Questions from real writers, just like you; answers from Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas
Q: I haven’t a clue about how to promote my book on radio, yet I’ve heard other writers have been successful doing so. What’s the secret?
A: Because I am a book editor, my expertise usually ends when a book gets published; however, I can tell you what a highly successful client of mine did.
He wrote a touching novel about a soldier in the Civil War, and he based it on information he found in an old family bible. He labeled the book fiction, because he added dialogue and concocted details necessary to pull the story together, but he inserted photographs of the decapitated house where the real family had lived as well as marriage records and other documents to back up his story. After I edited the book and he self-published it, he and his wife loaded up their motor home and took off. They stopped in small towns along the routes mentioned in his book, found bookstores or other venues that would allow him to hold book signings, and then called local radio stations and landed on-air interviews to promote his book and book signings. Perhaps because the towns were small and had few competing events, he managed to get large crowds at most of his events. After he sold out of the first printing, he told me he and his wife had planned to tour the South anyway, and much of his book-promotion journey turned out to be tax deductible, while he and his wife had a delightful trip and sold many books. They planned another tour for the second printing.
Q: I just noticed that you had a radio interview on self-publishing. I missed the interview; however, I would like to contribute some firsthand info about self-publishing. If you are a senior (I am 87), think twice about self-publishing. I self-published a Christmas book for children, and although I had several reliable distributors, I discovered that I still was expected to do signings, make appearances all over the country, and do much of my own marketing. I am too old to be traveling all over the country, and besides, it was Christmas. Who wants to be away from home around Christmas?
A: Thank you for your opinion on self-publishing. In truth, though, even if a traditional publisher buys your book, nowadays you're expected to market it yourself, and unless you're prepared to spend a great deal of time marketing, the book may not sell well. Read some good books or websites about book promotions and find a few tips you can use to promote your book without traveling too much. Sometimes you can get radio interviews or give seminars and events while working from home. Telephone lines and the Internet reach the world over, so personal appearances are not as vital as they used to be.
Q: I'm a stay-at-home mom of a two-year-old, and I have a book that I would like to try to have published, but I keep putting off sending in my manuscript because I'm afraid that if I ever do get published, I'll have to leave my son for a publicity tour. Could you please let me know what, if anything, I can do?
A: I am amazed at the obstacles we writers put in our own way. “I won't try to get my book published, because I don't want to leave my son” is like saying, "I won't buy a new outfit, because I’d have to wash it." Rather than thinking of a negative result, we must think of the positive outcomes from selling our books. In addition, we writers have options open to us that we may not yet know about.
Here's the truth about the publishing business: The chances of selling a manuscript are slim. If you beat those odds and sell your manuscript to a publisher, you may have to attend a book release party, give interviews, or attend a few book signings, but few publishers plan or finance publicity tours anymore. Most promotions are handled over the radio or Internet these days. The books that result in national TV and radio interviews are typically written by celebrities. Every time I see a celebrity on a talk show, I know he or she is pushing a new book or movie, and I'm usually right.
Don't let the fear of success or the reluctance to travel stop your forward movement. Trust that if the book sells, you will work out arrangements that suit you and your family, even if you do help with publicity. When the traditionally published first edition of my book Write In Style was released in 2004, the publicity "whirlwind" included a few newspaper and radio interviews that I handled by telephone. I love to be invited to speak at writers gatherings, where I can also sell the book, but it's my choice to accept those invitations, and it was never a requirement from my publisher.
Every time you think of a reason why you aren't moving forward with your book, study the logic behind your thinking and decide whether it's just another way to block yourself. Writer's block comes in many forms. Don't fall prey to it.
On a personal note, I’m thrilled to announce that the updated and expanded second edition of Write In Style, my book on how to use any computer to improve your writing, just won First Place in the How-To category in the 2016 Florida Book Festival winter competition, won a Bronze IPPY from Independent Publishers in the category of Writing, and was one of only five finalists in the Writing/Publishing Category of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Purchase the book at http://tinyurl.com/o4trud2 or http://tinyurl.com/pnq5y5s.
Send your questions to Bobbie@zebraeditor.comBobbie Christmas, book editor and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions quickly. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com.