Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Rest of the Story

Mark had his first book signing yesterday. It went really well--lots of people showed up. Some bought multiple copies. He had a good time.

Ramping up to it, though, was pretty stressful for him. He's not a horn-tooter, or someone who is comfortable imposing on friends and family for support. He's more the guy who's always giving the support.

In last week's post I mentioned that there is so much that goes into being an author that most people are not aware of, including first-time authors. A reader asked me to expand on that, so I'll give a little behind-the-scenes.

For any event to be successful, people have to know about it and it has to seem interesting or relevant to their lives. They have to want to go to make the effort to go. Even then, it's still probably only one in ten intendees who become attendees. Life happens, you know? Things come up. Homework needs to be finished. Maybe they're just tired. Or maybe the weather's bad. Rain (or, hello, ice and snow!) is big factor in people not showing up. Even wind has the power to keep people away.

The bookstore will do community outreach (or poster placement) to alert their patrons to an upcoming event. They'll tell the local papers about it and get a blurb in the Community Calendar listing. Other than that, a lot of stores rely on foot traffic and schedule signings when they hope it'll be busy in the store. They're busy, too. They have a store to run.

So for an author event to be successful, it falls on the author to help drum up interest in the event. This is way more work than you might think. Authors contact local papers & TV and try to get a reporter/editor or producer interested in covering the story. Authors write their own press releases. They supply their own photographs. They e-mail and call and (this one's key) follow up, and, if they're lucky, they get someone to agree to write a piece on them before the event so that people know about it and show up.

More often, press people simply ignore your submission. They're busy! They have deadlines! Their in-boxes are packed, and their voice mail is full! They simply don't get back to you.

Even with 33 books, multiple awards, and 2 movies, they simply don't get back to you.

This is where you want to say Forget it!. It is miserable and time consuming and maddening! But you can't give up yet. You have to keep trying. You have to follow up. You have to find an angle of interest. You have to go until you get a "No."

No can be such a gift.

Authors are also invited (if they're lucky) to guest blog on sites where books are the focus. But submissions need to be unique. You can't submit the same piece to more than one blog.

The goal is to have people who are new to you (or your latest title) give your book a try. Or at least find out more about your work. So if you go on "blog tour" you have to come up with some new angle for each and every site. Try writing a dozen unique, entertaining, compelling posts (500-1000 words each) on your book. You will be so sick of yourself and your book!

So why do it?

There are SO MANY new books out there every season, that unless lightning strikes for you (or a constellation of starred reviews showers down on you), you have to make the effort to pop through all those pages and be seen (and, hopefully, read).

But wait, there's more!

Authors are expected / encouraged / required to speak in public--conferences, schools, bookstores, etc.--and many of us have (or had)  a crippling fear of public speaking. Which makes sense--most authors are, by nature, quiet types. They spend many hours alone with their characters and created worlds. Behind a podium is not someplace they want to be. And without a podium is even worse!

I remember my first few conferences and school visits--I was visibly shaking. My voice was warbly. I was sick to my stomach. It was awful!

So, again, why do it?

It has nothing to do with successful writing, and yet it has everything to do with being a successful writer. It has to do with selling enough books to be considered by your publisher to be a worthy risk for an advance on the next one.

It's what we do so we can go back to our quiet lives and fictional worlds. And if it accomplishes that, it's worth it.


Kylie said...

Oh wow...

There is a lot more that an author has to do that I didn't even think about. So much more respect for you all and I already have a ton of respect for you all. I always thought that a publisis (spelling?) did all of that, minus the guest post on blogs. But wow you guys do so much. It is so amazing.

I am really glad to hear that the book signing went well. I can't even imagine how stressful it must have been. But it must have felt nice when it was done with and Mark got to see how many people were excited to read his book. That must have felt great.

Have a great week everyone! Anyone watching the olympics?


Yusa said...

I wish I was at that book signing and i hope it really went well. Can't wait to get my hands on Road Rash!

This is a really deep and meaningful post. I have so many thoughts about it that i really can't type out...

When are you posting the Road trip tour dates???? I'm really excited to know when both of you are coming here!


P.S. Good luck Mark on the further success of your book! Can't wait to (hopefully) meet you on the road trip

Jessica said...

Two movies? How did I miss one?! Flipped and... ?

Okay, with that out of the way, that sounds awful. I guess you have to be your book's salesperson. Yuck. I know they say when you love your product (which I hope you would love your book after spending so much time with it), it's easy to sell, but... yeah. It's still selling. Yuck.

The school visits don't sound so bad; talking to kids can be fun. For some reason I find it way less intimidating than talking to adults. Maybe because I already know I won't be cool, so I don't have to worry about it.

