the beginning of the blog
This journal is also for anyone who's wondered what it's like to have your first novel out there. The current answer to that one is : thrilling and nerve-wracking. A Rumor of Gems officially pubbed on June 7, 2005, and what I've learned is that unless you have a major contract, it's up to the author to sell the book. It's not that the publishers don't want to support you, but in-house publicity departments are generally understaffed and overworked; typically, a publicist will have new list of books to promote every month. So if you want sustained attention to your book, you either hire a publicist or do it yourself. Not having the budget for a publicist, I've been attempting the do-it-yourself version which, if done right, is a full-time job.
I am not the ideal candidate to publicize anything. I am shy by nature, a true introvert. And I am not the world's most organized person. It was only last week, after a month of this publicity business, that it occurred to me to put all my notes on bookstores called, people to send promotional material to, etc. in one notebook. Typically, I work from whatever scraps of paper come to hand. Very bad practice for something that requires as much as organization as promotion.
At first I found it excruciating to call a stranger, introduce myself, and start telling them about my book. It has gotten a little easier with practice. Booksellers tend to be nice people who genuinely love books, so they actually are people that I like talking to. Another thing I've realized is that the novel has what I'm coming to think of as its angels -- people who are helping it along. These include a friend in advertising who wrote me a press release; my wonderful website designer Geoffrey Notkin; writer and friend, W.E. Reinka, who used to escort writers on book tours in the Bay Area and so has a unique and thorough knowledge of the nuts and bolts of book promotion; and my sisters, one of whom has been introducing it to her wide circle of acquaintainces, and the other who has a background in sales and has been helping me figure out how to go about this. One of the things I've learned from her is that a good sales person never takes a flat no. If the store says they can't give you a reading or signing, you then ask if you can sign stock. If you can't sign stock, you ask to send them promotional material. There's always a way in, and sales is a matter of finding it -- in this case, finding a way to make people aware of the book.
Nuala O'Faolin's Almost There is a beautiful memoir by Irish journalist, a book I'd recommend to anyone but particularly to women going through their "middle ages." In it O'Faolin recalls an incident in which she talked about her own work quite apologetically, and was chided for it by another woman, who told her, "You must stand by your words." That line has stayed with me. And every time I get totally overwhelmed by this process of trying to get my book out there, I think it's really just a matter of standing by my words, my work, of trying to see that they go out into the world in a good way.
Okay, I believe I have now gone on long enough for an intial blog entry. So let me leave you with the story of my favorite cold-call. Sedona, where nearly every store sells crystals, seemed to me a perfect place for a book about the power of gems. So I called a few bookstores and in one talked to a lovely man who said he'd be happy to carry the book but signing generally didn't work for him. Curious, I asked why. "Well," he explained, "when customers see someone in the store sitting behind a table, they tend to assume it's someone trying to sign them up for a time share, so they flee in the opposite direction." That, I've decided, is the world's best reason for not having a book signing.
Next entry, I'll talk about one of the stones -- maybe quartz. Please feel free to contact me with comments, questions, and any gem lore you'd like to share.
For more information on the stones, the novel, and the sources that inspired it, please check out my website: www.ellensteiber.com. And for more on gem lore, please see my essay on Gem Lore in the Spring 2005 issue of the Endicott Studio for the Mythic Arts: www.endicot-studio.com/rdrm/rrGemstones.html.
Hmm... why is the type in the above 3 paragraphs suddenly black?