Thursday, May 29, 2008

Now to promote your book

Looks good, doesn't it? I'm very happy with it. Kim Mendoza did a beautiful job over at The Wild Rose Press. I'm so glad it didn't have a half naked couple in a clinch, but classy covers are TWRP's forte.

Now all I have to do is get people interested. Gone are the days when the publishers did all that stuff for you. They release the book to e-book online sellers and some mainline book shops, and hey, all I have to do is promote myself. Hah! My generation, especially us girls, were brought up not to be pushy. First lesson: get pushy. Nicely, but still pushy.

First I email all the online book review sites that don't charge money for the service. That means the reviewers are volunteers, doing it for love or for writing practice. Out of about twenty sites applied to I've received to date about five reviews. This means sending the e-book free to those reviewers, a very small effort and one I'm grateful to make.

Next, get onto other blog sites, e-loops, discussion pages and push for all you're worth. I can't help but think the members of authors' groups are like me, would rather be writing books than reading other people's! But get the word out, that's the ticket. Now, I haven't done as much of this as I'd like. (1) I'm getting old, I'm partly disabled and simply can't move fast (this is an excuse for not being efficient), I can't afford a housekeeper, and I'm slightly technophobic. (2) Which means I'd rather spend what time I can find just writing. I am amazed by younger authors who spend 8 hours a day on the computer, have homes, husbands and kids and often jobs, and who navigate the Internet with ease. Gosh, when I was their age computers were still science fiction. Heck, mobile phones that took photos - let alone videos - would have been science fiction, if any s.f. writers imagined such things.

OK, then there's the suggestions that cost money. Create a banner, create a website, get business cards printed, get bookmarks printed, and for heaven's sake MAKE YOUR OWN VIDEO CLIP. You jest. Until I earn money out of this, I'm doing only the free stuff. But I can't make money out of this unless I create a demand for my book. The worm Ouroborous. Dog chasing its tail. Catch-22. Going round in circles. People buy books by authors they like. My book is my first in the international arena. No one has heard of me. I look up Mary Clayton, which in my wisdom(?) I have decided to use for historicals, and find, ye gads, there's at least two other Mary Claytons. Then I find my title isn't original either. The Pirate And The Puritan has been used before, by one Ms Cheryl Howe. OK, not so bad. Maybe people who look for the title will get us both sales, and people who look for the author will get sales for all three of us...

And then there's Amazon.

In my innocence I knew only that Amazon was an online book seller. Ha! I look it up. Amazon sells anything, and everything. I find Books. They handle about four million titles, including second-hand. I look up Romance. Three hundred and twenty-four thousand titles and counting. I look up Historical Romance. Pushing twenty thousand titles. I begin to feel like Chaucer when he said of The Canterbury Tales - "Go forth into the world, little book..." I'm at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million as well, but Amazon is the biggie. HOW does one get noticed in a crowd of that size? Simple, one gets reviews. Your one little novel looks lonesome without any reviews. I only need to ask - rats, I can't ask anyone I know. I'm an Australian and I don't know a soul who has bought anything from Amazon, and Amazon don't let you post a review unless you've bought something from them. OK, I go looking for reviewers. I click on Top Reviewers... Three weeks later, and with my server threatening to put me into a costlier broadband category, I have found in the list of two or three million reviewers about ten willing souls to whom I can send the e-book.

What took the time? Understandably a lot of reviewers only post what they want to read and thus cannot be e-mailed. Of those who can I have to find folk who read historical romances. From those I need to find people who are comfortable reading an e-book from their computer screens. And no matter what the enthusiasts tell you, dear friends, most people prefer REAL books. Anyway, I end up with six reviews, and they're all great, and I'm grateful, and I have no intention of treading that path again. Heck, I lost three writing weeks.

Next promotion idea - a fellow author generously shared her own marketing plan with me - and everyone tells you to get on discussion panels and lists and blogs and plug your product. OK, I try a discussion panel on Amazon - and, people, the Amazon website is the BIGGEST I've so far encountered. No go. Amazon will not let me throw my name around until I have bought something from them. OK, I'm quite enthusiastic about that idea. There's lots of second-hand titles I'd like to buy, beats flipping my way through Lifeline's (charity) hundreds of boxes during their yearly book sales. Uh oh. The people selling second-hand through Amazon don't count as Amazon sales. Oh dear, I have to buy a NEW book. This is against the grain. I haven't bought a brand new book since 1964. Well, if I must I must. I order one. Cost delivered to Australia, forty- something U.S. dollars. For something I could buy locally for half the money. All right, it's worth it. I grit my teeth and try to pay. I CAN'T. I don't own a Credit Card. My bank is not recognised in the U.S. I grit my teeth and jump through all the hoops to open a PayPal account. AMAZON DOES NOT USE PAYPAL. I end up sending them an International Money Order. That was in April. I've received email notification that my order has been processed and sent and I can expect delivery in JULY. That is if the parcel is not held up by Customs, post offices and rival carrier pigeons. In which case it will be August.

