Saturday, July 25, 2009

All my Exes: thoughts on book promotion


Those are my exes. They represent my early impressions of book promotion, and I have a lot to learn.

I've heard authors say that once they begin to promote one book, it's tough to find the time to write the next one. This observation has turned out to be spot on. In the evenings lately, when I'd normally be writing, I've spent an inordinate amount of time e-mailing people I've never met, setting up dates, tracking down phone numbers, following up on ideas, figuring out ad placement, designing those ads, seeking advice, looking for cheap flights, and generally stressing out.

I want to approach the bookstore folks (and in my case, drop zone folks) with the lead-in, "So sorry to bother you. I'm really an engineer and I don't know what's going on here, but I'm trying to figure out how to promote this book," but I resist doing this. The researcher I work for at my day job always drills into me that nothing we want should be approached apologetically. Have confidence!

Yes. Confidence and a fat wallet.

Until now, the only ads I've ever placed have been classifieds. Like . . . to sell an old washing machine. Maybe a $15 ad. Real ads, that are not classifieds, are crazy-expensive. Think $15 with a few exponents. Enough said about that.

The other thing, maybe the hardest for me, is that it's really important to me that everybody likes me. I know that is foolhardy but I try to be a nice person and I hate to ask for anything. Maybe I'll ask you for a french fry, but usually not for favors. Promoting a book feels like going around cyberspace asking a lot of people who don't know me to do nice things for me for no reason. Awkward.

It's a learning experience. The original challenge was finding time to write amidst my family and career responsibilities. The new challenge is adding a publicity element into the mix. I'm seeking the new balance. This is just like parenting: once you find something that works, the kids change it up on you. And in writing, once I found a rhythm, the business end of publishing changed my rhythm.

It's a good problem to have, and I'm not complaining. Just whining a very little bit.

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