Effective January 2014, the Blog-Zine is cosed to new posts and is going dark. The blog and its archives will stay "up," though, so please feel free to peruse the archives and discover all of the great books, authors, articles, and other features that have joined me here over the years. Thanks to all who helped make my Blog-Zine adventure a raging success! Read on!

03 May, 2008

Chronicles of a Lesser-Known Writer: Part I


So this is where I am right this minute. Literally, I mean. It's a reasonably tepid Saturday night and I'm home alone, trying to figure out new and ingenious ways to promote Running from Mercy. So far, I've started a blog that's gotten approximately 38 hits since its inception in February 2008 (I think it was February - sad, huh?); I've had the book cover and a banner featured on a few popular AA literary websites and there's a podcast featuring troubled R&B star, Pamela Mayes - Mercy, Georgia's biggest scandal to date - floating around cyberspace somewhere.

Because I feel woefully inadequate as a pseudo-self-publicist, I'm going to take a minute and pop myself on the forehead, like in the 'V8' commercials, and then I'm going to remind myself and the 39th person who visits my blog (that would be you) of what I recently learned about online book promotion from Marlive Harris of THEGRITS.com. Maybe this info will help another Lesser-Known Writer to be less lesser-known.

First off, I really appreciated the time Marlive spent on the phone with me, while I asked question after question and probably repeated myself at least ten times. She was extremely helpful, very insightful and as warmly welcoming as the name THEGRITS, in all its southern splendor, implies. As much to my recollection as possible, here are a few key online promotion points that Marlive shared with me (with a little embellishment on my part, of course):

a) Promoting books is a repetitive business. Readers carefully consider book purchases before they part with their hard-earned money, so your book needs to stand out. Or, rather, you need to make it stand out. Make readers so sick of seeing and hearing about your book they buy it just so you'll shut up already.

b) Connect with readers. A lot of authors, including myself, feel like they don't have much to blog about, so they might not actively blog. But there are readers and potential readers who enjoy reading blogs, and the more information-packed your blog is the better. For instance, authors don't necessarily have to blog about themselves and their books exclusively. If your book has certain themes running through it, like how Running from Mercy has sibling relationship dynamics, mental illness and orphanage/adoption running through it, you can blog on those topics, reference interesting articles on those topics and the like. In this way, you attract readers who have an interest in certain topics, connect more with readers you may already have who have an interest in certain topics and realize the added advantage of greater exposure for your work.

Break from tradition and be creative with your blogging. Step aside and allow some of your more outspoken characters to interact with readers via your blog. Interview a character here and there, host a character debate and invite readers to join the fun by chiming in where they will. For my part, I've been courting Pam for an interview on my blog. She's hard to pin down but I'm sure she'll eventually come around to my way of thinking. A lot of the good folks who read Running from Mercy have some unanswered questions that only Pam can answer. Furthermore, her twin, Paris, has been a rather hot topic, as well. Sadly, she's deceased, but there have been known occasions where the deceased can be channeled from beyond. Sort of like a seance (did I spell that right?). I've been communicating with Madame Cleo and she assures me she can pull something like this off, so we'll see...

Another fun thing to do is invite people - other authors, experts of some sort, and other interesting folks - to appear on your blog as guests. You can include interviews, feature articles and reviews of books you've read and enjoyed. Maybe your readers would like to have their own review of your book published on your blog.

c) Consider a Virtual Book Tour. They're the wave of the future, what with everyone being so busy with the act of living. Lots of folks surf the net for the information they're seeking, including book release info, and what better way to cater to readers than to allow them to drop in on your book tour from the comfort of their own homes? Think about the price of gas these days...

d) Have a contest or giveaway. Just like you, readers like to receive gifts they can use. Ummm...books, I would imagine. So give away a few!

e) Make yourself available to "sit in" on bookclub meetings when your book is the book of the month and you know about it. If it isn't the book of the month, ask bookclubs to consider your project, so you can join in on the discussion. Webcams, telephone conference calls and online chat forums are extremely handy for traveling all around the world, you know.

f) Host an online Book Release Party. How do you do this? Just about every author you like to read is a member of either Goodreads.com or Shelfari.com, or both. Become a member yourself and create a group for your book - a place where your book-loving friends can join you to parTAY! There is a Running from Mercy Book Discussion Group on both Goodreads.com and Shelfari.com and in it, I invite readers to join me in discussing Running from Mercy. Of course, I would love to host an online book release party and I will, once we have more than two members. According to Marlive, you might consider setting apart a block of time, sending out some invites, and hanging out online with readers. Since you can't actually propose a toast, mix things up with some trivia contests and fun giveaways, etc.