All right. I am now an Amazon customer. I can post reviews, reply to posts on discussion panels etc. etc. I try promoting on a few discussion panels. Find out accidentally that this 'isn't done'. If I'm an author I must join Amazon Connect. I am currently stalled at Step 2 out of 4 in the requirements for Connect. Meanwhile I'm thinking up new tags for my novel so that people will find it on the site. Find one book on - a needle in a haystack is a cutlass by comparison.

OK. To save my sanity I'm doing some local promotion. I stick posters up on the notice-board downtown. Other people promptly pin their own announcements over it - "Ute For Sale - One Owner", "Kitten to give away to good home", "Onion Pickers Wanted" and "Come See The Flying Pig!" All right, I made up that last one. I get the local newspaper to take a photo of me presenting a copy of the book to the local library. Eight hundred people live in our town. I shall have to go further afield. I shall have to do book-signings in bigger towns. And while I do all this I AM NOT WRITING.

One of my favourite quotes about writing is from Kurt Vonnegut Jr. "Talent is amazingly common. What is rare is the willingness to endure the life of a writer." You said it, Kurt. And the big deal is, you said it in the days before authors had to do most of their own promotion.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


My old blog was just called Monya Mary. I thought I'd better add my surname, since I'm a writer and I'm supposed to promote my work. I'm the author of a historical romance called The Pirate And The Puritan for which I used the pseudonym Mary Clayton. Sounds more 'historical' than my first name, which will grace (I hope) the cover of Blueprint For Love, a contemporary romance due to be released in a month or two by The Wild Rose Press.

This is the new cover The Wild Rose Press has sent for my short story Lily's Captain. Pretty. I like the look of sailing ships. Never been on one in my life, but they look busy, like they have a purpose to their voyages. Islands to explore, seas to sail, destinations to reach. Unlike motorboats, which just seem like cars on water.
The Pirate And The Puritan has ships on its cover too. Mind you, one can't have a pirate without a ship. I'll post its cover below. Meanwhile I'll tell you what it's like to be a writer trying to promote one's work.
First of all one must write the book. Sounds obvious, but a long hard road. At least there's a bit of fun involved in getting your story onto the computer the first time round. After that it becomes work. Checking for discrepancies or weaknesses in the storyline, for spelling and grammar mistakes, forcing chapters into reasonable lengths. Polishing the rough bits, cutting out the unnecessary parts, making sure your characters don't misbehave and do anything that opposes the personalities you've given them.
Then there's the wait while the book goes the round of publishers. The nail-biting, the agonising, the butterflies in the tum-tum. And the frabjous day arrives when your book is accepted. You only have an eight-page contract to check over, sign and send back. You've made it!
No, you haven't made it. Not the whole distance. The editor loves your work BUT... said editor will send you back the manuscript with a list of items she wants changed. You read through them and your creative soul shrinks inside you. How did you not see that? And that, and that? You comfort yourself that you aren't blind and stupid, it's just that you've been over the thing so often. You've picked at the things you think are wrong but the whole tale has become part of you and familiarity has bred, if not contempt, at least the lack of a fresh eye. Which is what the editor brings to it. You make the changes requested. The m.s. comes back with a little more tweaking to be done. And maybe again. And again. In the end the story, once so alive in your mind, almost loses its meaning because you've been over it and through it so often, dissected its details to death. At last the editor is satisfied. Hooray, you're finished.
No, you aren't finished. When the publisher has the book or story ready to format in the shape the public will see, it's sent to you once more. This lot is the galley proofs. It's your job to go through them and check for printer's errors. Line by line. Word by word. And the worst part is, you see sentences, phrases, words you should have improved during the editing. Now it's in its final form they leap out at you. Too many commas, not enough commas, a more descriptive noun, a stronger verb. And you can't change it. The publisher will be most displeased if you do. These galleys are just for correcting errors the formatter or proof-reader may have made in the preparation process. And that's all you're allowed to touch.
You send the galleys back. You've done your best. The wonderful moment arrives when you hold your print edition in your hand, or can see your electronic version on your monitor, gorgeous cover and all. They probably haven't followed your ideas for the cover, but by this stage you don't care. Well, there we are, NOW you can relax, now, in the words of Geoffrey Chaucer re The Canterbury Tales, you can only say "go out into the world, little book", and garner great reviews, and be sold by the thousands, and make me some money.
Um. No. Not yet. There's a little item called Marketing And Promotion.