Saturday, October 4, 2014

Getting The Word Out...

I'll tell you, I am far from an authority on how to sell books. In fact, I'm probably the worst self-promoter you will ever meet. I really don't spend half the time I should in plugging my writing. Some of it is because of my crazy, hectic life; and some is because I just really shrink from the marketing end of writing. I'll talk to you all day about what I write, why I write, how I write, when and where; but I just can't seem to push myself to make a consistent effort to actually hawk my wares. I'll get the word out whenever I have a new release, and then just kind of crawl back into my writer cave and go put some more words on pages.

Now and then though, an opportunity presents itself in some unique circumstances. For instance, a couple weeks ago I finally made it to a local craft store that had been open for months, and took a leisurely stroll throughout. Ten years ago, other than our local Walmart, if I wanted art and craft supplies, I either had to go to a downtown shop that caters to professionals (a lovely shop but I feel lost there) or drive over 30 miles to get to a chain supply place that caters to us dabblers. So I was delighted when a chain store set up at our little local mall. But I never had the time to check it out.

Well finally I did, and I had a ball for an hour or so. I am an all around creative person, and craft supplies for me are like chocolate covered donuts filled with crack—I can't get enough of them! Mindful of what I could afford, I went up and down the aisles leaving trails of drool, and cherry-picked a bunch of odds and ends to get my fix. One of the things this particular chain has that I find irresistible is a line of detailed plastic figurines by Safari LTD, many of which are fantasy based. Yeah I know; total geek stuff! I was looking at dragons and knights and such things and talking to myself when I spotted the following Pegasus figure on a higher shelf. Just seeing it there took my breath away...

You see, I have this anthology that came out recently, titled THE WINDRIDERS OF EVERICE that has a flying horse on the cover, and that artist's rendition is just so similar. That's exactly the way I described Skytamer, the first of the Windrider line. I am sure the crazy middle aged woman squealing and cooing to herself in the 'toy' aisle must have made a few shoppers avoid me like I had Ebola of the brain, because it seemed like for a while I was the only person in my end of the store. I had a coupon for X-amount off my highest priced item, and so while it did put me a couple dollars over budget that day, I proudly wheeled my carriage up front when I was done. I never thought twice how anyone else would view a 57 year old woman's strange little purchase. 

The line was moderately long, and so I had to wait for an available cashier. I got a nice, friendly woman maybe 10 years older than me, and we chatted a bit. She told me she had carefully wrapped my 'flying thing' and put it in a discounted basket I'd bought. All of a sudden it hit me how weird that must have looked, because here I had the basket, some yarn, paper, beads and charms, and a toy flying horse. Yeah, that makes sense.

Now I am babbling like an idiot about the Windriders book cover, and how this 'flying thing' is going by my computer when I get home. Her eyes light up, and she asked me if I was an author. Shucks yeah! So I pull Lee over (writing pal Lee Houston Jr. is my designated driver and generally ignored voice of reason) and I'm telling her all about our writing and where you can get our books, and she's yanking out register tape to jot down our names and pertinents because she has a Kindle and her husband is a big reader. Now I have a fan in the making who wants to see that book cover that matches my plastic flying horse. They are cheerfully waving people past us in the line because we are now local celebrities. 

Wow, from slightly kooky nobody to slightly important somebody in 30 seconds; all because of a whim purchase that gave me a chance to explain my passion for what I do. I know not everybody has what it takes to write a book, but I guess I've done enough writing now that the magical part of the tale spinning fades behind the actual work of getting it done. All I know is that for one golden moment that afternoon, I remembered how impressive that all seems. Seeing what I do through someone else's eyes reminded me that once I was dazzled by the idea of making a story come alive on the page. 

I will go back there eventually, and if I do find the same cashier on the counter, I hope to heck she remembers me. But more importantly, I hope she or someone she cares about got to read one of our books and found it enjoyable. That's really what it's all about. No amount of self-promotion matters if people don't like what they read. So maybe I'm not doing so badly after all, if just the excitement I feel for what I'm writing is enough to get someone's attention. 

I was thinking about that today when we were having a great time during a family get-together. We had extended family from out of state visiting, something that would not have happened had my cousin not taken the initiative to bring us all together. We are both grandmas now, she and I, but I remember very well when we were kids playing together. We want to pass on our love for the better things in life to the next generation. She got to meet my grandsons and DIL for the first time, and I got to send her home with autographed copies of each of our two COMPANION DRAGONS TALES releases, A Familiar Name and Finding Waxy

Her granddaughter is a little young yet, but they are fun books, so I have no doubt that they will be read, and hopefully enjoyed. In the process, this little girl will learn something about family that she might never have otherwise learned. 

My grandma's cousin is a writer!

Those sort of things don't seem important until you sit down and think about how many times in life we say we'd love to do this or that, and then never really get around to it. Life is just so short, and we're all so busy. Yet now and then, you find this passion for something that just won't let you rest without at least making some attempts to learn how to do it. So it has been with writing for me, because when I first began to seriously dabble in that, my presently adult sons were very young boys. Now one of them has kids of his own. My kids grew up with this crazy imaginative mother who read them stories about dragons, fairies, elves, and heroes of old, and then sat down and tried to write her own tales. My grandchildren will grow up with a grandmother who is actually a published author.

I guess you could call my way of getting the word out kind of backward, because I'm not using the conventional wisdom of where and how to do your self-promotion. The more important thing here though is that someone who is actually intrigued and far less jaded than the average online site visitor actually got to learn about what I do with my time and energy besides cooking, cleaning, gardening, and babysitting. Maybe—just maybe—that might start a small groundswell of interest. One can certainly hope!

For now though, I will keep on doing what I'm doing; which is using my gradually dwindling time to focus on writing the best stories I know how to produce. Letting my work speak for itself might be one of the slowest ways to boost sales, but it's what works best for me. While it's true that I don't have the sales figures and rankings constantly at my fingertips, I also have far less stress about the business end of writing. That allows me to focus mostly on getting things accomplished rather than how many places I should post online to promote myself—many of which are populated heavily by other writers attempting to sell their books.

I'm always open to opportunities though, so if someone asks a question or makes a comment, I'm ready to talk about what I do. Writing fills such a big career void in my life, it's hard not to be thinking about it. Even on my rare days off.

Writing on,