Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Weird things we do for our books

Non-writers tend to have a narrow idea of what authors do all day.

I was reminded it of this recently when I told someone I’m a romance author and she scrunched up her nose at me. “So you just sit there and write all day, every day?”

Not quite.

Very little of what I find myself doing lately is actual writing. Though there are weeks where I’m knuckled down cranking out thousands of words on a manuscript, that hasn’t been the case lately.

Here are a few things on my author to-do list in the last few days:

  1. Shop for (and purchase) a pirate costume.
  2. Fill out Guinness World Record™ paperwork to participate in the Portland Pirate Festival and help reclaim the title for “largest gathering of pirates.”
  3. Spend 20 minutes on the phone with Willamette Valley Vineyards talking my way onto the waiting list for or the 20th Annual Oregon Grape Stomp Competition.
  4. Spend 40 minutes figuring out what the hell a grape stomper does.
  5. Pester local librarians to learn what gift bag items might prompt them to remember an author and purchase her books.
  6. Purchase 50 organza baggies and 160 chocolate gold coins, then ponder the best way to assemble pirate booty bags for a “librarian speed dating” event.
I must admit, none of those tasks was in my mind eight years ago when I sat down to write my first novel.

And while there’s nothing in my three-book contract with Sourcebooks that requires me to don an eyepatch or squash grapes with my bare feet, these are the sort of things many debut authors find themselves doing to support their books.

Unless you are a big-name author, there’s a good chance you’ll need to play a significant role in marketing your own books. I’ve watched lots of authors print bookmarks and schedule book signings, but those who combine those efforts with a little outside-the-box thinking are the ones I tend to notice.

I don’t know yet if the annual Portland Pirate Festival will be a good place to hold signings for MAKING WAVES next year, or if any of the contacts I’m making at Oregon wineries will prove useful when the time comes to market LET IT BREATHE.

That’s what I’m hoping to learn these next few weeks.

Oh, and lest you think I’m being completely random, there is a pirate theme to MAKING WAVES, while LET IT BREATHE is set in the Oregon wine industry.

I know that measuring ROI (return-on-investment) will be nearly impossible at this stage, but I’m committed to doing everything I can to get out there and make contacts, to make a name for myself and my books.

If that name includes the word “weird,” all the better. That is a part of my marketing plan, after all.

Will it pay off? Hopefully.

If nothing else, I now have a pirate costume to wear grocery shopping.

Do you have any outside-the-box ideas for marketing your books when the time comes? What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen another author do for promotion? Please share in the comments.

I’ll be busy throwing grapes on my kitchen floor and practicing my stomping technique.


JohnO said...

Ooh, the Pirate Festival! Wearing a hoop earring, listening to Captain Bogg & Salty ... AND a book, signing? I must go!

Génette Wood said...

That sounds about right. Not that I know jack about marketing, but out-of-the-ordinary is what garners more attention. Add passion into the mix, and you're set.

A Janet Jackson style wardrobe malfunction in the pirate costume probably wouldn't be amiss, either.

Candyland said...

Hmm. For my marketing plan, I'll be rewinding time. I'm sure it'll work out great:/

Patty Blount said...

Crap! For SEND, I may have to hand out camera phones.

Expat mum said...

Even when I'm doing writing stuff I spend about a fifth of my time actually writing and the rest reading, planning, investigating and e-mailing.
According to the kids'school however, I am available for any and any volunteering jobs because well, I'm a writer - I have bags of time on my hands don't I?

Kadi Easley said...

You are going to post a picture of you in your pirate costume, right?

Claire Dawn said...

I love your marketing strategy! Neither of those things would have jumped into my mind to market a romance. But then you want to keep it PG enough that they could show it on tv, right? lol

Linda G. said...

May we assume there will be pics in future blog posts? Because this stuff I gotta see.

Danica Avet said...

Well since I'm nowhere near being published yet, I don't have anything solid. However, I worry that because I write about Cajun country and Cajun people, someone will want me to wrestle an alligator. That is so not going to work. Other than that, I don't know. I never really thought about it, I suppose.

I would like to combine marketing my books with Louisiana heritage though, so maybe I can find some sexy shrimpers or sugar cane farmers to pass my books out, or maybe go to a fais-do-do...or something. *ponders*

And hello, everyone should have a pirate costume!

Lisa Galek said...

Nice! I'm looking forward to the day when I can dress up in a ridiculous costume for my art as well!

