Congratulations to J.Q. Rose who won a 1000 word, pitch, and query letter critique from Joan Edwards on last week's blog.
This week we're hearing from Linda Phillips who is a familiar face to many of you. Her book CRAZY, came out in 2014 and she's still marketing it--although this maybe a "novel" idea for many of you. Take it away, Linda!
Carol: I understand you tried a new way to market CRAZY. Care to explain what you did and how you got the idea?
Linda: I recently exhibited the book at the Blue Ridge Bookfest, which means I wasn’t a speaker but was invited to set up a table and sell my book. While we are speaking about marketing tools, book festivals are an interesting lot. You need to choose them wisely, unless you have unlimited time and funds. Many times you have to pay a registration fee, sometimes you must join the organization with an even higher fee, most times you must foot your own bill for lodging, and they usually span two days of your time. Unless you are the featured speaker or a well-known name, you will probably average around a half-dozen sales. But the upside is the networking, and that almost always leads to lucrative new connections, ideas, or gigs.
Back to the Blue Ridge. Someone mentioned a well-known author who originally boosted his sales by buying up his own books. That got me thinking outside the box, and on the drive home, I came up with this idea. My book is about a teenage girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness, and May happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month. What if I bought up some of my own books and gave them away, with the asking price of a review on Goodreads? My agent is currently shopping my second book and she keeps reminding me that potential editors love to prowl around and look at your numbers. The idea seemed like a win-win situation.
Carol: How did it turn out? What were your expectations for this experiment? Did you meet them?
Linda: I’ve learned over the past year-and-a-half that lower expectations reap happier results. I put a notice on our neighborhood list serve, as well as posting on Facebook, and told myself I would be happy if I connected with a half-dozen people. On Saturday morning I parked myself at the top of my driveway with a lawn chair and a sign, another book to read, and a bag of my books. Here are the results:
- Three responses from FB, including a hospital chaplain.
- One neighborhood acquaintance who, unbeknownst to me, is a retired counselor.
- Two neighbors whose family members have bipolar.
- A college student majoring in Psychology who gave me the name of her professor. (By the end of the afternoon, I had a presentation booked with this professor.)
- Another college professor had committed by email, and became discouraged when she discovered she couldn’t use my driveway and would have to cross the street.
- And sadly, more than one person who quickened his or her steps to rush by me after reading my sign, or crossed the street before having to pass by me. If you are counting, you’ll note that I made seven positive face-to-face encounters. I’d call it cheaper, more satisfying and certainly as successful as any book festival I’ve attended recently.
Carol: Would you do it again? How would you change it?
Linda: Yes, I am hoping to repeat it a couple more times during the month of May. Unfortunately most of the colleges are between semesters right now. I’m toying with the idea of sitting in front of the trunk of my car in a key parking lot, but I haven’t firmed that up yet! Certainly if I do it again at home, I will move onto the grass so someone can pull into my driveway. We live on a busy street, and I just hadn’t thought that one through. Ah, the intricacies of marketing! And if I really get gutsy, the thought occurred to me that the idea might be newsworthy and a phone call to the local paper might be in order.
Carol: Can you share any of the conversations you had?
Linda: The conversations with those who “connected” followed the same pattern I’ve seen since the beginning of promoting my book. There is a look of understanding, something that clicks in the person’s life experience that erases stigma and opens the way for awareness and acceptance. I know that is general, but it is really the best payback I have received with CRAZY. My goal from the beginning was to start a dialogue about mental illness, and I feel gratified and thankful that it has happened every step of the way, one person at a time.
I would just like to add that I can step back and see the change that has happened within myself as a writer since October 2014. I think being comfortable giving the book away marks a new phase for me. You might call it not taking myself so seriously, not taking the writing life so seriously, getting a grip, chilling out, or you name it. I think it’s like trying to get pregnant, or being a new parent. Once you relax, good things start happening.
How about you? Would you be willing to read and review CRAZY? If so, Linda will send you an autographed copy. All you have to do is be one of the first five people to email Linda by noon on May 20 and promise to post a review on Goodreads. Here is Linda's email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Enter soon!