Sunday, August 10, 2014

APPEARANCE IS ALL


APPEARANCE IS ALL
by Ilene Schneider




    I have friends (both real and virtual) who think I’m a best-selling author. The corollary is that I must be rolling in dough. The only dough I roll in is when I accidentally spill it out of a mixing bowl onto the floor and then slip on it.

    The truth is that I spend a lot more on promo than I earn in royalties. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: the reason there are news stories about authors who come out of “nowhere” and sign multi-book seven-figure book contracts is because they occur so infrequently that they qualify as news. One does not become a writer to make money.

    Why the impression that I’m doing so well? For the same reason that I lose so much money on my writing: promotion.

    I learned the value of “acting as though you’re somebody and people will think you are” early in my adventures through publishing. I would meet authors at conferences who were on panels; I would read messages on email lists from authors who consistently and constantly posted comments; I would see pictures on FaceBook from book launches and readings. I was convinced they were all highly successful writers rolling in dough earned through their royalties from one of the big New York publishing houses..

    Then I would check their Amazon pages and discover they had written only one book a decade ago. Or their recent books had rankings worse than mine, very few reviews, and ratings that averaged two-to-three stars. Or their books were self-published works so poorly edited and/or formatted as to be almost unreadable. So I got to work promoting myself.

    I have business cards with my contact info. and a QR code linking to the “How to Buy Ilene’s
Books” page of my website on the front, and the titles and pictures of the book covers on the reverse. I have rack cards with all the business card info. on the front and excerpts from my reviews on the back. I have pens inscribed with “Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries,” my name, and my website address. (Here’s the irony: I order fewer of the cards than pens as I need to redesign them whenever there’s a new book or cover. The pens were a “buy 500, get 250 free” deal. I have almost run out of  pens, but have plenty of cards, even after I’ve placed one of each in every book I sell from the trunk of my car. I discovered that even in this digital era, people love free pens.)

    The biggest expenses, of course, are the ones associated with conferences. Transportation (planes, cabs, shuttle buses, or gas if I’m driving), food (not all meals are included in the conference fees), conference registration fees, hotel rooms.

    Why spend all this money if I’m not making any of it back? Unless I promote my books and network face-to-face with other authors and with fans, unless I participate on panels and ask questions of panelists when I’m in the audience, I will remain even more unknown than I am. And maybe one of the “authentic” big names at a conference will read my books and give me some free publicity.

    I don’t just spend money, of course. Some of the best promo is free. It’s when I post online to FaceBook, my blog, my email list about what I am doing, where I’m appearing, what is happening with my books that I get the most exposure. It’s guest blogging on other sites, as I'm doing here. It's when I add my blog site, FaceBook page, and urls for ordering my books to my electronic signature on all my outgoing emails.

    I also use some advertising tricks. As Spock once said (I'm paraphrasing), "I'm not lying. I'm exaggerating." My second Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery took first place at the Public Safety Writers conference last year, so it became "the award-winning Unleavened Dead." After two of my short stories took first place at this year's PSWA, I've rechristened (so to speak) myself as "prize-winning author Ilene Schneider." My (non-OTP published) book about Yiddish slang has often been #1 in its extremely small niche category on Amazon, so it is now the "best-selling Talk Dirty Yiddish."

    I wonder sometimes if I’m “preaching to the choir,” if anyone who would be interested in reading my posts has already bought my books. I keep hoping that someone will know someone who knows someone who knows Oprah and sends her my books. (I doubt it’s a fantasy that’s unique to me.)

    While writing this blog entry, I thought of the “dress for success” rule: Don’t dress for the job you have, but for the one you want. So I will keep posting and promoting as though I’m the best-selling author I want to be.

    In the meantime, I’ll keep having fun and remember the other saying: “Be careful what you wish for.”

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Of course you could send Oprah your books yourself. Or you could send them to Ellen Degeneres or Queen Latifah with an appropriate cover letter. All three of them are interested in promoting female writers.
- Judy Freed

Ann K. Howley said...

Great advice, Ilene. But I don't care what you say. To me, you're still a rock star in the writing world.

Nancy LiPetri said...

Goes along with my favorite quote (from Sunny?) "put away your Castle clothes." And then there's the success in knowing you've written well enough to have entertained and maybe even enlightened someone with a story :)

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Ilene is correct on all counts. I've over 35 books published and always spend far more money than I make--how else will people know about my books?

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Ilene is correct on all counts. I've over 35 books published and always spend far more money than I make--how else will people know about my books?

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Ilene is correct on all counts. I've over 35 books published and always spend far more money than I make--how else will people know about my books?

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Ilene is correct on all counts. I've over 35 books published and always spend far more money than I make--how else will people know about my books?

