimitable way, especially as this was written before I saw this week’s posts. But great minds and all of that...

In a sense you’re not just a writer anymore but a small publishing/PR company of your own, even if you’re with a major publisher. The big publishers push the big authors—you know, the ones who don’t really need it, like Stephen King, Anne Rice, Sue Grafton and John Grisham. But you and your little book, whether you’re pub’d by a major, a small publisher or an indie, and who could really use a push, well you’re on your own for the most part. But you can do it. It just takes time, effort and a little money. But not nearly as much money as ad campaigns used to take when your only outlets were print, radio and TV.

So, as much as many writers like to disengage from the world, you have to engage, at least to some extent. Sometimes in person. Sometimes online.

Face to Face:

Be part of the community. That can happen in a variety of ways.

There are bookstore (and other) signings and panels and interviews to do. The problem with signings is that it’s sometimes hard to get people to come out if you’re not one of the aforementioned big stars. On the other hand you might make friends and connections with booksellers who can help you down the line.

There’s also conventions like Bouchercon, Malice and Left Coast, etc. All good places to meet people and network. And just have a good time. I haven’t been to Malice, but I’ve really enjoyed Bouchercon and Left Coast. And if you get on a panel so much the better. On top of that, my wife and I always book a few extra days so we can explore the convention city. We went to Bouchercon in Albany, not a place I had ever really expected to go or to like. But we enjoyed its New England Flavor and history, as we enjoyed all the cities of the various conventions we went to.
There’s also groups like Sisters in Crime, ITW, and MWA, and others. These groups hold social functions, informative meetings, have an online presence. They’re a great way to meet people.

Face to Facebook:

I went kicking and screaming onto Facebook a few years ago. Publicist and friend Diana James “gently” suggested that I should go on it.

“I don’t want to see pictures of what people had for breakfast…or worse,” I said.

So, after much cajoling from Diana I took the dreaded step and signed onto FB. At first I didn’t know what to do, how to use it. I was an evil lurker. Of course, since I had few FB friends I didn’t have much to lurk at. So I’d check in every few days or so, still not knowing what to do, but gaining a few friends here, a few friends there.

And eventually I started posting. Don’t remember what those early posts were. But not too long after I started I began to find my way. I began to post things that meant something to me or that I related to. Things like pix of my breakfast: cereal can be fun and entertaining pop art. And pix of my scars—want to see them? Just kidding.

Actually, I started posting things about noir and film noir and putting up “Film Noir Alerts” when I knew a noir movie was coming on television. Also stuff about mystery and noir writing, Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, et al. And I started posting about Los Angeles and LA history, something I’m very much into on many levels. I began to be known as the LA Guy or the Noir Guy. People I’d never met in person would come up to me at conferences and other events and say, “You’re the Noir Guy”. I had to plead guilty.

And then when White Heat came out I put up some posts about that. And other people shared them. And I think it did help get the book known, get reviews and make sales. But the key is, as everyone says, not to only push your books. People get turned off by that big time. Be a friend. Be part of the community. Comment and share other people’s posts. Participate.

Besides Facebook, there’s also Twitter and Instagram and Reddit and so many more online entities that you can’t count high enough. The key here, I think, is to pick one or two, maybe three, to focus on. Otherwise it just gets out of hand. I do mostly Facebook and Twitter, with the help of Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, which is the only way to make Twitter decipherable.

Have FB and Twitter made me a NY Times Bestseller? No. But they’ve definitely helped get me more readers and connect with people with similar interests, which is more than I could have done by going on a cross country book signing tour …and it costs a lot less. And I figure now there’s not a state in the country that I couldn’t have lunch with someone if I happened to be passing through—and if I do I’ll be sure to post the photo of the meal. Hell, there’s several countries on different continents that I could have lunch with someone I know from social media. Anyone for tennis?

Pay or Play:

If you’ve got money you can hire a publicist. But, just like with anything or anyone else, some might be good, others not so good. And just because they work for a big company or have a fancy office doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better. When I was working in Hollywood my then-writing partner and I got one of the Big Three agencies as agents (have I told this one before?). We thought it was the best day of our lives. Celebrated. Flying high. But it turned out to be the worst experience as we were the little fish in the big pond. (But I’ll leave the details for another time.) And the best agent I had was working out of his converted garage when I met him. He hustled for me. And got me work. And he was eventually picked up as a VP by another large agency and took me with him. The point I’m making here is don’t let the trappings of a big publicist (or publisher for that matter) fool you into thinking you can sit back and do nothing or let things slide.

