Sunday, December 31, 2006

Resolutions that don't suck

My New Years Resolutions

I hate making New Years resolutions. While I like the concept of New Years in terms of rebirth, renew, refresh, and recharge, etc, I really hate this idea that I will make this list of goals that are usually impossible to accomplish or in the idea of becoming a better, slimmer, more perfect ME. So, that being said, I have changed my mind this year. I have decided to make some resolutions.

The resolutions came from some obsessive thinking. That's how all of my good (and bad) ideas start. I woke up this morning thinking and obsessing, as usual, about my life and where it is and how I want some things to change (remodel my house) and some things to stay the same (my marriage)…but then this creeping, little thought slithered in. It was something like this- probably not as clear as I will write it out, but it was this:

Your books are sitting downstairs, in books, unsold. They are collecting dust in the warehouse of Baker and Taylor and iUniverse. Get moving. Get back into the shameless self-promotion and tireless pushing you were doing.

So I got up and went to the computer, trying to figure out how to do some more promotion.
***
Now this is an odd time for me, in terms of my books and writing. I have an agent, and we are working towards getting a book deal for not just the two books I self-published, but also the entire series (about 5 books). Plus, I have written a collection of short stories and also another novel (in progress). Our goal is to get a book deal that enables me to stop self-publishing, and I always viewed my self-publishing as a possible stepping-stone towards regular publication. (My ultimate goal is to make a living from my writing, but it seems to be, as other writers know, impossible.) What makes this whole thing odd is that the feedback we have been getting is that my self-publishing the books isn't necessarily helping the process. This is odd in and of itself as the self-publishing garnered me the attention of agents and led me to sign my deal with my current agent. Now that we are knocking on doors of publishers, however, some (two independents) are reluctant to pick up books that are already published. Now here's what I don't get: Are they reluctant because the books were self-published or just published in general? And, what about books like Eragon or Legally Blonde? Both began as self-published and went on to be VERY successful. Now, the feedback from the mainstream publishers is something like my work isn't sexy enough (my books are the antithesis of Gossip Girls) or they don't have room on their "list" to add my work. No one has said my writing sucks or my characters aren't realistic. So, as you can see, waiting for a publisher, even with an agent, isn't easy, and you can see that it is a truly confusing and odd time for me with my publishing endeavors. Luckily, I have been doing this awhile that I know publishing and writing and even promoting are all separate things.

The thing is, I never set about writing or getting published with the idea of money, fame, or honor. I set about simply because I love to write, am good at it, and feel that my stories about Maddie Hickman (my main character in the series) are IMPORTANT and need to be shared with as many people as possible. Simply put, I have something- a lot of something–to say. I never set about self-publishing to necessarily reach a book deal, although that was always in the back of my mind. My goal originally– and I guess– is what keeps me going underneath all the confusion is to connect with readers. Self-publishing was the fastest way to do that.

So as I wait for my agent to land us the killer deal I feel is in the not so distant future…what the hell do I do in the mean time? I know I have a very busy and full life with my business and my daughter and husband. I know the notion of adding on more work especially when a lot of marketing for books is futile (book signings are the WORST!) all of it adds up, and it adds up to book sales and networking. But ultimately it means I will reach the readers I want to reach. It will help me attain my original goal–share my work with other people.

I have pulled back from promoting after a flurry of retreats and book signings in the early fall. Simply put, I was exhausted and had found that the last three books signings for my new books were AWFUL. The second book is probably like the second child. You put up with less. You expect things to move along like they did with the first, and you let more things go– all of which I did with the second book, and it is reflecting in books sales. The sad thing is that this is a better-written book, and I am so very, very proud of it. And yet…the idea of getting back out there and shamelessly pushing it, well, it overwhelmed me a few months ago, but I feel renewed, now. The idea of rebirth and refresh– the new year.

After all, I think I lost sight of why I did all the shameless self-promotion…I did it because I believe in my work. Again, like with children, I bragged about these books because I think they are fantastic and even in their imperfections they are beautiful works of art to me and not only that, they are probably the best pieces of who I am creatively.

So, I have decided to try to get back out there and promote. I am starting with this blog, which I will email all my contacts about. (Hello contacts!). I am going onto the sites like Author’s Den, Amazon, and this new one called Bookcrossing and I will try to do some online promotional stuff. And my New Years resolution is to promote my books. The first major task I have assigned myself is to find 25 organizations that would accept my book as a donation. It’s a great, grassroots way to promote, but it’s also giving. I like the idea of giving away my writing; it goes along with that original goal of connecting and sharing my work with others. On the one hand, I would love to sell a lot of books but on the other hand I would REALLY love to just increase readership…

Just thought of two other things:

1. I also have short stories on my website that I want to expose more people to and need to find a way to self-promote that.
2. I donated 50 copies of my first book to Hope High School in ’05 and it was the best experience EVER. I like the idea of donating to an educational organization.
3. Another New Years resolution I have is to be home more, but I need to work. So I want to find a way to earn money from home. My newest idea is to teach some of my classes online. I contacted my web guy to try and help me figure this out.

