Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The expanding world of the author, part 2

So you've got a new novel coming out. It may be your very first. It may be your tenth. It doesn't matter. You're a mid-list author. Your books sell okay. You're not getting rich, but more importantly, neither is your publisher, so the promotional bucks just aren't there for you.

You've been told to hire a book publicist, go out and do signings, try to get an increasingly disinterested media to notice you. What do you do (besides getting frustrated) when you don't have the necessary expertise, let alone the will, to promote your work?

Last week we discussed social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Linked-in and their ilk. Yes, they can do some good, and best of all, they're free. All you have to invest is your time. But are they effective? Who knows? At least if they're done right, they can't hurt — and they are easy to do right. All you have to do is supply fresh copy regularly, always be in people's line of sight.

The big question is: what else can an author left to his/her own devices do if they don't have the cash to hire pros to do it for you?

My answer is to try to control the things you can control. It's impossible to compel the media to pay attention to you. You can go to a bookstore, present yourself with a tableful of book, but you can't force people to buy them. You can't force a reviewer to review your novel. So what can you control — and not break the bank doing it?

BOOKCLUBS: There are lots of them out there and most are thrilled to have a real live author show up for a Q&A. Taking a leaf from Peter's and Vicki's books, if you're expected to give up your time and the expense of traveling (even if it's a short haul), you should expect everyone present to purchase one of your books. After doing several book clubs, only to find that most of the people had taken my novel out of the library, I decided to say that my "fee" was that everyone had to purchase a book. One club balked. I moved on. The next club, after I explained my reasoning, thought it was a fair request, so off I went with several titles under my arm. It worked. How do you find book clubs? Ask around. Savvy independent bookstores set them up, some libraries host them, some are private. Search on Google.

LIBRARIES: Here in Canada, we have the Canada Council and if you can get hooked up with them through a library booking, you can get some serious remuneration for all your trouble. Even if you don't, ask for an honorarium, especially if you're coming in from out of town. Some libraries will bend over backwards to help. You will certainly want to sell books. Suggest that the cost of admission is the purchase of one book. Offer to split the profits with the library. If a bookstore is involved with selling, offer to do a signing there. Range of programming possibilities make this a real gold mine.

SCHOOLS: Students of all ages get a lot out of having a "real, live author" talk to them. You can't really ask each student to purchase a book (even if the subject matter is appropriate), but you can ask for an honorarium. Every school has a budget for programming of this kind. Offer to lead a workshop.

These are just a few ideas. The nice thing is that all three can be done at any time, not just when a new book is out. Oddly, local media will often pick up on these events and do a profile on you.

I will be finishing up next week on several things an author should never be without when they go on the road. All are inexpensive and can really help out your cause.


Vicki Delany said...

Shortly before Christmas I was asked to speak to a high school class in a city about three hours drive from where I live. I wrote back to say I'd be delighted, what was their rate of compensation. Two weeks later - a note saying they'd found someone else. Fine by me.

Rick Blechta said...

If they didn't value you enough to come forth with some cash to cover a 6-hour drive, they probably wouldn't have been worth the effort. Why should you be expected to work for nothing? The least to expect would have been gas money!

Hannah Dennison said...

This is really helpful and timely for me Rick! I just don't have the money to hire a publicist. I do everything free of charge - especially libraries. However, I have found that if I offer a service - teach a mystery writing workshop for free, people tend to buy my books after the event. Charity luncheons are worth exploring too - I was a guest speaker at one and even though I didn't get paid (it was a charity), I sold 150 books that day.

Rick Blechta said...

That's a good saw-off, Hannah. I'd forgotten that aspect. I've done a few luncheons and they've always given a good return in sold books.

In thinking a bit further, though, you're still giving something away for free and should at least get reimbursed for the cost of travel and time.

Look at it this way, if Sarah Palin gets 100K plus for delivering a speech, why shouldn't someone like you get at least the cost of travel and time — especially if you can do a bang-up job?

How about this? "If I sell X number of books, I'll happily waive my fee." Then maybe the MC will talk to the attendees a bit and push the book sales. Extra tip: make sure there's someone there to actually sell the books for you. Having time to chat is such an important thing. Not having to handle money also gives a much classier impression, and let's face it: it's all about perception, isn't it?

Donis Casey said...

The idea of waiving the fee if you sell a certain number of books is very good. One more angle to work.

Hannah Dennison said...

I am rubbish at asking for money. That's probably why I'll remain a pauper. BUT I like the trade-off idea Rick. I think even I could speak up for that one.