Of Books, Blogs and Self-Promotion  

Posted by Heidi in

Much has changed in the publishing industry since I wrote my first book (when my 21 year old Big Guy was a Big Baby and napped several hours a day, allowing me time to create The Two Lords Danvers, a regency romance based on an all-night dream I had between bouts of comforting my sleepless child (I blame the long naps) though TTLD is not published and probably never will be) and most of it has changed in the last several years—and fast! It’s incredibly difficult to keep up with it all (and should you be thinking this is the place to do so, you would be sadly mistaken).

One reason I chose, so long ago when I was a sleep-deprived young mother, to write genre fiction was due to my observation that those who wrote genre books (specifically, my beloved regency era romances) were almost totally anonymous. They did not go on book tours, they did not have their photos published on the back covers of their books and many of them wrote under pseudonyms, a fact I gleaned when comparing the name on the front of the book to the one listed as the copyright owner inside (though I don’t think publishers make this distinction anymore). My first priority was always making a home for myself, my husband and children and I didn’t much like the idea of leaving them to go on a book tour. My husband had left me for two years, back when he was a mere boyfriend, to serve as a Mormon missionary and it was easily the roughest two years of my life. No, I didn’t relish the idea of being separated from him or my darling child who needed me so much (it would be years before I knew just how much) so I settled on writing regencies in spite of the fact that I had been a purely fantasy girl since I picked up The Hobbit in the 6th grade. (Before that I was all about mythology--Roman, Greek, Irish, it mattered not--though I have to point out the existence of a common thread running through mythology, fantasy fiction and regency romance. In simpler terms, there is one.)

Fast forward to 2008 when I was told I was to be, at long last, published! It was fun to learn about the publishing world and fascinating to see how being on this side of the wall is, in some ways, not that different from being on the unpublished side of the wall, yet, totally different, all at the same time. One thing I learned was the differences between genre fiction and mainstream, or single title, books. Single title fiction is published in hardback form, first, and stays on the shelves indefinitely (think of the Twilight books or the Da Vinci Code). True, some of these books are written by genre fiction writers. Think Anne Perry with her Victorian-era murder mysteries (these are musts, people!) or Dick Francis with his race-horse murder mysteries or even romances written by Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood or Nora Roberts. These authors are cross-over successes. They managed to publish in the single title format due to their extreme popularity as genre fiction writers and have had books make it to the New York Times bestseller list, something that only happens to hardbacks that sell at least 5,000 copies in one week. This can never happen to your general genre fiction novel since genre fiction comes out strictly in paperback (unless your book is a rare fish out of water type of tome as published by my publisher, Avalon—but that’s another story entirely) and might not sell 5,000 in a decade. In addition, paperbacks don’t stay on the shelves indefinitely. The booksellers remove what doesn’t sell during its allotted time (anywhere from 4-6 weeks, depending on how often that specific publisher puts out new books in that line) and ships them back to the publisher or tears off the covers and throws them in the trash (quelle horreur!)

Though, at this point, it might seem that I am as aimless as a blind-folded three-year-old in front of a game of pin the tail on the donkey, I am aiming for a point here, and it is that genre fiction writers don’t go on book tours because it is the genre itself that sells the book, not the author’s name. Though it’s only natural for people to develop their favorites, genre fiction readers push through the glitz for the rear of the book store (back when they had ‘em) to the fantasy section, or the mystery, romance, science fiction, or western section, to find the latest and greatest while the single title fiction books, the ones that appeal to the mainstream book reader, is proudly displayed at the front of the store, the author’s name in big, bold letters, where you can’t miss ‘em. THOSE are the people who are sent out on book tours.

Or were. Nowadays, book publishing is so expensive and decreasingly profitable, that spending money on tours is often not feasible. Only the proven author, the one who has made big bucks on at least two books in a row, are sent out on tour by their publisher and even then, it’s iffy. (One exception would be the LDS publishing industry, though the tours are local only and don’t involve the expense of airfare or hotel accommodations with the requisite limo service and bowls of “red or green or blue-only” M&Ms. In other words, if you don’t live in Utah, you’re out of luck.) Not that it was ever easy. Rumor has it that Diana Gabaldon promoted her first book (Outlander 1991) by getting into the delivery van headed out to the book stores and chatting up her book with the driver who would then chat it up with the employees at the book store who, one only hoped, chatted it up with the book buyers. (Clearly this worked. She was in a rare spot, however, in that her publisher couldn’t narrow down a genre for the book which meant that she had no built-in genre fiction fan base, nor her then unknown name, on which to depend.)

On to my second point: the book blog tour has emerged as one of the single most effective ways to get the word out about your book for those of us who are not Diana Gabaldon, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, Stiegg Larsson, Orson Scott Card or James Patterson.

Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind came out, I was rather new to the blogging world and had only enough confidence to ask a handful of blog friends (at the time, acquaintances, really) to be on my tour (though many lovely people voluntarily blogged about Miss D in the following months as seen in my sidebar). These sweet ladies wrote very nice posts about Miss D and I linked to them in my blog posts, as one does. It all happened in one short week but it was one of the longest of my life. I adored all the nice things people were saying about Miss D and I increasingly adored the people who were saying them, but by the end of the week I felt like someone who had indulged in way too many chocolate truffles. And cake. Topped off by extra rich chocolate milk. I don’t think it was the sweetness of the words that did it, it was just that I felt so braggy and even I was tired of reading about it to the point where I was almost bored. (This is not an indictment of those who have longer tours and, for various reasons too personal to share, only applies to how I see myself.) When you think about it, there aren’t very many situations in which we ask our friends, acquaintances and total strangers to click on a link to read good things about our work, day after day after day. After bloomin’ day. True, rabid fans exist but those who attended 129 viewings of Dirty Dancing or who have read Harry Potter a dozen times do so by choice, only. No one is expecting it and that kind of devotion is certainly not actively and intimately encouraged by the creator of said pieces of “art”. Yet . . .

