Monday, August 31, 2009

MARKETING YOUR BOOK....or selling your soul!

From the Stakeout to the Kill:
Or: Secrets from a Self-Promoting Slut

I've had several writers ask me to talk about marketing and how I go about it. I wrote this blog a year ago, but nothing has changed, it's just gotten harder. Marketing is something that you have to do whether you want to or not, whether you're tired or not, whether you'd rather curl up with a good book and forget the world.

Okay, here’s the deal. We have to promote ourselves! There’s only one person who knows the book and thinks it’s the Greatest Story Ever Told; and that person is the author. I have no shame when it comes to promoting, selling or getting in someone’s face (or dinner plate) to sell my book.

The first thing I did after my cover was designed was to design and make a bookmark. It was easy. All I had to do was set my margins on my word document to the size of a normal bookmark (2”x7”) and then start typing….In this laugh-out-loud memoir, Dodie Cross…yada, yada, yada. You’d a thought I had just been awarded the Pulitzer by the way I bragged. But, why not? Whose going to walk up to you and say: “Hey, I read your book, and it wasn’t a ‘Laugh out loud.’”

Next I called around and got some quotes on 500 bookmarks; some prices were higher than my mortgage payment, some companies took six weeks to deliver. Then I found Office Depot. They were fast, did the work in-house, and the bookmarks turned out lovely! Then I began my attack:

The Stakeout: Every time I left the house I made sure I had at least 50 bookmarks stuffed into my purse. The second I saw a straggler, a woman sitting alone, two or more women together, or husband and wife, I began reaching into my purse. “Hi,” I’d say, giving my best local author smile, “I’m a local author and this is a bookmark for you.” “Oh, thanks,” most would mutter as they haltingly accepted it, hoping I wasn’t a rabid cult member trying to lure them into my church.

The Assault: I can’t tell you how many times my cheapo little cards sold a book for me. In restaurants: I’d scope out the room looking for happy faces—crinkles around the eyes shows a propensity for laughing; women chattering over a glass of wine (I always approach drinkers, they’re happy people). I’ve left the restaurant with two people trailing me to my car for an on-the-spot purchase. I suspect it might have looked like some sort of a drug-buy, but hey, you’ve got to market at any cost! On airplanes: I walk the aisles looking for women reading. They’re easy prey. “Hi,” I say brightly as I check out the name of the book they’re reading. “You look like you’d enjoy this type of book,” as I insert a bookmark into their book. There’s really no way to avoid a sales pitch on a plane. Where are they gonna go to get away from you? At the post office: Lines of women, just waiting to get their minds off of the dreary duty of picking up “held” bills. I think they’re the easiest marks. They have no book with them; they are bored beyond endurance; and their eyes light up when I tell them that the back of my bookmark is “for women only.” Then I lurk just outside the door, knowing I’ve interested a few of them, and sure enough, I have captured at least one to three bored housewives longing for some excitement in their lives, and honey, I tell them, this book will do it. Once I ran out of bookmarks before the line of women ran out, and I actually had a lady look ticked off. “Where’s mine?” she asked. Doctor’s offices: Another sure-fire captive audience. They’re all reading; either books or magazines left over from the pterodactyl period or boring health leaflets. “Hi,” I say, giving them the “local author” bit, “I’ll bet this book might be more interesting than reading about the heartbreak of seborrhea and psoriasis.”

Coming in for the Kill—The Guarantee: “This is a woman’s book,” I tell them. “Very funny, fast reading, and if you don’t laugh out loud I’ll refund your money.” “Oh!” some would reply, suddenly interested. “Well, gee. Okay. Um, where can I get it?” they’d ask while turning the card over and reading the hilarious synopsis I devised to trap such hold-outs. “Well, if you’re interested in saving some money in shipping and handling costs, I have copies in my car for just your type of smart shopper. Plus, I can autograph it for you if you purchase it right now.” I do believe I have sold more from my trunk than from my website.

I guess what I’m trying to say with all this airy persiflage is: don’t be a bunch of nattering nabobs of negativism. Get out and be a self-promoting slut!

Addendum: I need to add here that you must also try to find every book club in your area, and sometimes they may not be near you (I've been to Hawaii and Mexico to market my book), but if you don't get it out, who will?

Unless you're a King or a Grisham, you better get yourself some good walking shoes, and get hopping!