If any of you have any self-promotion ideas, please leave your comments here.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Go make a resolution that isn’t about being thinner or more perfect….Maybe if we all did that we would keep the resolution!

New Years Resolutions:
1. Self promote writing.
2. Work from home more.

What are your resolutions?

8 comments:

kbbate said...

Hi Hannah:

My most important new year's resolution is to finish my novel. Therefore mine dovetails with yours -- I want to take your online class. So please set it up quickly -- I need you!

Also, I and my teenaged daughter (who worked as a camp counselor the past three summers in Virginia) and my 15-year-old godchild (who has gone to a sleepaway camp in the woods of Canada the last five summers) loved your books. Mattie is a smart, funny, great girl and struggles with real people and real problems. Hollywood seems to prefer airhead mean girls to anyone with a brain and a conscience, and the public sadly seems to prefer them too. My own 14-year-old daughter loves the Gossip Girls, despite raising her on much better fare and despite my disdain.

Mattie is more like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants girls, and they made it to the bigtime, so don't give up -- good taste and quality can prevail!

Happy new year,
KBBate

writerworking said...

Great post, Hannah. I feel the same way. I have sort of slacked off promoting my two iUniverse titles since September, when I made a big, exhausting push in Memphis, and sold about 50 books. I had a little signing on the 23rd at an African-American bookstore here, and hand sold five books. I self-pubbed for almost the exact same reasons you did and it's been wonderful to have people say they loved my books and were moved and changed by them. But I really want a traditional contract now, and I've been focusing really hard on my two in progress novels and a screenplay I'm collaborating on with my friend in l.a., who's a reality TV producer.
But what I keep hearing is that self-pubbing is a barrier to traditional publishing unless you can show sales of about 5,000 copies. That's the number everyone keeps batting around although I have NO idea whether it's true or not. I thought that winning the prizes we both won would help. I assume it does, but what have you heard about that, hannah? I am close to the magic 250 channel sales for Mr. Touchdown and so I plan another big push for February (Black History Month) since it's got the desegregation thing going for it. But last year I only got about 11 channel sales to bookstores despite my efforts. Oh, but it hadn't won any awards then and now it has! Maybe that will help. Anyway, I joined the Association of Booksellers for Children and plan a mailing to those stores about Mr. Touchdown for February. And then another about Peace winning the Writers Digest award. What did you do to promote that, hannah? Did it help?
Anyway, I love this post. Let's keep each other to the wheel!!

Naked Writer said...

Well, I want to say that writerworking and kbate are my very favorite writer buddies, and we have never met in person! They don't know each other either, but I hope they connect through this blog.

Kbate– I am working on the online class format now and hope to have something running by the spring! I even see something like a "web cam" as part of it. I love what you said about Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants. Before they went "Hollywood", I adored the first book. Then I started to see it as a little formulaic. However, I really am psyched that such a rich and interesting (and not superslicksex) YA book "made it". The Gossip Girls thing…well, I shouldn’t disparage. There is a place for that kind of stuff although I wouldn’t want young pre-teens reading it–at least without a dialogue with Mom or Dad. I don’t like that stuff and didn’t as a teenager. Although, the “slickest” stuff back then was Beverly Hills 90210 and even they were do-gooders. Thanks for the nice words about “Maddie”. Your words keep me going when I want to pull my hair out and try my hand at MEAN TEEN writing (as I call it!)

Writerworking-

What I love about your post is that you lay it out in REAL NUMBERS about sales and that’s something I feel kind of embarrassed about doing. I know that thousands of people have read my books but probably only about 2000 (total) have purchased the titles (combined with My Sister’s Wedding in the lead). I think iUniverse is AWESOME and I recommend students and clients all the time. But for me (and I think this is how you feel too), I need the support of a mainstream publisher–both financially and emotionally.

That being said…iUniverse also provided me the outlet and connections via awards and contests to become more involved and connected to the industry. But I had a HUGE part in the marketing and pushing of my first book and it was so exhausting and in the end reaped not enough monetarily for me to keep up the pace. I ultimately have to do more paying work at this point and that means promoting and doing those booksignings and traveling (all for sometimes as little as 5 books as you mentioned) has to be secondary and quite frankly done on a more selective basis.

