Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Mid Week Discussion
Howdy on Wednesday.
We had some interesting comments/questions from yesterday—enough to warrant taking another break from our NES to talk about ’em.
First, as to the pretending-to-be-a-corpse-in-hot-water thing, I am left with little to say. Except that, yes, novelists are indeed strange creatures. Not quite sure why Darcie had to try out being the dead body. Also wondering very much what others around her had to say. Did they ask you, Darcie, what you were doing? Did it even occur to you to tell them the truth? And what is this "Roundtable" thing? Are you chatting at some Camelot place and blaming this all on me?
I will admit that I had some trouble writing on the plane yesterday. I’m a visual writer, and I gotta see everything in my head so I can explain exactly how the action plays out. The scene I was writing had to do with HTC (hot tub corpse) being wrapped in a thick chain, and I really needed to at least do some hand motions to figure out the sequence of movements. You know, where the chain would go, what the body would do. However, I wasn’t sure the prim woman sitting next to me with glimmer sandals and perfectly painted toe nails would understand. Especially if I explained what I was doing.
So I squinched my eyes shut and tried to play it all out in my head.
HTC has been thoroughly wrapped and dispatched, by the way. Opening sequence now completed. (Applause would be appropriate here.)
Okay. Questions. One had to do with agents. That’s a big enough topic that I shall defer it until after NES. Although I suppose that’s rather an oxymoron of a promise.
Question two. Is the Internet better or worse for authors? Especially novelists who shouldeth be workingeth on their novels instead of bloggingeth and e-mailingeth. Well, I’ve seen both sides—having and have-not-ing the Internet, and I’ll take the having. I do think if I’d had such contact with other writers and ability for instruction, I would have learned some of the basic techniques of fiction faster. For example, like most new authors, when I first starting writing a novel, I had no idea of POV. I head-hopped all over the place because that’s the easier way to write. I literally learned about POV from reading fine authors who stuck with one per scene. I learned how to portray another character’s thoughts without jumping into his head. I marked up scenes in books as I learned this. Looking back, that seems so silly. All I needed was someone to explain the concept to me, or give me the name of a good book on writing that dealt with POV. But I had no one to tell me, so I floundered around until I figured it out myself.
I do understand the con side of the Internet—too many distractions with blogs and e-mails and Web sites. Man. These are some of the greatest procrastination tools ever created. I know how to use ’em to the nth degree. But in the end it comes down to discipline—doing what you gotta do, which is writing. I give myself a limit of time in the morning. By a certain hour I must have all my e-mails, marketing stuff, whatever-else-somebody-needs-from-me stuff out of the way. Then I must write.
Question three. What’s the deal with marketing your own books versus the publisher doing it? Pretty big topic, but here are some basics.
One of the biggest things that sells books is pull-out placement in stores. Ever go into Barnes & Noble and see the huge display right as you enter? Those books aren’t there because the staff loves ’em. They’re there because the publisher paid big money to put 'em in your face.
Magazine ads are great to see, but they may not end up doing that much for sales. Brochures and bookmarks and other mailing/leave-behind kinds of doodads all have their place. But again, the best thing a publisher can do for a book is to place it where a customer has to look at it. In CBA the major chains all have newspaper- or magazine-like flyers that are sent to local customers. When a publisher buys an ad in one of these flyers, part of the package is pull-out placement in the store. For example, I think in the month of May (or maybe June) my new novel, Dead of Night, will have ads in flyers of the four largest chains of Christian bookstores, such as Family Christian and Lifeway. That means that, in addition to all the readers of that flyer seeing the ad, the book will have special placement in every Lifeway, etc. store across the country. These ads are expensive, but they really do affect sales
In addition Zondervan features me in their Premier Fiction magazine, on the fiction page of their Web site, gives me a two-page spread in their catalogue—that sort of thing. Still the store placement is at the top as far as effectiveness.
Many times a book is simply published with a very small marketing budget. No ads in store flyers, no special placement in stores, no nothing really. It’s just placed on shelves in hopes that readers will find it. If it’s written by a new author, or even a fairly new author, who’s going to know to look for it? The author can do marketing of his/her own, which I do. I have a newsletter, a blog, I send out mailings to some targeted folks, etc. But that kind of thing isn’t going to make up for a publisher who does nothing.
Bottom line, marketing is a partnership. The publisher has its role, and the author has his/her role. I know quite a few authors who just can’t handle marketing. They hate it. I, on the other hand, have a background in it, and am very comfortable with it. As a result I end up doing more of it than many authors might. Other authors I know are absolutely whizzes at marketing—at their sales show it.
So. Questions, comments? See y’all tomorrow.