Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Writing Game

Man, how did I get so lucky as to always follow Charles? When I have to follow a particularly good post, I tend to think of that George Goble line about the world being a tuxedo and I'm a pair of brown shoes.

That's a joke. I actually think rather highly of myself. I'm not shy in front of a group, and I'm a good speaker. But I'm also slow to warm up in a social situation, at least until I feel I have a handle on whomever I'm talking to. I told a friend once that I think I was born to be an observer in this life. This is a great quality to have if you're a writer, but not so good if you need to work the room.

The point of all this self-revelation is that when it comes to promotion, what one writer is willing and able to do may be quite different from another. I actually do force myself to make the rounds at every conference I attend and talk to as many people as I can, but I'll never be as effective at it as someone as outgoing and naturally talented as Charles. However, I'm guessing I'm a much better schmoozer than J.D. Salinger, who could buy and sell me. So as effective as that technique is, it must not be the end-all and be-all.

I've been doing this for just three years, and I keep trying a little of this and a little of that, and attempting to judge what promotional activity works best for me. I think attending conferences is very useful. Other writers have been extraordinarily helpful to me. but I can't afford to go to as many conferences as I'd like. I'm much less promiscuous with bookstore signings than I was when I started out. After sitting in lonely solitude behind a table a few times, I now choose my bookstores and signing times with great care, and do everything I can to publicize the event beforehand. For every other bookstore I come across, like Charles noted, I find it much more effective to talk to the booksellers.

My strength seems to be public speaking, so I registered with the local speaker's bureau. I find that the more I speak, the more I'm asked to speak. I get a lot of library business. I was a librarian for 20 years, so I know a lot of library types all over the country. Book clubs are good. If you can find a non-book group to talk to that has some sort of connection to what you write about, that can be fabulous for your sales. History groups are good for me. I know another writer who sells her books at an annual zoo event and cleans up. (Makes money. Though I think she does actually volunteer to muck out cages.)

My husband, however, who is a poet, would rather stand on his head in a mud puddle while poking himself in the eye than speak in front of a group. I understand that most people are terrified of public speaking, so my publicity plan would be torture for them. There is a book that I discovered early on in my writing life entitled The Shy Writer, by C. Hope Clark, which enumerates many ways to promote yourself if the idea of standing up in front of a group makes you feel faint.

The internet is a godsend, if you know how to work it, though less so for us Luddites. It would be hard for me to host an internet radio program, like Vicki, because I simply don't have the technical skills. My webmaster, who is also my brother, told me that my website should be "all Donis, all the time", and not concentrate solely on my books. This gives you leeway to change your focus, if you decide to do something other than what you have been doing. Change genres, for instance, or become a playwright, or an actor. The blog tour is becoming popular - that is, writing a guest entry on someone else's blog, and then returning the favor. I'm doing that more and more. In fact, I just posted a guest entry on Betty Webb's blog (, which is pretty good, if I do say so, so have a look. I actually write on two blogs myself -this one and my own website, the first page of which is a blog. Do they increase my readership? I don't know, to tell the truth. But I'm a writer, damn it, and more writing is always better than less. On my own site, I've more or less kept a public diary of my experiences as a novelist, and whether it's instructive to others or not, I have enough material for a book.

This writing game is tough. And when it comes to publicity, you just have to put your head down and go. What works for one may not work for you, so you try everything you can manage and do the best you can. The really important thing, though, is to do the best you can without making yourself miserable. Life is too short.


Hope Clark said...

Thanks so much for mentioning The Shy Writer. It is a book I poured my heart into, and I often hear from readers about how it helped them in their efforts to self-promote. Nice blog!

C. Hope Clark

Donis Casey said...

My pleasure. It really is an extremely useful book - Donis