Thursday, May 17, 2018

Putting Yourself Out There

Staying connected

Very interesting posts this week on the joys of being a writer. John wondered about the effectiveness of social media, Sybil pondered the usefulness of going to conferences. When it comes to promotion, what one writer is willing and able to do may be quite different from another. I enjoy conferences and think they're very useful for making connections. But I don't go to many, one or two a year if family health and finances permit. I'm not a particularly shy person, and I'm not at all bothered about speaking before a group. But I'm 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 as useful if you need to work the room. I actually do 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, say, Louise Penny. 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 author thing for 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. Other writers have been extraordinarily helpful to me, but I can't afford to go to as many conferences as I'd like in order to make those connections. 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, I find it much more effective to talk to the booksellers.

I'm very lucky to live within driving distance of Poisoned Pen Bookstore, which is owned by my editor (whose husband happens to be my publisher). Whether I can travel or not, most mystery authors eventually find their way to Poisoned Pen for an event. This a a wonderful way for me to keep in touch with the many author friends I've made over the years. Witness the above photo of Yours Truly, Ann Parker, and our own Vicki Delany, having lunch after their event in Scottsdale this month. Then we did a library panel together, below, looking much more proper, and as we know, looks can be deceiving.

Ann Parker, Vicki Delany, Donis Casey

I find that the more I speak to groups, 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 used to sell 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, 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, such as it is would be torture for them.

The internet is a godsend, if you know how to work it, though less so for us Luddites. I try to do something on Facebook, author page or personal page, every day. I don't tweet. This may be a big mistake, but the very idea makes me tired. It would be hard for me to host an internet radio program, because I simply don't have the technical skills--or the interest. 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. Do working actively on blogs and Facebook and Goodreads and BookBub 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, after a dozen years I have written enough material for a book.

This writing game is tough. And when it comes to selling yourself, 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.

p.s. and aside: This has nothing to do with the price of tea in China, but I tend to write short. Or, more accurately, I write long manuscripts and end up whittling them down to the nub. I want to get to the point.


Sybil Johnson said...

I'm slowly learning what works for me and what doesn't in terms of promotion. And how much I'm willing to do. I want to have a life beyond book promotion, after all. I would say I'm shy/reserved, but I don't mind being on panels or making presentations in front of groups. Had to a fair amount of that when i was doing software development. Someone I worked with once said she would quit before making any sort of presentation. I figured it was part of the job so I learned how to do it.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Love your post, Donis. I think library patrons are the best listeners. They care about books!