Which brings me to my main point (and about bloomin’ time!): I am going to have a month long book tour. (How ironic is that?) I think there are only 16 actual reviews coming up by 16 wonderful people who were asked to be on my tour and graciously accepted, or, in some cases, asked me if they could do it (clearly the smallest category), or who were begged to participate and promised wealth and riches galore if they did, something which I obviously can’t provide but I believe in Karma, (I do, I do, I dOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO), and so there you have it.

I appreciate each and every one of them more than I can say.

As a result, I will be blogging much more often, a circumstance that boggles the mind a bit when considering I rarely manage more than three posts per month these days in light of the extra full time job I have acquired (more on that later) on top of the full time job of wife, homemaker and mother of a Big Guy with Big Problems, which is on top of my full time job as a full time gimp which is fully taking up my time these days being as it is winter and wet and cold and I am about as lively and energetic as a wet noodle stuck to the bottom of the pasta pan, too worn out to even leap onto a plate for consumption, something a noodle plainly lives for, metaphorically speaking. (Tho the metaphorical part was obvious, right? Because, it if it wasn’t, I’m totally worried about you.)
(In the end, I guess this post is a big disclaimer, the claiming of which I am a big fan. At least I must be because I am always proclaiming disclaimers. In other words, sorry for all the posts from me that will be forthcoming, especially when I haven't been reading most of yours (even though I dearly want to) and sorry for asking you, again and again, to take pity on these selfless people who will be doing their best to present Miss Delacourt Has Her Day in a good light, by going and reading their posts, every other day for an entire month. I am doing it because I owe it to myself, my book and my publisher to give this book promotion thing a fair shot. I'm apologizing to you in advance for your status as innocent by-standers caught in the cross-hairs. The good news is: there will be prizes. Not many but a couple of them are pretty much to die for. Okay, 'nuff said so I shall now fall silent.)

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at Thursday, February 24, 2011 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

17 wise, witty and wonderful comments

What a lot of interesting background, Heidi! And I was totally loving your metaphor. And your disclaiming proclamation. Watch out because I'll be following you around on your tour... (insert evil laugh)

February 24, 2011 at 10:31 AM

I can't wait for it! I wish I'd been asked - so if you have someone back out, I'd love to do a review. Not that I blog much anymore, but I'm sure I'm still in lots of people's readers, and stuff. And I'd link to it on facebook, and buzz, and everything.

I love all the pictures that you have of Miss Delacourt has her day. Interesting to know more about the inside of the publishing industry.

February 24, 2011 at 10:33 AM

Well slap your hip and say"Momma rules"! :) I am so glad I just happened to find your blog! I believe everything happens for a BIGGER reason.
I am VERY interested in your book. I wish I would have known earlier also...I would have been jumping up & down while waving my not so slender arm's in the air, to volunteer to review it. Maybe the next go around?!

February 24, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Seriously Heidi, I would love to review it too! Not that I have that many readers or am super famous, but I do love to read! Can't wait to get my hands on Miss D Has Her Day! Whoo!

February 24, 2011 at 1:55 PM

So so glad and honored to be a part of it. Thanks for involving me.

February 24, 2011 at 2:00 PM

hey! of course we're totally looking forward to more Miss Heidi posts :)

and my copy of Miss D (the first one) is currently making its way around the neighborhood again to drum up the excitement for the latest :) Looking forward to actually reading it - when I get my hands on it it's bumping the ToBeRead pile down a notch... (well, provided I have finished my latest review :)

February 24, 2011 at 2:01 PM

AWESOME pictures! Congrats on your month long tour!

February 24, 2011 at 7:44 PM

It's funny how things have changed over the years. I can't wait to read everyone's reviews on the blog tour! It will be awesome! =)

February 25, 2011 at 8:21 AM

Well I shall certainly look forward to it! :)

February 25, 2011 at 1:53 PM

I am excited to read the reviews. And I know what you mean about feeling weird about self promotion. It just doesn't come naturally to me either.

And, while I am in the same boat you are-not reading everyone's posts but wanting to-I am excited to hear more from you. Even if I don't get around to all of them!

February 25, 2011 at 6:37 PM

Thanks for the comment on my blog! I'm excited to read your books. They sound wonderful!

February 25, 2011 at 7:33 PM

Those are very convincing photos, btw....
Holy cow though. You are busy. Maybe hire a body double to help you get through it all!

February 25, 2011 at 8:39 PM

I'm so excited to be part of this! Very interesting post! Good luck with your new endeavors, as well!

February 26, 2011 at 11:11 AM

I find the self-promotion thing totally alien. On the other hand, people are never going to buy a book they haven't heard of ;)

February 27, 2011 at 7:29 AM

LOVE THIS POST. Especially your eyeball. ha ha

March 1, 2011 at 2:56 PM

I loved this post. I am excited to read all of the reviews and I am always happy to hear that people really do marry their missionaries. :) My little brother leaves for his mission to England really soon here and his girlfriend is really worried about it. :)

March 2, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Self Promotion is a beast I admit I fear. But I have to agree with Rachel--it's a necessary one.

March 3, 2011 at 1:47 PM

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