News: Contest Announcement
Feature Article: PROMOTION ONLY TAKES YOU SO FAR
Recommended for Other Writers
Best Book(s) I’ve Read (for Entertainment) This Month
Warmest holiday wishes to all of you! It’s sweet of you to take time from your online shopping—that is what you’re doing online now, isn’t it? :)—to read my newsletter.
I’m pleased to announce my first contest! Be the first to read SING ME HOME (other than my husband, editor, and agent, that is) by winning an autographed ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) in all it’s un-proofed, but bound, glory! Cut and paste the following URL to get to the Contest Page on my website: http://www.jerricorgiat.com/events.htm. Deadline is noon, January 12, 2004.
Also—very exciting news for me—I heard from my editor last week that she truly loves FOLLOW ME HOME, the book I submitted for her consideration last month. Whew! That worry put to rest! FOLLOW ME HOME won’t be published until November, 2004, but you can read a first chapter excerpt on my web site.
Equally exciting, she also reported the print run on SING ME HOME (determined in part by advance bookstore orders) is much higher than they’d expected! More books in the stores generally translates into more sales. As February 3 approaches—when the books will be available—my hopes that you’ll love the book increase exponentially!
Once again, if you have any writerly topics you’d like me to address, please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
------ FEATURE ARTICLE: PROMOTION ONLY TAKES YOU SO FAR
It’s not too long after the ink has dried on your first book contract that family and friends start asking you how many cities you’ll visit on your book tour, when and where you’ll hold your book signings, and what month you’ll be visiting with Oprah.
Answers: Not many. What book signings? And, if you mean Oprah Ollingsworth over at the Price Chopper—I see her every week.
The reality is that publishers usually spend very little on promotion for first books. The big bucks support the publisher’s leaders, those authors who are seen on the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists. Not that the publisher does nothing. Mine prepared ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) to send to reviewers and key booksellers. My editor has done a magnificent job of “chatting up” the book at the publisher’s sales meetings. And as publication date approaches, they’ll promote and excerpt my work on their web site and in their e-newsletter. They’ve also made sure my book is listed at online bookstores, and have assigned a publicist to me, although I’m not entirely sure what she’s doing. (That’s not sour grapes... I don’t know because I haven’t asked yet.) And, of course, their money is paying for the sales reps they employ and the catalogs they print and the truck drivers who take my book to its outlets.
(Publishers vary in the amount of support they provide, so if you’re an author, the best way to find out what they’re doing for your book is to ask your editor.)
All other promotion, at least for a debut book, falls to the author.
So, the truth is that since there’s a mortgage to pay, an orthodontist who’s funding his lake home from the payments we make for our son’s braces, and an elderly dog in our household who eats steak while we eat hamburger—not to mention that, except in rare instances, gargantuan first advances are a myth—the only city I’ll visit is the one I live in, and wherever else I can reach on less than one tank of gas. If there are any signings at all, they won’t be at Borders or Barnes & Noble. They don’t hold author events where only the writer’s sister-in-law and a couple of friends are likely to show up. And Oprah and I are, I’m afraid, destined to remain strangers. (But I’ve heard she doesn’t like romance fiction, so that’s okay. It wouldn’t a prudent PR move to argue with Oprah.)
In planning my promotion, I’ve relied heavily upon (and am forever grateful to) the advice of other authors that have gone before me. I’ve built a web site. I’ve cast around the internet, getting permission to list my name and web site addy wherever appropriate, trolled for review possibilities which I pass on to my publicist, and looked for low-cost e-newsletters and banner ads at book sites. I’m sending out press releases to everyone from my college alumni magazine to the local paper to my aunt in Nebraska. I’ve printed up 500 postcards which will be mailed shortly before the book is released to everyone I’ve met in my life, although 500 is a drop in the bucket compared to the sales I need if I want to keep my career. And I felt like I’d struck pay dirt when I found a newsletter that will feature my work and send it to 20,000 people for only forty dollars. I’ve also spent a wad on a half-page, full color ad in the number one women’s fiction magazine, RT BOOKclub (where they’d better give me at least a four-star review. I joke. Kind of.)
The name of the game is trying to ferret out the best ways and lowest prices to reach the greatest number of people. Just like with any new “product,” brand identity is a top priority. Just getting my name seen should build recognition, which I hope (as I pick through the lint in my wallet after paying for the RT BOOKclub ad) begins to build an audience willing to try my book on for size.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll influence a few people to buy my book. Maybe, just maybe, reviewers will like it enough that they’ll influence a few people to buy my book. And maybe, just maybe, these first book sales will be enough that my publisher won’t be kicking herself wishing she hadn’t contracted with me for a second book, too.
My efforts help. Anything my publisher does helps much more. But it’s really word-of-mouth that has the biggest impact on future sales. Not my postcards. Not my e-newsletter. Not that fancy ad in RT BOOKclub magazine. Nor the efforts of my publicist who has her hands full with a slew of books to promote. And even if Oprah magically uttered my book’s title (a guarantee that it would hit the bestseller lists), that won’t impact sales past my second book. Because no matter who did what to create those first sales, those first readers have to like it. Really like it. Enough to tell their sister-in-law and more than a couple of friends. Or the second book will tank. And the third will be non-existent.
At the most basic level, my career success—or failure—will come down to my writing.
Me and the book... and my readers. It’s both exhilarating, and frightening, to know that much of what happens next rests in my hands.
------- RECOMMENDED FOR OTHER WRITERS:
Whether you’re unpubbed, soon-to-be pubbed, or an experienced pro, I’ve found visiting author bulletin boards (also known by other names, like forums and chatrooms) to be a great source of information. These are usually set up by the publisher, and used by authors as a form of promotion. But many, many authors also answer writerly questions to “give back” for the assistance they received from others during their careers. You can participate in a current ongoing discussion, or look at past posts. And don’t be afraid to speak up—all writers love to discuss their writing experiences. And no question is dumb!
The forum for my publisher (NAL) can be found at: http://nalauthors.com/forums/ Look for threads under the “Ask the Author” topic.
You can find other publishers’ forums through sites like www.writerspace.com.
------- BEST BOOK(S) I’VE READ THIS MONTH:
MY ANGRY SON, By Barbara Bartocci, 1985
This book is out of print, but I found numerous copies available used online. I happened across it in the course of some research I was doing for the next book I’ll write, and was amazed at what a page-turner it was. Subtitled, “Sometimes Love Is Not Enough,” it traces the heartbreaking, yet ultimately triumphant, journey of Ms. Bartocci’s family as they learn to deal with their own dysfunctions while trying to cope with her troubled adolescent son.
VISIONS OF SUGAR PLUMS, By Janet Evanovich, 2003
Like Ms. Evanovich needs a plug from me? Still, I found this a quick, fun read for fans of Stephanie Plum. Guaranteed to give you a few laughs and put you in a light-hearted holiday mood.
CHRISTMAS REVELS, By Mary Jo Putney, 2003
I’m a huge fan of the original Regency author, Georgette Heyer, so I’ve been reluctant to read newer Regency novels. But if this Christmas anthology by Mary Jo Putney (which includes three Regency stories as well as one contemporary) is any indication, I’ve been missing out—not only on her work, but most likely on many works by other Regency authors. Now I’m anxious to try more!
As I gather with family and friends over the holidays, I’m once again reminded of how blessed my life is, even when at times it seems waaaay out of control. May you all have a wonderful holiday, and I hope that the New Year rings in your best year ever! Happy reading, writing, and Ho! Ho! Ho!
Fiction for and about women rediscovering themselves