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Ilene is correct on all counts. I've over 35 books published and always spend far more money than I make--how else will people know about my books?

John M. Wills said...

You're not preaching to the choir, you're just reinforcing what we all know.

Helen Macie Osterman said...

Everything you said is true, Eilene. I believe we write because we have to. There are stories in our heads that must come out or we are not fulfilled.
I don't have to support myself by writing, thank God. I write because I love it. And that's what matters.

Rayne Golay said...

Ilene, you just took away my illusion. I read one of your books, and follow you on FB. Then I met you at the conference in Las Vegas, and was blown away that, wow, I got to sit next to this very famous, multi-published author and exchange thoughts with her. And now you tell me you're just like me; a writer dressed up as a successful and famous author. You know the saying: "Fake it till you make it." You succeed in your projection. Oprah and the rest of it will follow.

Jackie Taylor Zortman said...

It's so good to hear that other authors share my miseries. I so enjoyed reading this blog, Ilene. I've got a couple of people who truly resent me because of my published book and the only reason I can think of is because they think I'm making big bucks. I, too, lose money on marketing, but I still love the business and the authors who share the experience.

Shalanna said...

I love this post! I don't have enough confidence these days to act as if I am what I aspire to be--a REAL author--but this is great advice. It's the way you succeed in business. (Don't you love Robert Morse in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying?!") Image trumps content in this world, which is something I find dismaying, but it's the way of the world.

I'm going to promote this post around to people who need to know this!

Billie Johnson said...

Excellent post, Ilene, and I agree with all your points! I will add one more...when I see our authors promoting their books and just generally being 'out there' it motivates me to promote them. When we have opportunities and financial wherewithal to buy an ad or other paid advertising, it's likely I will choose among the authors who have their oar in the water already. Then I know I am investing in a team effort...

Also, today's conventional wisdom is that it takes ten contacts for your name and/or product to stick in the mind of a consumer...this is one place where, IMO, less is NOT more!

Sharon Ervin said...

In 2013, our accountant told husband Bill that my books had only lost $518 last year, a career low. The costs of cards, conferences, speakings, bookmarks, travel, etc., always outdo the remuneration. Bill and the CPA both laughed at my chagrin, and both recovered, praising my contribution in reducing Bill's tax bill. Ten of my books have been published. Number eleven is due out soon. When people ask Bill about my writing, he says, "When she's writing she's happy, and when she's happy, we're all happy." Bill thinks my "lack of financial success" is worthwhile. What can I say? I'm happy.

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

love the post. guess I don't need to say keep writing even if it doesn't fill your pockets. I know I do. :-)

Eileen Obser said...

Wonderful blog, Ilene, filled with wisdom and very good advice. We all can learn from you. Self-promoting is so important, I feel, even if it costs or -- as Marilyn put it -- how else will people know about my books?

Susan Oleksiw said...

Excellent post. It's nice to have someone else describe what this mid list life is like. People think I'm famous because my books are in libraries, and don't believe me when I tell them I don't make enough to live on. No one wants to be disillusioned. And thanks for the new ideas. I hadn't considered pens, and I do need new business cards. It never ends.

JoAnnAinsworth said...

"people love free pens" Where do you buy your pens, Ilene?
P.S. I agree with you. I've had similar experiences.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Wonderful post, Ilene, because what you say here is so true for many of us. We write, we write well, but have yet to be discovered by the larger world.

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James R. Callan said...

Well, I certainly thought you were a top book seller - and I'm going to continue because -- you probably are, just not today.

And remember, the most important person to impress with your books is not Oprah -- it's you.

If you do a guest post on my web site, you will certainly be introduced as "Best selling author."

jim

Tekla said...

I soooo agree with your words of wisdom especially that we write because we love it and not because we become rich--although that would be nice. I keep writing because of all the readers that contact me to let me know that I have helped them change their lives. No money can take the place of that. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Tekla

Beryl Reichenberg said...

I think you hit a cord with all of us. I never know what effect an event , blog post, etc. has on sales, I assume getting my name out there is the important thing. But there are only so many hours in the day. One day, I hope to break even. Beryl

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Good post, Ilene. Thanks for reminding us that appearance is super important!

Mary Montague Sikes

Sharon Arthur Moore said...

Yep, Ilene, you said it all and well. If you are writing for the money, you're not likely to be a happy person. But when someone tells me they loved my books, that makes it worthwhile.

Lesley Diehl said...

In my eyes you are a best-selling author. I'm doing my best to model myself after you by acting like I'm someone in the writing world. You're a real ins;piration.

Karen S said...

I am cracking up because my sister wants me to hire my nieces for the summer to help me with my books. She thinks I am making money! HA HA HAAAAAAAA!