Month: March 2015

Sell, Sell, Sell!

I went to a very interesting and a helpful panel yesterday re: book promotion, that started with Dark Coast Press co-founder Jarret Middleton talking about how distribution works for indie books. As usual at AWP, I’m reminded of all of the people involved in getting books to market, and all the dear, brave folks who keep at it because they are passionate about writing and about books, be they print or digital. Middleton shared a graphic that outlined the process (see also: labyrinth) a book goes through on its way to market. Here’s the breakdown:

Writers are all familiar with this part: you submit your work to the publisher, if it is accepted, it goes through editorial (unless you’re Donna Tartt), then design, printing, and the creation of sales and marketing material. Check, got it, this all makes sense.

What I did not know was how distribution works. From Middleton’s talk:

Publishers pitch your books marketing materials at a pre-sales conference, and if you’re lucky, your book gets a few minutes of a distributor’s time, and during that time, they are trying to pick holes in the presentation – reasons to reject the book, reasons it won’t sell, flaws in the marketing plan or materials, etc.

Then the press makes adjustments to the marketing materials so that they fit the distributor’s needs. (Middleton noted that it often feels like the presses work for the distributors, not vice versa.)

Voila! You’re in the catalog. Sales reps then take the catalog around and pitch the presses offerings to book sellers, and once in the mix, your book’s sales data goes into the system (what system, I’m not entirely sure of, but I think there might be an evil bald numbers cruncher surrounded by monitors laughing maniacally somewhere.)

Whew. Once this happens, you’ve got roughly a ninety day cycle before the reps are shilling different books – the next catalog. So then it is time to sell, sell, sell! You’ve got more than one dollar on this bet, though, so next up, notes on what booksellers and the sassy Tumblr chick had to say about doing it well.[/fusion_text]

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An Introvert’s Guide to Event Management

1. Figure out as much as you can in advance; make all information available in folder/handbook form.

2. Hello! We’re not quite ready for you.

3. Hello! Here is your folder/handbook.

4. Let me repeat for you all of the information to be found in your folder/handbook.

5. Find cool, dark space in which to hide: basement, small patch of woodland, or, if absolutely necessary, behind the copy machine.

6. Hello! (Wait a minute. Maybe I really do like people. I am so excited to see all these people. Let’s chat. Chatting. Chat chat. Very interesting. Ah, yes, mm-hmm. Whoopie! I agree completely. I totally disagree. Still friends. Yes. Whoopie!)

7. Are we out of gin already?

8. Find cool, dark space in which to hide: bar, basement (a vending machine with Cokes!), small patch of woodland (poison ivy?), copy machine.

9. Greetings. Hair on fire. Is it possible you still have not read all of the materials in your folder/handbook?

10. Let’s sing some songs. Love these people. Love people in general. Human condition, big picture, don’t sweat the small stuff, love, love, love.

11. Hair on fire. Hate all people.

12. Goodbye!

13. Lonely, missing the people

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Chain of Fools

(Sell, sell, sell! Part 2)

To continue re: the myriad people who bring books to market – the holy fools, the true believers, the hard working folks that every writer should know about and be grateful for – here are a few more things to think about vis-à-vis book promotion. The chain is a chain of transactions with your hard-won novel/memoir/short story collection/volume of poems at its center, and according to Karen Maeda Allman, who runs events at the Elliott Bay Book Company it is an ecosystem of sorts.

I love this analogy – and the implication that each part of the ecosystem impacts the other parts. I’ve been on the West Coast three days and I’ve definitely drunk some of the Cool Aid (okay, it is a green drink with wheat grass and kale) – but it seems apt. The arts are hardier than given credit for, the literary community is indeed an ecosystem in the midst of a massive sea change.

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the beginning of the book to market process, and the various professionals that make that possible. Using Maeda Allman’s ecosystem model, here are the other funny creatures living on Imagination Island with you: everybody you’ve ever known. Yes. If you want to sell your book, you need to LET EVERYONE YOU KNOW know about its happy arrival, and then you need to find ways to get it in front of them, via readings, signings, presentations to book groups, etc.

This is a system that privileges extroverts, obviously – but her final point was this: hand selling is the most crucial part of boosting sales. You, in person, pen in hand. Bookstore employees who like the book and recommend it. Your mom. (Hi, Mom! No, you can’t give me back all those copies of Crazyhorse 63 you bought because I had a story in it…)

What I think about in terms of ecosystems is –from my not super nature/science-ey vantage point – being nice to people. It seems challenging sometimes, in the grip of your own ambitions, to remember that that every link in the chain: publisher, publishing interns, admins and publicity staff, distributors, sales reps, booksellers – they are all dealing with their own particular stresses and the pressure of doing a low-paid job in an uncertain environment because they LOVE it. I particularly enjoyed the comments from panelist Jonathan Evison (as evidenced by pork pie hat, a DIY guy with punk rock roots – huzzah!): “…After you do a reading, take the event manager next door to the Cheesecake Factory and get her drunk.”

Yeah. Treat those event ladies right.

Also, keep your email list up to date. You’re going to need it.

And PS: check out this very cool nonprofit writer collective:

Onward to a panel on how all of this bizness plays out in digital terms…

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Late to the party

content cover-smallI like to show up late. I dread the first hour of any party (especially if I am the host) —all that nervous energy, all the blank air and grinding conversational gears as things get into full swing. I’d much rather arrive just after things have gotten a little noisy and crowded, and that applies, I’m afraid, to many other aspects of my life. No one will ever refer to me as a member of any vanguard.

Which is why I can now insist, unembarrassed by the late hour, that everybody who creates content needs to read Content, Cory Doctorow’s collection of essays on the subject. There is much to consider, much to argue with, and a fair portion of joy in the excitement Mr. Doctorow —President of the Internet, Captain of the Future— feels about the very changes I hope to investigate on this blog. If you’ve already read it, I look forward to your comments!

Some of the tech geek stuff was a little inscrutable to me (see “Microsoft Research DRM Talk”) — perhaps because I missed the discussion that led up to everybody doing shots of tequila by the kitchen sink. But when he is talking about writing, about copyright, about Ebooks, he is talking to all of us who use words to create our art.

And the book is available as a free download. Go ahead —he wants you to download it, share it, hell, even print it off on your home printer if you are a total nerdball. (Yes, I did.)

I particularly recommend the following essays:

You DO Like Reading Off a Computer Screen
How Do You Protect Artists?
What’s the Most Important Right Creators Have?
Giving It Away
How Copyright Broke
Ebooks: Neither E, Nor Books
Free(konomic) Ebooks

You’ll find the book here, in almost any format you can think of:

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