Yusa said...

Jessica: Shredderman Rules is the other movie :)

Jessica said...

Thanks, Yusa! I need to read the Shredderman books. And watch the movie, too, I guess!

I'm glad Mark's book signing went well. I've been in bookstores where the author table didn't have anyone around it, and I felt pretty bad for them (not bad enough to go talk to them... because then I'd get stuck buying a book I didn't want, or feel guilty for not buying it after making them talk to me...).

Ryan said...

I totally agree with you, Wendelin! I'm totally the shy, quiet type, which is why I would never mention my book, A Tale of Two Trail, on your blog. It's why I would never mention that people can order it on Amazon at and why I would definitely NEVER be so contemptuous as to suggest that anyone would buy it.

It's not very good anyhow--I'm sure nobody would even be interested in it so I'd be wasting everyone's time if I mentioned anything like that here. ;o)

-- Ryan

Yusa said...

Jessica: Ive actually never read t he books myself... Those and the Gecko and Sticky ones... Maybe i will one day.

And Ryan WHAT YOU HAVE A BOOK??? I know I need to read it soon adding it to my list of 500 books to read and growing!


Kylie said...

Wendelin I realized today how big of an impact Sanmy Keyes has had in my life when I got back my essay draft and there was notes all over it because I kept switching from present tense to past tense.

Also congrats to Mark for getting published in the Huffington Post! I just read the article and I love the songs choices! Although I have to ask is I'm Gonna Be by The Proclaimers on you road trip song list? Because when ever I go on a trip that is my go to trip song.


Jessica said...

Oh, Kylie, that is the best running song ever! We used to sing it in cross country in high school. "And I will run 500 miles, and I will run 500 more, just to kill myself for Mr. Davis and run 500 more..." It's perfect for a road trip. Another good one is "American Music" by the Violent Femmes for when you're almost falling asleep, because it builds and wakes you up.

I liked Mark's Huff Post article (I only knew half the songs, but they're all great) and his blog post about evolving a book idea. It's been interesting to see (just a small portion of) the work you mentioned that's part of a book release. I hope it's paying off.

Kylie said...

I love your version. Haha.

It is my sisters and my song. Whenever we are riding together somewhere we always play it and sing a long as loud as we can. We also do this with I'll Make A Man Out of You from Mulan.

I have never heard of American Music. I will have to look it up.

Jessica said...

Kylie, that's one of the Violent Femmes' "cleaner" songs (it's off an album that was rated mature), though there is a reference to umm... the Edge of the World, to put it in Sammy Keyes terms. I should have put that warning in my last comment. The lyrics aren't that great, but that makes it easy to sing along to. You definitely need to use cruise control when you drive to it, or you'll find yourself speeding by the end.

I just read the "sneak peek" of Road Rash on Amazon, and now I really want to read the rest -- which is saying something because that's rare for me with books/movies about band types. I want to wait to buy it until the tour so I can get an autographed copy for my nephew (which I will totally read before giving to him; the only way that doesn't happen with books is if it's shrink-wrapped or sent directly to the recipient). At least it's only a couple of months. Maybe the library will get it sooner.

Woohoo, the tour is less than two months away! That's crazy; it seemed so far, and now it seems so near.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Love the road trip song suggestions, keep them coming! And it's funny because I've been singing the 500 mile song around the house with the lyrics going, "And I would drive 500 miles, and I would drive 500 more, just to be the ones to drive 1000 miles to fall down at your door!" When you see the map (which I plan to post with the schedule on Sunday), you will see why it is so insanely appropriate.

Mark said...

Wendelin is a total crack-up, the way she sings (her own versions of) different songs around the house!

And the other song suggestions were great. One of the bands I play in does "I'm Gonna Be", and it always goes over big...everyone gets up and dances for that one. And in another project with my boys we do "American Music", which also gets a good response. Fun songs!

Kylie said...

Jessica- To be honest I am sure I have heard worse from the songs kids sing at the highschool. But thanks for the warning it is appreciated.

Wendelin and Mark- I think I might go through my iTunes and find some goods song for your trip or maybe a Sammy Keyes playlist? I will see what I can do. I am so excited for your tour schedule! I am really really hoping I can make one of the dates!


Kylie said...

Wendelin I just say the picture if you guys at the ball and I must say that you both look amazing. Gorgeous. Stunning. Fancy. It's late and I can't think of any more adjectives, only that you both look so wonderful and I hope you both had a great time!

Gabrielle said...

Wow, it's crazy how much work goes into being an author. Not only does it take a lot of work to write a book, you have to put so much effort to get it known.