Geoffrey Cubbage said...

Now O Best Beloved is excited about making me wear a fairy costume "for marketing purposes." Thanks?

Anne Gallagher said...

I think the only thing I could do, if the book gets published before the summer, is to buy a float for the 4th of July parade back home. But even that seems a little hokey to me. I'd rather stomp grapes.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Awesome ideas. Love the whole pirate thing.

Unknown said...

Hmmm...I'm all for self-promotion, but I really hope you're not expecting me to kill anyone in order to get you to buy my book. That'd put a dent in my demographic :)

Stephanie said...

Staying home and writing all day is my idea of heaven!!!

But yeah...that rarely happens. The life of this writer includes getting one kid off to school and the other happy at home. Making lunch, fetching snacks. Household chores, the gym, dinner preparation. If I'm lucky...like today, my son is napping and my house is silent. And even then, my time has to be divided up my email and social networking...blogging, reading other people's blog. I need to be out there connecting with my readers!

Touch of Ink said...

I've got nothin'. I may put up a website where you can type in your name and it will tell you what Troll Wife would think you smell like, but that's about it.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Oh, you make marketing actually sound like fun!

When I lived in New England, my Italian neighbors made their own wine. They used a big wooden tub with a drain and vat underneath it. You take off your shoes, wash your feet, climb in and stomp the grapes. The juice runs down the drain. Fun,yes?

Harley May said...


I haven't thought much about what I'd do to promote my novels. I do hope to cash in all my author photo roasts and have people return the favor. I'd love it if people took my photo and made fun of it on their blog in a strange and memorable way before my first book came out.

Ooooh. Or I could get a bunch of buff men to walk around in fairy wings (faery tale story).

Harley May said...

For the record, that isn't the only reason I roast author photos. I do it because PEOPLE NEED TO BE MOCKED.

Laura Fenske said...

As pirates are pretty much my entire world right now we'll have to come out and see you at the festival. I have no doubt Garrett will still love them when it rolls around again. And, seeing you dressed as a pirate will make you become (oops, I mean continue to be) his most favorite cousin ever!

Heather M. Gardner said...

Brandon Sanderson, who is finishing the Wheel of Time series for the late Robert Jordan, is a big Twitter/Facebook poster. While traveling across the US for books signings, he would secretly sign his books in the airport bookstores and specialty stores and then Twitter/FB those locations to his followers.

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Ricky Bush said...

Aye, Matey! It oughta work.


JohnO, be there with your puffy shirt on Sept. 19!

LadyGenette, you know, if you saw the top half of this pirate costume, you'd know a wardrobe malfunction is certainly possible!

Candyland, uh...let me know how that goes!

PattyBlount, sign me up for one of those camera phones!

Expat Mum, oh, don't you love that? Or the people who call you in the middle of the day just to chat because they know you'll be home (never mind that you're on deadline and scrambling to get a million things done at once!)

kd easley, well I guess you'll just have to check back and see, huh?! :)

Claire Dawn, TV? Sheesh,I hadn't even thought about TV. Thanks for making me nervous.

Linda G, will you come be my official photographer?

Danica, sign me up to watch you wrestle that alligator in front of the sexy shrimpers!

Lisa, I have to confess, I love dressing up in costumes more than just about anything!

Geoffrey, don't mention it! Be sure to post pics of that fairy costume, OK?! :)

Piedmont Writer, come on out for the grape stomp. Apparently I need a second person to serve as a "scraper." Was going to have my dad do it, but you're welcome to join in.

Nicole, aaaar! I'm a fan of the pirate thing, too.

Karla, what's a little murder when you're talking about book sales?

Stephanie, no joke, no one ever tells you how much time you'll need to spend on the promo stuff. Social media is a fabulous tool, but it takes an awful lot of time.

Suzi, I'm intrigued on many levels by your comment. Troll Wife? Smells? I must know more!

Terry, I love marketing, especially when it involves fun stuff like wine and pirate costumes!

Harley May, people do indeed need to be mocked (some more than others).

Laura, come on out to Portland for the festival! Tell Garrett I'll let him hold my sword.

Heather, that sounds like a way cool idea! I'll have to remember that.

Ricky, even if it doesn't work, I'll have a helluva time doing it, eh? :)

Thanks for reading, guys!

CKHB said...

I am currently mourning the fact that the pirate festival is in Portland, Oregon instead of Portland, Maine. We would totally go to Maine for that.