MY agent has gotten me gigs that are far more significant in terms of connecting with readers and, yes, sales of my work. But my daytime job dovetails my writing job so when I do a gig, even if I don’t sell a ton of books, I usually wind up with a few new clients.

For the Writer’s Digest Award, I still use that as part of my marketing. Does it help? Yes, as it lends credibility…but it doesn’t really help in terms of readers. I think it helped me to get into the bigger bookstores as well as land a few speaking gigs.

I did HUGE and expensive mailings with my first book and did call places to follow up. They all told me that they usually throw away such post cards or letters. It broke my heart but taught me a lesson. I have a have an excellent response to emailings. I also do a newsletter, teach classes and workshops, and have my website all of which are inexpensive marketing tools. I am going to focus more and more on that and less and less on pounding the pavement. Pounding pavement is tiring and until I get the space and time, I am not going to hard-core pursue much of it. However, I never, ever TURN DOWN a gig. That’s my rule of thumb. No gig is too large or too SMALL!

So ladies…lets keep the dialogue going!

Writerperson said...

Did you do library mailings? I did half of one last year and still have the envelopes for the second half. I can't tell if I got anything out of it. I get Baker & Taylor sales regularly (1-2 a month) which I suspect may be libraries but I can't tell. Especially with Mr. T. I really feel there's a market there.

Writerperson said...

Sorry, also HI KBBate. Nice to meet you in cyberspace. My web site is lydaphillips.com and my blog is http://writerworking.blogspot.com/ if you want to know more about me.

I was kind of disillusioned to learn that Anne Braeshares (sp?) of Traveling Pants developed those books for the packager Alloy Entertainment, the same packager that brought out (and down) Opal Mehta through Little Brown. I've never thought the same about that series since. I'm with you. I liked the first one and then thought the second was kind of formulaic. Now I know why.

Margaret W. Jones, Ph.D. said...

Good Day, Hannah,

The holidays are over and work is slow today so I finally had a chance to read your blog. I am new to the blogosphere and recently started my own blog, Plucky Althea.
I don't make resolutions specifically for New Years but I do have goals. I want to finish editing my book, Not of My Making, which I will self-publish. I am not as concerned about sales as you are since I already have a career as a psychologist and life coach. The book is more a labor of love and part of my survivor's mission.
My second goal is to finish all my classes for credentialing as a life coach. Related to that is to build my coaching practice. The plan is to sell my counseling practice in five years when my husband retires and to move to Richmond, VA with a coaching practice and publishing business established.
I am curious why you hate self promotion so much. It is my understanding no matter how you publish you need to market your own books. It makes sense to me that traditional publishers would rather invest their money on a book or an author with a proven track record. There is less risk that way.

Deb said...

When did self-promotion become an unattractive word? Or rather an unattractive characteristic? Oh, I know, what we think of is some mind-numbingly boring person coming up to us and yammering on about him/herself, accomplishments, products, services, career, whatever.

But the other side of it is this. Who is best to let the world know about what you have to offer? Certainly, in the beginning, really how else would they find out? When you meet someone who is passionate about what they have to offer, what they have to help others, what they have to reach another individual, then it’s such a rewarding experience. I guess, then, the bottom line is what is their motive? If your motive is pure (altho’ I hate to use that word; it implies “perfection” or an extremely moral person), then…..

I can’t think of anyone who is not in the business of selling something. I looked in the thesaurus, and another word for “selling” is endorsement, which also translates to “encouragement”, “help”, “support”. Well, then self-promote and sell away if you can encourage someone with what you have to offer, help them and support them.

Be successful at it. Be as damn successful as you can be at it. Why not? Building something successful takes a lot of time and energy. Someone very successful (perhaps it was Sam Walton or Bill Gates, or some such) was asked if they could give the secret to their success. The answer? They said they could never figure out a shortcut around just plain old hard work.

I think we all have to have times to recharge our batteries and then just get back into the thick of it again. So, go Hannah, go! I’m as excited as you are about what you have to offer next…

Joanne said...

Hello all: I didn't get a sense that Hannah hates self promotion, only that she may have suffered a case of burn-out after a series of disappointing signings, at the end of over two years of constant self promotion. Who among us has not needed some time off to refresh and renew ourselves and our outlooks? It seems to have worked for her as she begins the year with a bright attitude and new goals for more vigorous promotion of her books. I do sense Hannah's disappointment at the "catch-22" development where traditional publishers will turn down her books for being previously published. I've read these books and know how good they are so I'm disappointed on her behalf. Hannah has paid her dues and proven herself as an experienced author who is ready, willing, and able to participate in the promotion of her books. Mazel tov, Hannah - this could be your year!