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Don’t kid yourself. If you thought writing the book was difficult, wait until you have to package it, market it, promote it and sell it.

The writing process by comparison is easy: all you have to do is show up at your desk every day and commit to putting pen to paper. It’s a solitary process that requires patience and discipline, and the only person you can count on or who will let you down — is you.

This is not the case when it comes time to launch your work into the world. There are all sorts of gatekeepers to get by when you start generating awareness and driving sales of your book. And it’s your job to entice, convince, cajole and excite the various publics who can make or break your book sales. Oh yes, and you have to be persistent – one attempt, two attempts, three attempts are not enough. When you’ve exhausted all of the angles (and yourself) – that’s when you can stop.

So here’s how you get started …

First, there is your immediate reading public: your blog readers. They are your first and best resource for word of mouth referrals. I’ve had blog readers surprise me by ordering my book Any Color but Beige and requesting it from their local library. Most libraries will order a book on request. And what I’ve learned is that larger library systems will not only order one book but at least eight copies. This has been my experience with the Baltimore and Cuyahoga County, Ohio library systems. Canadian Libraries will pay royalties based on the number of times the book is borrowed. My thanks to Tamara, BethAnn and Adena respectively.

Second, and a bit more elusive, are the media. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, your pitch has to be both compelling and timely. And sending out a press release is only one-half of the equation – you’re only as good as your follow-up. What you have to do is call each media person personally and ask if they’re interested in receiving a copy of the book or conducting an interview. The media has to do more with less these days so make yourself accessible. The easier you make their job the better your chance at getting coverage.

Third, approach your local bookstores and speak to the promotions managers. Be sure and give them plenty of time to schedule your event. Remember that you’re not the only local author. And if the store is not interested don’t take it personally. I’ve approached three stores in Montreal; one said no outright, that the book wasn’t right for their customers. The second said they only work with established authors. The third store, Chapters on St. Catherine, not only said yes but have been promoting the event in store. I’ve spoken to several staff members pre-event, and their excitement and their pleasure in meeting me was very gratifying. I made sure to pinch myself as I left the store.

Fourth, family and friends are also good resources for book promotions and sales. My mother, Little Lou, carries a copy of the book with her everywhere she goes, whether it’s to the hairdresser’s or bingo – she’s my best supporter. My father, thank god, has stopped short of taking his copy to wakes. But the racetrack is still fair game. If you’ve read the book you already know about my colorful childhood.

Friends have also been big supporters. They’ve organized “Girls’ Nights In,” combining friendship and commerce in an enjoyable and light-hearted environment.

Other friends have used Any Color but Beige as an opportunity to revive regular book club get-togethers that may have lapsed because other commitments have taken over. In fact, I will be the guest of honor at one such book club in Cleveland Heights at the end of the month. In keeping with the spirit of the book, the potluck will be French themed – but of course! I’d like to thank Kathy H,  Freya and the girls for this wonderful opportunity.

Finally, from all of this word of mouth I have somehow found myself as a quasi-expert in the world of self-publishing. I don’t have all of the answers but I’m happy to share what I know – what I’d do again and what I’d do differently the next time. As a result, I’ve been invited to speak to writers’ groups and conferences, and the reaction of the audiences has been rewarding.

In the end, after all of the hard work, effort – and even the occasional let down – I’ve reached an important conclusion that keeps me going: not all rewards are monetary.

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Okay, I thought I had a Chapter ready for New Year’s Day. But yesterday my editor returned my draft with so many comments and questions that it may take me another day or two to sort it all out.  There’s nothing like all those little red marks to keep a girl humble.

Notes to self:  Do not try and back into your story.  Don’t rush – these deadlines are self-imposed. Send thank you note to Mel. A good editor is worth her weight in gold.

Stay tuned.  It’s only a temporary delay.

Books, blog, writing, rewrites

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The secret is out. Now that my life is officially an open book, the world (I have friends on six continents) knows that I am not Wonder Woman. It is an image I struggled for a long time to preserve, but with the publication of Any Color but Beige: Living Life in Color I have given up that struggle. And I feel the lighter for it.

I didn’t intend to write a memoir and I certainly didn’t mean to bare my soul to strangers. Because up until recently, I have often said that I would rather chew broken glass than admit to any vulnerability. Ah, vanity!

On the surface I was calm, cool and confident as I shrugged off life’s slings and arrows, like some superhero in a movie. I’ve traveled the world for my job, lived abroad in some very nice cities and had a romantic life that was ripped from the pages of a Harlequin romance novel. It made for some sparkling conversation over cocktails with the girls for whom I put on my game face and pretended that my life was perfect.

But it wasn’t. The truth was I was in a blue funk nursing a broken heart and I didn’t know what to do about it. So I started to write. I poured my heart onto the page because I wouldn’t allow myself to cry. All of the emotion I felt went into my writing, and slowly I began to get my bearings.

Before I knew it, I had 200 pages of perspective. Having gone that far, I sent it off to a freelance editor for an evaluation. The minute I pushed “Send,” I felt a rush of embarrassment. What did I just do? I asked. I’ve sent 200 pages of total nonsense to a complete stranger. I was mortified. It took a month before I heard back from her and each time I thought about it, I’d squirm a little bit in my skin.

Much to my surprise, the evaluation came back positive and with it a long list of recommendations, one of which was to create a blog based on my experiences. The blog helped me build an audience for my book and hone my voice. It also helped me to get over some of the awkwardness I felt when writing about my experiences. I soon learned that what I had to say resonated with readers.

The blog was good practice for writing the final version of the book. Through it, I got used to gradually exposing me and my life. Because the blog preceded the publication of my memoir, and chronicled my life, it felt a lot like the gradual opening of rose – one petal at a time. At its core lay the sweet essence of my book.

Now when I think about the book, I think about the authenticity of its story. Now, rather than feel embarrassed, I feel relieved at having shared it. I used to think I was alone in my experiences. So many people have told me that they have found themselves on its pages that I realize the feelings of love and loss, happiness and disappointment and, most importantly, optimism are universal. And feelings are always better when they’re shared.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/olandesina

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