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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reviewing My Promotional Efforts at Love Is Murder

So, now’s the hard part. I need to review what I did to promote myself at Love Is Murder and decide what was worthwhile. Okay, here goes:

1. Interviews—I still think this was worthwhile. When I spoke to Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child and Barry Eisler, they all remembered my name. Lee said it was the best interview he’d ever had, which was the sort of psychological boost that keeps me going.

2. Business cards—Definitely worthwhile. I just need to train myself to pass them out.

3. Presentation and appearances—There’s no way to check this out…but I was lucky enough to be assigned to a panel with Jon Jordan. I asked if I could do some writing for CrimeSpree and I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this without being on the panel.

4. Promoting myself as a writer with expertise as a speaker—Well, not so good. American Airlines kept canceling my flight so I raced into an empty room 10 minutes late. I was told no one was waiting, and it made sense. Most of the folks there early had paid to go to Master Classes, and I’m realistic. Between me and Tess Gerritsen, heck, it’s no contest. But I did worry about the unsold copies of Using Stories and Humor. So I had to make a mid-course adjustment and figure out how to sell the book…(Which I did. See below.) I really, really wanted to beat myself up over this. I felt horrible. But I decided in the end, it was better to move on. There was nothing I could do.

5. Handouts—Rosemary Harris came up to me and told me she STILL had my handout from SleuthFest, proving to me (at least) that good handouts are worthwhile.

6. Recipe Cards and Homemade Cookies—It was difficult to give these away. I had a real attack of shyness and awkwardness. I mean, I found it hard to decide when to share them and how. Have to work on this.

7. Pre-Order Contest--Vicki Erwin of Main Street Books was kind enough to agree to take pre-sales. ( 636-949-0105 ) She'll keep a list of all the pre-ordered books. From those, I'll draw one purchaser's name to be included as a character in book #2. I don’t know if this will work or not. It’s early days.

8. Bookmarks—Now I know I need two kinds: the fancy ones I customize to hand out personally and the plain ones. The plain ones can be left in a room for people to pick up willy-nilly, but since the customized ones take so much time, I should hand them out individually.

9. Prizes—Didn’t get them passed out. Just couldn’t figure out how to make this work. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, just needs tweaking.

10. A Small TBR Album—Unsure. It did impress some people.

One thing I learned NOT to do.

An excited author came up and told me about his book. Then he pressed a copy into my hands. I felt very uncomfortable. I felt backed into a corner. What do you say? This isn't my kind of book? Please back off? Well, I couldn't. People may think I'm tough, but...I just didn't know what to do except lie and promise I'd buy a copy so he would move on. That's a lesson to me: There's a fine line and making folks uncomfortable around you is bad stuff.

Benefits and Opportunities Along with a Mid-Course Adjustment

And now for the benefits I couldn’t have planned for and my “mid-course adjustment.”

1. In the shuttle bus, Al B. from Florida (sorry, I didn’t write down your last name, buddy!), told me he’d read this blog and the post. So that proves that just doing this blog was worthwhile. Thanks, Al!
2. My mid-course adjustment to not being able to promote my textbook during my session on presenting: I decided to give Joe Konrath a copy of Using Stories and Humor. Joe knows so much about this business, and he’s so generous about sharing his resources. I figure if he likes it, and if he runs across someone who needs that information, he’ll share it. A good thing, I think.
3. Carried around a copy of Using Stories and Humor, mentioned it during my last panel. I know we sold some copies. That worked!
4. Met with Tom Schreck, another Midnight Ink author and heard about some of this promotional ideas. Tom has done well with going to basset hound events, since his book features, Al, the basset hound. That encourages me to continue to work with the Great Dane rescue people.
5. Learned the value of getting my blurbs in early. From several people I heard you are safest if they go in with your manuscript. Important stuff.
6. Saw how Barry Eisler with his great joie de vivre totally wowed people. A reminder that energy attracts energy.
7. Offered to write for CrimeSpree.
8. Met the great Earl Merkel and was reminded that sending along a recording of an interview helps radio folks decide whether to book you.
9. The nice people at Brain Snacks not only carried Using Stories and Humor but also told me about a scrapbooker who got kicked out of the Hall of Fame, something I’d missed. That was important since I write about scrapbooking. (And yeah, I'm not surprised.)
10. Met a librarian from the Palatine Library. Yeah!
11. Got a recommendation about a store north of Chicago that’s great for signings.
12. Michael Dymmoch offered to help with the next Forensic U. That’s priceless.
13. Will continue to do interviews for LIM. That’s really professional development in disguise!
14. Kelle Z. Riley shared a nice contact at a bookstore. Thanks, Kelle!

Was It Worth It?

Was it worth it? Well, I didn’t have my mystery in hand, so it’s not like I can point to sales, but when I review all the new opportunities, knowledge, and the contacts, I think it was very worthwhile. I’m struck by the fact that when you go to a conference, you have no idea of the opportunities that might come your way…and I remember the saying, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So, if I keep putting myself where lightening will strike, who knows?


Sandra Parshall said...

Maybe you could offer your homemade cookies for the hospitality room at conferences. Make a little sign identifying yourself as the baker to prop in front of the plate. You might not be allowed to do this everywhere, but if you ask in advance you'll get some enthusiastic yesses.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Great idea, Sandra. I never thought of that.

Anonymous said...

These are terrific ideas, Joanna. Thanks for posting them!

Neil Plakcy

bd said...

Good to hear about LIM, since I couldn't get there this time. I think another way to put it is that we're not just trying to sell things, we're trying to build and participate in a community...and that can lead to unexpected connections and benefits.

Barbara DaCosta

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Absolutely. You know, I got my first book contract because I was at a conference where a man was handing out these poorly mimeographed calls for book proposals. That wound up being Using Stories and Humor, which has sold more than 10,000 copies. But who'd'a thunk it?

I keep telling myself that if you want lightening to strike, you have to be out in the open field during the storm....


Joanna Campbell Slan said...

And Neil, thanks for the compliment. I know you attend a lot of conferences, so I'd be curious what you've done to promote yourself and your books.