Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Roller Coaster

This is what we have to remember: It happens to everyone.
I just read a blog in Publishers Weekly about the ups and downs of author signings. Well, I read the beginning of it; the rest was available to subscribers only, darn it, but the author began with a story. He had reported for an event to find only three people waiting to hear him read. When two of the three realized they were there by mistake, they left, and he proceeded to do a reading for one person.
I live near the Kings Island amusement park, home of such daunting roller coasters as Diamondback, Firehawk, Flight Deck, Invertigo, and the Beast. I enjoy visiting the park about once a year, but it would take a lot of money to get me onto one of those coasters. For the last couple of weeks, though, I’ve been thinking of the publicity campaign for my book as its own roller-coaster ride.
It bears repeating that an author is responsible for publicizing herself. In addition to a web presence early on, publicity includes media events and signings once your book is published. It’s an exciting time that we all deserve to enjoy.
So far I’ve done two radio interviews, and another two were cancelled or postponed by the hosts. Things happen. Just last week I spoke at two events. Both were scheduled weeks in advance. Four people attended the first one, and forty came to the second. I was deflated on Wednesday and elated on Thursday.
This is the roller coaster of which I speak. As a new author, you can expect to experience serious emotional highs and lows publicizing your book. Will each event be a hit or a miss? Will you be flying high or in the pits? Will you fill one seat or a whole room?
My publicist worked with a very successful author team whose best-selling series of books didn’t catch on for a year. “It happens to everybody,” she said of the struggle, implying that even the super-famous pay their dues. Remember those stories about singers starting out? How they crowded into some old car and drove all night over bumpy back roads from venue to venue?
Maybe nobody comes to your signing, or your books don’t arrive in time. Maybe you forget your speech. You take a full day to develop a presentation with no idea how many people will show up to hear it. You spend money on a new outfit, or shoes, or a beauty appointment and wonder if the expense will ever be worth it.
It will.
When the chairs fill up and the flashbulbs go off and a line actually forms off to the side of your signing table, as was the case on a recent night in Cincinnati, there is nothing like it. Of course, maybe you wouldn’t be screaming, “Get my nails in the picture! It’s the best they’ve looked in years.”
Like the author in the PW blog, you put your product out there and then follow it, always the professional, always doing your best. So touring has its ups and downs. It happens to everybody. Enjoy the ride.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Book Geography

Amazon’s Author Central is a program authors can join in order to learn more about the book business and see market responses to their specific products.

In my educational publishing job, I had access to a sales database. Every morning I logged on, first thing, to view “the numbers.” I loved the numbers. Author Central now fills that void by providing sales information about the paperback and Kindle versions of It Started with Dracula: The Count, My Mother, and Me.

Near the top of the Sales Info page is a map of the United States with shaded areas reflecting pockets of book sales. To the right of the map is a list of cities where my book has sold. For each city the program lists the number of books sold there.
“Denver, Colorado,” I read this morning, and realized: That’s Janice.
Baltimore, Maryland: That’s Carol. Hartford, Connecticut: Rachel. Philadelphia? Susan. Two books, so Susan and a friend. Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek: Anita? Indianapolis, Indiana: My cousin, Karen? Atlanta, Georgia: My son, Greg, and his wife, Amy; Amy’s sister, Jen. Charleston-Huntington, West Virginia: The signing last month at Taylor Books. Jacksonville, Florida: Beverley?
Cincinnati, Ohio, has the darkest shading for the most books sold. That makes sense; it’s where I live.
The U.S. map of sales isn’t the only feature of Amazon’s program, so look for more about Author Central in a future blog. “The numbers” are shown in several different ways. I still love the numbers, but nothing beats the place map that became a people map today as I saw my friends within its jagged outlines and—even if some of it was guessing—learned to read that list of cities in a brand, new way.