Thursday, April 25, 2019

You’re Getting Very Sleepy...

If you could be really good at one part of the business side of your career, what would it be? (Being a better speaker? Being better at organizing your events? Being a promotion god?)

From Jim

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Writers write, but they also have to excel at promotion. Speaking, signing events, giveaways, etc. If we wanted to do those things we wouldn’t have become writers in the first place.

I suppose every profession requires some element of promotion. Just look at all those ambulance-chasing lawyers on the sides of buses. But somehow advertising strikes me as different. If all we writers needed to do was pay for ads, we’d complain a lot less. But in our business, promotion demands a creative, low-budget scramble to sell ourselves, our brands, and our books. That can take the form of anything from auctioning off character names in future books—usually the dead prostitute—to giving away recipes and bookmarks and die-cast Volkswagen vans.

I did that for my fifth Ellie Stone book, CAST THE FIRST STONE. And guess what. They were a HIT. Everyone wanted one. But guess what else. They were expensive. About ten bucks each, and I must have given away thirty of them. Limited editions. That may not be a lot of money to a predatory lawyer grinning a creepy grin at you from the side of a bus, but, let me tell you, to a writer it stings.

Then I gave away a couple of models of Ellie Stone’s car, a 1955 Dodge Royal Lancer.

I’ve also given away books and magnets and airline whisky bottles. I’ve read excepts, signed books, written blogs and short stories, had luncheons, and closed down every bar at every conference there is. All fun and exhausting. And expensive. And humbling.

Promotion poses other challenges for writers. Most of us claim to be introverts. I wouldn’t call myself that, but I confess to feeling uncomfortable asking people to buy my books. The trick, say the experts, is to sell yourself not your books. If only someone wanted to buy me. I’m available at popular prices. But I believe what writers are supposed to do is build a brand that intrigues readers enough to make them want to read our books. Talk about everything EXCEPT your books. Easy, right?

And that’s what I wish I were better at. Coming up with ideas that attract readers to my books. If only promotion were as simple as writing the damn book in the first place. Sure it’s torture and—at times—soul-crushing and lonely and thankless to sit there and tap out 100,000 words. But at least it’s a thing I can do. I know it’s hard as all get out to write a book—even a bad one—but if I put in the time and effort, I end up with a book every time. It’s not the same story when trying to promote that book.  

Yet promotion is necessary, so we throw ideas—and our heads—against the wall, hoping one of them will stick. Not our heads; that would probably mean there’s blood. Few ideas produce the desired results. You’d think creative types like writers would be wizzes at this, but no. Svengalis and cult leaders are really good this kind of thing. Writers, generally, are not. 

So my answer is I’d like be better at hypnosis. Then I could compel readers to buy and love my books. Let’s give it a try.

You’re getting very sleeeepy...

(Photo removed)

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