I hope you’ll bear with me today as I take a very brief break from posting about Native America, and talk a little about the writer’s life. With the release of my most recent book, SENECA SURRENDER, I find myself doing much, much promo, including touring, and I thought you might like a brief glimpse into what that goes into this. I will be giving away a copy of the book, THE LAST WARRIOR, to some lucky blogger today. Also, I’ll be doing a book signing today at Sunshine Books in Cypress, CA. If you’re close-by, come on over — but forgive me if I post early and then don’t post again until evening.
Off to the left here is the stunning cover of the book, SENECA SURRENDER, my most recent effort. Because the book was released on April 6th, my tour started then. But what really goes into the promotional side of writing? It’s something we don’t talk about too often, I don’t believe, and yet for most of us authors, it’s a very involved second job. But, why? Doesn’t the publisher do all the promotion that you need?
My pat answer to that it yes and no. 🙂 Have I confused you? It kinda goes like this — at least from my viewpoint. Your publisher is going to make sure that your distribution is good enough in order to sell the books that the publisher has invested in this book. Distribution is everything when it comes to selling your book. It’s hard to sell what isn’t there. So the first condition has to be that your book is in the stores and is capable of being bought and/or ordered on line. Your publisher usually ensures this — at least this is so for most of the New York Publishers. I’m not certain about ebooks, and how this relates to them, as I don’t write ebooks — if my books are on ebook format, it is because my publisher (which is Berkley/Penguin/Putnam) does this for me.
Off to the left is a recent photo of a Barnes & Noble booksigning in Manhattan Beach. Once the books are in the bookstore, many authors start a tour of dropping by bookstores to sign copies of their books that are on the shelves. We sometimes call them “drive-bys.” It is pretty simple. One goes into the store, picks up the books and signs them. But a book signing per se is an entirely different animal. A book signing takes a bit more work. To do a book signing tour, anywhere from 2-4 months before the book comes out, one needs to start contacting book stores and asking if they might be interested in a book signing.
Ten years ago a man called Ingram owned a book distributing chain that made book signings easy and painless. He loved authors and he encouraged all his clients to do as many signings as possible. He allowed bookstores to return books from signings and always made sure many, many books were on hand for signings. When he passed away…gee, I forget the exact date, but it happened about what? seven years ago or so? But when he passed away, it became a little more difficult to schedule and do book signings. Why this is, I’m not completely certain. But from what I’ve been told, it seems to have something to do with returns on books.
Be that as it may, when planning a tour, one needs to contact the stores. This was an interesting thing to do this year, if only because so many bookstores have closed. In 1994 when my first book, LAKOTA SURRENDER, hit the shelves, you could find a bookstore on almost any corner. There were so many — Borders, Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, Crown, Books-A-Million, Hastings and many, many, many independents. There were many, many books at WalMart and K-mart and drug stores and even grocery stores. People really read a lot. But now I’d say that probably 2/3’s of my personal bookstore list is gone. There are almost no more B. Dalton’s — they’ve almost all been closed or are closing soon. There are almost no more Book Stars — they’ve almost all been closed or closing soon. Same with Waldenbooks. Crown books closed many, many years ago. And many of the independent bookstores closed when the big bookstores moved in and took over the business. Sort of like what happened in “You’ve Got Mail.” Off to the left above is a recent book signing done at Russo’s Books in Bakersfield, CA.
I have to admit to a bit of crying when I went through my book sellers list and found so many stores were either closed or closing. Some days I would just sit and cry. But all that aside, one must contact the stores and see if they’d like to do a signing. This photo to the right was at Cameron Books in Hemet, CA. Now book signings are a bit of trouble to do, and so not everyone wants to do this, which is completely understandable. But there are some people in these stores that love signings since they do potentially bring in more readers to their stores. Believe it or not, scheduling these tours usually takes me about 1-2 months to do. Press kits need to be gotten together, complete with bookmarks and/or post cards, and they need to be sent out, plus one need to stay in good communication with the bookseller so that the event comes off well.
Book signings are actually a lot of fun. Not only do you as an author get to get out of the house (because most of us work from home, we often stay home a lot), but you have the opportunity to talk to many people, readers, book sellers and customers. I can’t begin to tell you the conversations we’ve had this year alone. I think we’ve talked all around writing, politics, the world in general and publishing. These are moments that I really treasure. There’s also online tours that authors do. There’s blogging, chats and there’s even a new option for authors called Second Life book signings. I’m learning about this new one — Second Life. Off to the right here is me in Second Life.
So far, I haven’t been able to get around in Second Life very well — it’s based on having an avatar that you dress and walk around the world of Second Life. So far, I fly into the air when I get up from sitting, and I walk off platforms and into walls. : ) But there’s a possiblity here in Second Life in reaching people that you otherwise might not be able to reach — and that’s an exciting concept to me. If you as an author are interested in this concept, please let me know and I’ll put you in contact with Denise, who can really help you in Second Life.
This is all quite in addition to sending out bookmarks to your readers, to making calls, talking up your book on Facebook or elsewhere, blogging, chats. Often your days of touring are hard, long days. I just finished up a 4 day weekend tour where I was putting in 17/15 hour days.
You might ask, “Is it worth it?” I can’t begin to tell you how many authors have asked me this. And I don’t have a ready answer to the question. All I can say is this: There are so many books in bookstores and on the internet, that is seems to me that it only stands to reason that if you want your book to be noticed, that it requires some kind of promotion. There are many different forms of promotion, also. I think an author needs to find one that works for him/her and stay with it. And by “works” I mean, does it influence your bottom line? If it increases your sales, stay with it. Do it to the best of your ability.
For me, tours are often worth the effort I know many authors who think they don’t work. But I like them. Yes, they are work. Yes, I complain over lack of time and not being able to do enough, but it gets me out of the house — allows me to talk to people, and like research is for me, getting to talk to and know your readers is one of the perks about being an author.
Now if this is something you’d like to know more about, I have about 3-4 weeks more touring to do and am keeping a daily diary of the tour on my Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=760039010&ref=profile. There I post pictures of the tour daily — or if I don’t have a book signing that day, I keep you informed of chats and other book related happenings. Or you can go to my website at www.novels-by-KarenKay.com you’ll find my book signing schedule.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I hope I haven’t bored you with the particulars of the business of writing/promotion. I’d love to hear from you whether you’re an author who has another form of promotion that you love — or whether you’re a reader, who has suggestions or comments.
At present, I have two books out on the bookshelves, SENECA SURRENDER and BLACK EAGLE. Please do yourself a favor (and me, too) and pick up your copy of SENECA SURRENDER or BLACK EAGLE today. I’ve been told they are good reads. You should be able to find SENECA SURRENDER on the bookshelves at your most favorite bookstore. Or order it online at Amazon.com or Borders.com or BarnesandNoble.com or books-a-million.com. BLACK EAGLE is also available by order.
Remember, I will be offering a free book — THE LAST WARRIOR — to some lucky blogger today. So come on in and leave a comment and let’s chat.