In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not really a chick lit author. I’m published in mystery, and I’m not sure if the romance/coming of age story I’m shopping at the moment would qualify as chick lit. Not that it really matters, because when it comes to getting attention for our books we all need help. It doesn’t matter if we are self published, with one of the big publishing houses, or with a small one, until we start selling really well we’re pretty much on our own when it comes to the publicity budget. Why is it that publishers throw money at books that are already selling well? I don’t know but I don’t fret about it. It is what it is.
I’ve heard it said that making it big in writing – becoming a bestseller – is a crap shoot. It’s all luck. And that may be true, but I believe we make our own luck. What am I talking about? It’s hard to describe but I’ll try…
Have you heard the saying “insanity is repeating the same behaviors but expecting a different result?” There are things we should do over and over again. Writing really good books is one of those things. We could probably add washing the dishes and taking care of our health to that list, but unless you live next store to Oprah or Ellen you probably need to get out of your rut if you want to get your book noticed.
Unfortunately, getting out of our ruts is uncomfortable. We like our comfort zones. (Okay so I’m assuming you like your comfort zone, most people do, but if you are a daredevil or extremely outgoing you’ve got the edge on the rest of us.) I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. But I do want people to know about my books. So here’s what I did:
I volunteered for a makeover spread for a national magazine. I was hoping that maybe they would put Author, Kate George, in my caption. They didn’t, by the way, but something better happened. I figured at the very least I might get to talk to a handful of people who hadn’t read my books and maybe I’d come away with one new fan. We’ve all heard that we build our readership one person at a time. So that was my goal.
I had to drive myself to New York, pose for the camera, get my hair dyed, go through styling and makeup, and pose for the camera again. All those things were way out of my realm of experience, but I have to say driving in New York City was the worst part. I live in a place with virtually no traffic. New York freeways are intimidating to me. The people at the photo shoot were really kind to me – that part wasn’t nearly as bad as the driving.
Anyway at some time during the day we were all talking about what we did, and when the editor in charge of the photo spread found out I wrote books she offered to read and review one for me. I jumped on that offer, let me tell you. Six months later the review came out and my sales started climbing. Yay!
Would this have happened if I’d stayed in my safe and rural part of the world? No it wouldn’t have.
So am I recommending that you all run out and volunteer for a makeover in a magazine? No. Let me say that again. No. It worked for me, but you need to do what works for you. What I’m saying is get out of your comfort zone. Do things that put you in contact with people you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to. If you only reach one person, that’s okay. Your best fans will be people you really connect with. Those are the people that will talk about you, and your books. They will start the word of mouth thing going.
Here’s the hard part. After you do that once – go and do it again. Volunteer to be on talk radio. Organize a reading for a group of authors at your local library. Dance at the local park. Not everything will work, but those experiences that don’t create new readers will probably make really good material for your next book. Walk out the door and talk to someone new.
Go forth and make your own luck – you can’t lose either way.
When Ms. George first discovered Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Crusie she realized that she could use her own off-beat sense of humor in her novels and she began writing seriously. Ms. George has always loved animals and they find their way into her novels on a regular basis. The dogs are often based on her own canine children and their fictional antics are usually rooted in the truth. The incident with the crazy skunk in California Schemin’ (March 2011) is not fictional, and although Ms. George did not actually tame the skunk in question, the attack is a true account and her house stank for days. For the record, the dogs would rather stink than be washed with peroxide, baking soda or dishwashing soap ever again. Moonlighting in Vermont is Ms. George’s first book.