And my personal favorite...

g) Don't limit yourself to 'genre promotion'. So you're an African-American author? That doesn't mean you have to only limit your promotion to African-American venues. Cross the culture line and simply promote your book - period. You're probably mostly right, if you're an AA author, you write AA Fiction/Nonfiction and you surmise that your readers are the very people you write about. But let's not over-generalize here. I always catch myself taking a second glance when I run up on a non-African-American person reading an AA book, but it has been known to happen. The fact of the matter is, every woman does need a wife, and I mean every woman, be she black, white, red or purple. My white coworker laughed just as hard and did the high-five thing while she was reading a book by the same name that I handed her one sunny day. Let's revisit the "theme" point again and remind ourselves that the themes running through a book can and do appeal to people of all creeds and colors. A breast cancer survivor will likely appreciate the struggles and triumphs of another survivor, no matter what color she is or how she wears her hair. Do any of your characters have [potentially universal] themes?

h) Stretch your dollars, but don't stretch them so much they snap! In other words, promotion costs money and more often than not, strategic and effective promotion is worth every cent spent. Don't mortgage your house, but do prepare to invest wisely in your work. If you can, budget for promotion in advance. That way you won't have to call the gas company and work out a payment plan because you spent that month's gas bill money on book cover promo.

i) Ask people you know and trust - other authors and industry professionals, etc. for referrals to publicists and/or promotions experts. Then follow-up with those referrals and ask questions, learn about available services and get a feel for who you'll feel most comfortable working with. While talking with Marlive I felt comfortable and free to be myself, not at all embarrassed when my cordless phone cut off in the middle of her sentence, because my teenage daughter can't seem to remember to hang the darn thing up! I called her right back, apologized, we hit on the joys of motherhood, and kept it moving. By the time we hung up, I had already decided that I'd be working with her on my next release ("Where There's Smoke" - January 2009 from Q-Boro Books) and I was kicking myself for not asking Tee C. Royal, the literary diva behind http://www.rawsistaz.com/, an online bookclub and repository of all things Afro-literary, for referrals earlier!

j) Don't wait 'till the last minute. I made a mistake in waiting until just before Running from Mercy was released to think about promotion. Because I didn't know better (and I didn't have a clue where to turn when Tee kept saying, "You better get started, girl!", and I didn't think to ask her for referrals until just before the book was released, and I hadn't budgeted properly and on and on and on...), I missed out on prime time to start spreading the word about Running from Mercy. Marlive says you should start promoting at least three to four months in advance - visuals, interviews, requesting reviews, etc. Rest assured, I know better now, so I'm not going to waste time with the whole 'hindsight is the best sight' and 'lawd, if I'd only known' thing. I'll just be better prepared next go round.

k) And last but certainly not least, visit THEGRITS.com and find out what Marlive and her skilled team of promotions professionals have to offer. What I liked most about Marlive was that she wasn't about withholding helpful information and advice because I wasn't (yet) a paying client. I reached out to her as an author in need and she responded openly and enthusiastically. Now, some of her more technical services I will definitely have to invest in and I look forward to working with her, but I was sold when, after I asked if she minded my taking her advice and using some of the tips she'd given me immediately, she responded, "By all means! Any information I've shared with you, you are welcome to use as much as you like. And call me if you have any more questions or if I can help you in any way!"

Personal, client-oriented service at its finest. I love it! Don't you?

So now, all you Lesser-Known Writers, you know what you gotta do, right? Now if only I, the Lesser-Known Writer's writer, could take my own advice...

Listen, I have got to go change the darn battery in my carbon monoxide detector. That thing has been beeping every ten seconds all night and I'm about to go to jail over here. I'm signing off to go and do that right now.

Check out my shopping list:
- webcam
- conference-call capable-telephone
- cordless telephone battery
- lots of chocolate
- long distance calling card (answer your phones Marlive & Tee C. Royal)
- trivia prizes (for when people finally do join the Running from Mercy Book Discussion Group(s)
- Excedrin Migraine (because I'm giving myself a headache)
- hammer (for the carbon monoxide detector)
- new carbon monoxide detector

...this ain't over...


Yasmin said...

Awesome blog sis and Marlive is a wealth of knowledge...here's another tip...add feedburner to your blog so that those of us who want to keep up with you can...very easily by receiving an email when you've updated your blog or an alert via our RSS.
Also, do you have a website...if so you might want to have your blog as a part of your website...which will also help to organically increase your website ranking.

Author Terra Little said...

Thanks for the tips, Yasmin. Will do! All right all my fellow Lesser-Knowns, chop-chop, we got work to do!

Yasmin said...

Terra...you're willing to learn...you're seeking information...so you are well on your way to becoming BETTER KNOWN...and you also have a really good book...so just keep on promoting yourself!

D.L.Sparks said...

Thank you so for this blog!! Your blog is doing great compared to mine! LOL! You have a virtual mob going on over here compared to traffic on my blog. LOL!

But on a serious note...just when you think no one is watching...that's when you realize everyone is...

Take care!


Author Terra Little said...

You're welcome and thanks for stopping by, D.L.!

Chick Lit Gurrl said...

excellent blog, lady. VERY informative and real. i'll be on the lookout for future posts! :-)

Tee C. Royal said...

Welcome to the world of blogging. I'm so glad I was able to help in some small way, but just remember that advice I'm always giving you. You'll do just fine and everything will fall in place as it should.

I'm also glad you connected with Marlive. I refer everyone who asks to her and even use her services for RAWSISTAZ.

Hang in there and keep up the good work. I'll be stopping through often.