Besides publicists, you can try to get your book on Book Gorilla, etc., or place ads in things like E Reader News or Kindle Nation Daily or Kindle Review or the very expensive and very choosy Book Bub. Even Facebook ads.

Yammer Yammer Yammer:

Get out there and talk, to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Blog. You can start your own. Guest on other people’s. Join a blog like Criminal Minds. I blog both here and on SleuthSayers.

Try to get radio interviews. People, especially internet radio, are always looking for interesting guests.

Try to get your book reviewed. Not always easy, but there’s a ton of bloggers in the great cyberspace out there who review books. Contact them.

Do blog tours.

Word of mouth is one of the best things. If you can get people talking about you or your book/s, you’re on your way. Easier said than done, but not impossible.

Use Goodreads and other sites like that.

Pay It Forward:

Pay it forward. A lot of people have been nice to me over the years. And while I want to repay their kindness directly I also try to pay it forward in general. The mystery community seems pretty nice and pretty supportive overall and I want to contribute to that atmosphere.

And the bottom line is write a good book.


And now for the usual BSP:

Available now from Down & Out Books:

Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea 

A collection of 15 Private Eye stories from some of the best mystery and noir writers from across the country. Also available on Amazon:


Art Taylor said...

Nice job here, Paul--as always. But that meat dress...? Thanks (not) for the reminder.... :-)

Cathy Ace said...

I suppose the meat dress is an alternative to the "signings in the nude" that have been mentioned here this week ;-) Excellent post, thanks Paul :-)

Unknown said...

Thanks Paul. I found this helpful and well said. In fact I always look forward to your Friday posts :@) Hootsuite is still a mystery to me, but will look into it --again. Happy weekend!

GBPool said...

Getting out in front of people is terrifying to most people, writers included. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but reaching your audience requires interaction. Years ago I took acting lessons to learn about writing dialogue. It also helped me overcome the fear of being in front of an audience. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Good info, Paul. It isn't only about getting those words on paper; it's getting them to an audience.

Sally Carpenter said...

Hey, Noir Guy, I also like your Facebook posts with pix of old L.A. Love the nostalgia (even though I didn't grow up on the west coast). One word of warning about FB posts--not for you but for others--too many political rants may deplete rather than build friends/readers. 'nuff said.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Art. And re: the meat dress, well, sometimes you gotta go all out to draw attention to yourself. ;) Though that might be going a little beyond the call of duty.

Thanks, Cathy. And great point, though I’m not sure which is worse, the signings in the nude or the meat dress… :-)

Thanks, Rachel. And glad you enjoy the posts. To me, Twitter is the mystery and truly indecipherable without either (or both) Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. And if you’d like some help with them I’d be happy to do what I can, though I’m no expert. But they really do make Twitter much more user-friendly. And happy weekend to you, too!

You’re right, Gayle. I don’t think any of us really wants to be writing just for ourselves, though there may be someone in a cave out there. But it’s about getting the words to an audience. I think acting lessons is a great idea, for both doing the dialogue and getting in front of an audience.

Hey, Sally. Thanks, glad you enjoy the my FB posts. I think LA is so iconic in movies and other works of art (“art”?) that even if one doesn’t live or hasn’t grown up here a lot of people can relate. But I also relate to places that I didn’t grow up because it can just be interesting. As for the political posts, it does get overwhelming at times :-)

Deborah Hall Kinley said...

Great blog, Paul. Good suggestions for new and old.

Jacqueline Vick said...

Thanks for the info, Paul. I hadn't heard of Book Gorilla. You really have "branded" yourself well. Just finished "Vortex" and I'm still catching my breath!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Deborah!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Jackie! Glad you enjoyed Vortex, but now I'll have to replace your breath ;)

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts, Mark, on how to get yourself and your work out there. All good advice. And sometimes it involves making yourself do things that are not spontaneous to your own personality.(from the introvert here) And so important, I think, is your advice, "And the bottom line is write a good book."

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul, couldn't see how to edit or delete my post. So sorry, butchered your name Paul D. Marks! (sigh) Hopefully you can fix, or ignore my brain cramp--need a continual editor these days...I'll also take the opportunity to add, it's good to hear what you posted from someone who does a great job at it. (talking about your FBook posts) Again, sorry about my typing screw up.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Madeline, for your comments. And you're right, you do have to make yourself do things you might not really want to.