The tone of the June 8 Books Alive! 2013 conference, sponsored by the Washington Independent Review of Books, was optimistic, upbeat and positive. The consensus seemed to be that books have a bright future, regardless of current or as yet unimagined formats.
By the end of the all-day event, which I also wrote about earlier this week, it was reinforced that authors, whether with a traditional publisher or self-published, have many avenues for self-promotion and to increase opportunities to earn money. (Although a recurring theme, besides that of continuing to hone your craft as a writer, was “don’t give up your day job.”)
The State of the Market panel; photo by David Gelin
During a morning panel session, the novelist/freelance journalist Jennifer Miller related her promotion efforts for her novel The Year of the Gadfly, originally published last year and now out in paperback. These include an effort to set a world record by visiting 100 book clubs in a month (this July), which she described affectionately as a “ridiculous stunt.” Many will be via Skype, and she still needs about 30 more clubs to sign up.
In addition, Miller — who grew up in the D.C. area — created a “Novelade Stand” in Brooklyn Heights, where she now lives. Her hand-to-hand selling of books came with the inducement of homemade cookies. And she crafted a highly unusual and creative book trailer. You can learn more in her recent Fast Company article, “Your Indie, DIY Guide to Creative Book Marketing.” Not everyone understands the necessity for Novelade stands and the like. She said that one reaction she gets is, ‘Wait, you’re with Houghton Mifflin and you have to do this?’
Gail Ross, President of the Ross Yoon Agency, presented a handy set of questions about promotion: how can your book generate conversations and word-of-mouth testimonials? And, crucially, ‘what will motivate someone to buy?’
Panelists Jennifer Miller and Robert W. Walker; photo by David Gelin
Of course, in order to have books to promote, you’ve got to find the time and space to write. For panelist Robert W. Walker, a super-prolific novelist, and like Miller a self-promotion enthusiast, that’s not a problem: “I can write in the middle of a casino.”