Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guide to Survival while Promoting Your Book

Guest Blog
Carolyn J. Rose
Author of

On Friday, Melanie Sherman dropped by Art in the Heart to visit the Authors’ Table set up in the middle of the street at 10th and Main in downtown Vancouver. I was there with my latest book, Hemlock Lake, hanging out with five other authors, mystery writers Bill Cameron, Ann Littlewood, and Sheila Simonson, Clark County history buff Pat Jollota, and Ron Gompertz, the man who wrote a humorous tome about the fall of Rome. Hanging with us was writer Sharon Axline who described herself as a roadie and treated us like royalty.

“When your book is published,” I told Melanie with a laugh, “you’ll be out here with us.” The sun was in my eyes, but I’m pretty sure she blanched at the idea.

And I don’t blame her.

Promoting and selling isn’t for the faint of heart. The process of meeting, greeting, and pitching our publications doesn’t come easy to many of us. Believe it or not, many writers, myself included, are shy and retiring types. We’re most comfortable at our computers, chatting with our fictional characters.

But Melanie’s got a great story. She’ll get an agent and she’ll get a publisher. She will be out in public soon. To help her (and anyone else who’s interested) prepare for what comes after publication, I’ve created a tip sheet: A Short Guide to Survival while Promoting Your Book.

  • Psyche yourself up. If you don’t believe in your book, no one else will.

  • Prepare to preach the doctrine of “this is a darn good book” and convert browsers into buyers.

  • Keep your expectations low. If you tell yourself you’ll sell only a single book at an event, you’ll be delighted when you sell more.

  • Set your energy level on high.Smile, laugh, and even dance if the music moves you. Positive energy is contagious.

  • Check self-consciousness at the door. You may find yourself reading to an overflow crowd or to someone who stopped by to ask directions.

  • Give something away. Postcards, pens, and pins may translate into future sales.

  • Make eye contact. Take off your sunglasses and hat.

  • Make people feel important. Thank those who come by. Give out compliments. Make connections.

  • Put comfort before fashion. Standing for hours in shoes that pinch can cramp your style as well as your toes.

  • If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the summer art fairs. Otherwise, say “yes” to every opportunity.

  • Stay hydrated. But stay away from those adult beverages until an event is over.

  • Share your snacks. Offer candy or crackers if the event allows. Avoid too much salt or sugar.

  • Know the location of the nearest bathroom and make sure you have a few spare tissues in case the roll is down to the cardboard.

  • Mechanical inclination is always helpful. You never know when you might have to set up a canopy in the middle of a street, adjust a microphone, unfold a recalcitrant table, or tear duct tape with your teeth.

  • Bring a friend for support of all kinds. If a friend isn’t available, make a new one on the spot.

  • Don’t get mad, get material. File those close encounters of the weird kind for use in future books.

By now I can almost hear you saying that I’ve prepared you to be a yo-yo. Up (psyche), Down (expectations), Up (Energy), Down (impatience). And that’s about right. It’s not always a smooth ride. Be flexible. Have fun. Make friends along the way.


  1. Nice post! Hopefully someday ll get to the point where I can use this advice lol :)

  2. Angela,

    Yes. Never thought to bring tissue. And I like the idea of reading to someone who is just asking where the pet store is located.

  3. Great tips! I actually put some of them to work at Art in the Heart. Such a fun couple of days!

  4. I forgot to add: If you have to set up a canopy in the middle of a street, make sure that Bill and Ron are on your team.

  5. Bill,

    Did the kid asking for directions buy a book or not?


    Ha, so now the truth comes out. Ron and Bill did the canopy and you did the microphone.

    So, if I read your advice correctly, I need to do a book signing with someone who is mechanically inclined and brings yummy snacks. But is it okay to put a little umbrella, a slice of lime, and a cherry into my water?

    Thanks for the great guest blog.

  6. Yes - utilize lime, cherries, and tiny umbrellas often and in all manner of ways. LOL

  7. It was a blast meeting all the writer type folks! And yes I can no put in my resume that I am a certified Canopy putter-upper and putter-downer as well as a table opener and shutter.

  8. It is my sincere hope we can do a book signing together, Sharon. How are you at snacks?

  9. I can do snacks....for your book signing I can even try to find some authentic 1805 snacks..&.hard tack...spotted dog anyone?

  10. Excellent advice! Now back to the editing!

  11. Sharon,

    I'll bring the umbellas, limes and cherries. How will we get them into the water bottles?


    I've only got 50 pages left to edit. How about you?


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