Thursday, February 9, 2017

Yes to everything, by Catriona

"How do you get yourself and your books noticed by the public? We hear that publishers aren't doing so much these days. How do make your work stand out from the crowd?"

Disclaimer: I'm late with a book, getting very close to the revised deadline, stressed and grumpy and some social niceties have evaporated. Also I can't top or even match the magisterial splendour of Cathy's post yesterday. But here's what I found in the corners of my brain when I had a scrape round.

My default position is "yes to everything". If a publicist asks for an interview, listicle or blog post, I say yes. If someone asks me to go to a bookgroup, library event or literacy fundraiser, I say yes. If anyone asks me to do any of the above naked, I'll let you know.

As well as that, my top three tips - if they're coherent enough to be called tips - about publicity and promotion are as follows:

1. A book is like a suitcase full of money

I want to start by echoing what Susan said on Monday. The most important arrow in your PR quiver is a finished, polished, as-good-as-you-can-get-it book. I think it was at Killer Nashville that someone in the audience asked this question of the panel on the podium: "I've written my synopsis and three chapters and I've got a website and business cards. What's next?" The roar of "chapter four" might have been silent but it was deafening too.

It doesn't matter how well you pitch [see below] or how great your swag is; these things are just promissory notes. They try to persuade people that you have a suitcase and it's full of money. You might be convincing and they might believe you. But flinging open the lid and showing the treasure is something else again.

2. y book in my book in my book in my book in my book in my book in my book in my book in my b

It's not a good idea to bore people if you're hoping they'll spend 10+ hours with you. And few things are more boring than verbal synopses of books you haven't read. It's almost never a good idea spontaneously to talk about the plot, characters or setting of your book except in a book group, where people have read it and can join in. In a nutshell, I'd say never pitch a book unless someone has just asked you to. How do you know when you're pitching? The phrase "in my book" could be included.

It was at the bar at Bouchercon that a man asked me what I wrote. I said "preposterous 1930s detective stories". He replied: "Ah, cozies. Not for me. But you should read my stuff." He gave me a business card. "In my book ..." he went on (and on (and on)). Guess whether I pounded straight to the dealers' room to snap up his book. Go on. Guess.

3. There are worse things than telling Stephen King you love Lisey's Story (but don't lick his face).

So, I can imagine someone reading No. 2 and muttering: "Well, what are we supposed to talk about then, Miss Bossy Knickers?" And my reply is . . . be a reader first. Share the joy of books instead of the miseries of publishing. At conventions, in newsletters, on your website, while teaching workshops, on social media, in the bar, on the bus . . . talk about the books you love. With fellow readers, find out what they love - find one you've both read. Do the same with fellow writers. With heroes, I think it's perfectly all right to say thank you and tell them you love their books, even to let them know what your favourite is. 

But no licking faces.


Kristopher said...

Catriona, I have had that very same conversation with that very same man (at more than ONE Bouchercon). It doesn't work. I think that in any social interaction, talking only about yourself is not a wise choice.

That said, let me talk about myself: LOL.

As for promoting others, I can say that I have discovered more authors to feature/cover on the blog by reading posts and tweets that they have shared than I have by any cold pitch I might receive directly from that same author. Being active in the community is the key. And yes, I know that it takes time and effort, but unfortunately that is the path the industry is taking - the days of extensive book tours funded by publishers is long gone and not going to make a comeback. The same goes for review coverage (at least in major publications). The book blog community continues to flourish - with new blogs starting all the time.

Lori Rader-Day said...

Pretty sure I also had the chance to throw away that business card. Or maybe it was a bookmark? Excellent post, Catriona!

Aimee Hix said...

First I can't do readings naked and now I'm not allowed to lick Stephen King's face? I really needed someone else to review my to-do list before I rewrote it in pen.

And I wouldn't call your Dandy books preposterous nor cozy. Not that there's anything wrong with cozy but a body chopped up and parceled about amongst herring barrels skews to the other side of traditional from cozy in my opinion. I mean, in my book ....

Unknown said...

Three great points Catriona. I'm especially cottoning onto number 3. Hope everything goes well with deadline.

Susan C Shea said...

The first time we met, Catriona, I was languishing at a signing table and you were drifting around. We were both leery about talking about our books (first in my case and I think first american edition in yours?) but we asked each other about the other's books and wound up signing copies for each other. I made a mental note to always keep a look out for that charming Scottish lassie. It was you as an intriguing person who didn't blab on unmercifully about your book but talked about other writers that made the first impression.

Cathy Ace said...

Excellent post...if this is what's languishing in the corners of your brain, all know how good the stuff that comes out of it onto the page is, so 'nuff said!

Ritter Ames said...

Brava! But now I want to lick someone's face just because I shouldn't :)

Rebecca said...

Such a nice bit, that scrape around the corners of your brain. More, please? When you're done with your manuscript, of course.