Monday, April 23, 2007

This Time Last Year

Louise Doughty has a nice little column on the publishing experience. Though I have to say I've never had a publisher send me flowers, I've never had a book party, and I don't get much in the way of really good interviews in the papers. And as I was reading this thing, I kept thinking that Doughty had lucked out majorly with this column. As she was lamenting the lack of attention for her new paperback release, she was giving it a nice little shot of press.

I had a book come out last May and another is coming out this June. I've been thinking about the difference between last spring and this spring.

Last spring I made, what was for me, a major marketing effort. I thought I had a really good hook for publicity, and I spent a great deal of time working on a press release and sending press packages to area newspapers, my alumni magazines, and even a couple of radio stations. I arranged for a store appearance in my hometown, though my contact at the bookstore made it clear that this was really against his better judgment because people don't come to see children's authors. Then I sent press packages to the newspapers up there.

For all my effort, only one area newspaper was interested in me and the resulting article was so poorly written I was embarrassed to show it to anyone. In Vermont I got nothing but tiny mentions in "Calendar" sections of newspapers. I am no longer a hometown girl.

Late in the summer or early fall, I found that my alumni magazine did give me a nice little review and the local NPR affiliate gave me a mention during a book review show, for which I am very grateful.

On the other hand, the bookstores around here wanted nothing to do with me. I was clearly being given the brush-off by a couple of places I called several times and sent arcs. Ten years ago when I was a new writer without an ALA Notable Book and foreign editions to my credit I could get into a few bookstores. I couldn't make much in the way of sales there, but they would have me. Not any more.

This year I sent out a few arcs, contacted an alumni magazine, and at some point I'm supposed to have an essay published in an on-line publication, which should get my name in front of new people. But instead of making calls and mailing packages to people who have no interest in receiving them, I'm working on a new book.

My self-esteem is a little healthier this year than last.


Barbara O'Connor said...

>>But instead of making calls and mailing packages to people who have no interest in receiving them, I'm working on a new book.<<

I was so glad to read that comment! I totally agree with you. I hate marketing and have come to think that it is just not worth the time (and money) compared to the time spent writing my next book. Glad I'm not alone!

Gail Gauthier said...

I used to belong to an on-line writers community where people (many of whom had well known publishers) were seriously into marketing. They went to workshops on it and recommended books on the subject.(yeah, I've read one) Some of them said writers should plan to use their advances for promotion, hiring their own publicist or spending money on promotional materials. (My understanding is that many children's writers don't make much beyond their advances, thus this seems a great deal like gambling the farm.)

Anyway, that was what inspired me to make such an effort last year. As I said, I did get a little attention from traditional media that I wouldn't have had otherwise, and the book got a good deal of attention from bloggers. But it's hard to tell if any of it had an impact on sales.

I think that unless you have something really bizarre happen promotion-wise--picked up by Oprah, for instance, who doesn't read kids books--it's difficult for any writer to tell if time spent promoting has made a significant difference.
Whereas, if you use that same time to write a book or some short stories/essays that get published, you can see a result for your work.