By: Dodie Cross

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I distinctly remember the first time I scooted behind the wheel of an automobile. It was the summer of my Junior year (notice how I ignored the year?), and my uncle had come to visit for the weekend. He called me aside and asked if I’d like to take a drive with him.

Now, in the 50s, there was usually just one car per family (okay, now I’ve given away my age), and the idea that I might have a chance to drive my father’s car was a non-starter. No one drove it but him, and I always wondered what the big deal was. It was an old beat up Mercury, spewed black smoke and the interior headliner was always sagging at some inappropriate spot. But he loved that car, and it was off limits to me.

When my uncle asked me that question, I knew immediately what he had in mind. My heart raced as we pulled away from the curb. “Don’t tell your folks about this,” he said, “they’d kill me.” What a brave thing for an uncle to do, or anyone to do for that matter.

In the 50s, we had Driver’s Ed as an elective in our Junior year, so I’d already aced the test (well, after hitting a few curbs and nearly running down a few little old ladies), and knew I’d be up to the task.

We parked about a block from our house and we changed places. It was a feeling like no other. My hands were clammy and my mouth was dry. I had to do this perfectly so he’d tell my folks that I was ready for my first car. I knew there would be no such item coming, as we were just plain middle-income working class people, and to have two cars in the driveway signaled some sort of prosperity. We couldn’t be show-offs.

My uncle launched into a five-minute speech about rules; turning to look out the window when pulling from a curb, left arm out straight, or bent up if going right, down if going left, etc. Basically it was the same sort of car that our class instructor used, so I did know the names and places for the stuff on the floorboard. I'd just never drove anywhere other than the school parking lot. But,I felt I was ready.

I looked out the rear-view mirror, the side mirror, put my arm out straight, and was ready to go when I realized that I’d forgotten what to do with the two floor pedals and the one large gearshift at the same time. I put my hand on the gear shift, put both feet on the clutch and brake. Nothing happened. “Give it the gas,” my uncle prodded. “Oh, yeah, right.” I then put my left foot on the clutch, right foot on the gas, and slowly pushed down. Nothing happened. “Put it into gear,” my uncle said, patiently. “Oh, yeah, right.”

I then grabbed the gearshift like a long-haul truck driver, pulled it down, pushed on the gas, held in the clutch…and we were off. But I forgot to look out the window before doing so. There was a deafening screech as an old man swerved around the car, honking and giving obscene hand gestures.

All of a sudden it wasn’t so fun. My hands were still clammy, my heart was racing, but for the wrong reasons. I was no longer excited, I was scared to death. “No problem,” my uncle said. Just sit there awhile and calm down. You can try again in a few minutes.

“Can’t we go to a parking lot?” I asked, terrified he would think I was a big baby and wasn’t ready to drive. He got out of the car to take over and drove to a parking lot. I got out with shaky legs, not sure I wanted to do this.

After several bump-and-runs, and giving my poor uncle whiplash, I finally mastered the gear-shift and gas pedal at the same time and was flying high. I felt that I’d just passed puberty; I’d just ascended into the realm of young woman and no longer a kid. I couldn’t get the smile off my face.

Well, here’s the thing. My cataract surgery and retinal surgery was a success (YEAH!) However, the surgeon did say that the growth can return, but I’ll worry about that later. For now, I’m back on the highway again.

Today I picked up my beautiful Versace glasses (if you have to wear glasses, might as well look cool). I drove home with a stupid smile on my face. I felt like a teenager again. I could see trees two blocks away, not to mention pedestrians and cars. What a thrill. I had been driving like I did in my Junior year, hoping that no one had the misfortune to step in front of me while I was behind the wheel.

Okay, I exaggerate a tad, but it has been scary. Last week, before my glasses were ready, I had a scare. On the 91 Freeway, whether you want to or not, you must drive 80 miles per hour to keep from getting rear-ended. So as I’m streaking down the freeway I see something strange ahead of me. You know those rubbery yellow poles that separate the FastTrack Lane from the other lanes on the freeway? Well, they came up on me so fast that I didn’t see them, and I mowed about ten of them down. Of course, they popped right up again, but I was glad they weren’t humans.

Thanks for those of you who wished me well. I will be taking the test for my driver’s license for renewal in the middle of September. Glad they don’t have gear-shifts and clutches in cars anymore.