PR Success – PR Failure, Part 2


Today’s post is about Relationships. Which is another, kinder word for a type of networking, but it’s a networking that goes one step deeper than meeting people so you can both get ahead at something.

However, there was a lot of response to my post about signings last week and, while I could have responded more thoroughly then, I wanted to give it all some more thought. So, before moving on, I thought I’d poke that sleeping bear a bit. 

Re book signings:
Stuart said >> Isn’t there a better use of our PR time?>>

Oh, heck yes!

Almost anything on the web is better use of our time! I might post something at sight that gets, at most, 150 readers a day. But that is 150 people who want to know what I have to have to say, who read my genre, and who love books! They aren’t there for the coffee, or the gift ideas or to hook-up for the night. They are there because they want to be there for me, the writer of books! They are there at their convenience, not mine, a feat which, to duplicate, would require me to be at a bookstore 24 hours a day.

EKCarmel said >>an introvert who has been working at coming out of her shell as an adult, those book signing stories sound like a special kind of hell.>>

EK, anyone who knows me now could never imagine the quiet, shy, head-hidden-in-a-book child and young woman I was. While I’d put down the book and champion any underdog who was being bullied (detested-near-to-hated bullies. Still do) I was otherwise oblivious to the social world around me. I am still uncomfortable (and often a bit of an antisocial geek) in social situations. But when I decided to become a writer, and realized that I was not going to be able to write under a male penname and pay my younger brother to impersonate me at signings, (yes, I gave this serious consideration) I knew that I’d have to create a different me, one who was socially acceptable, knew how to laugh at jokes, make some myself, smile at the right time, not be snarky and rude most of the time, be capable of speaking in public, and … well … be nice. It is an ongoing project. I am an ongoing project.

Though I have not been described clinically as one with spilt personalities, I do have more than one. Frankly, when I began writing under 2 names (and now perhaps 3) the division in my soul between who I was and the people I was becoming grew much larger. The last time I called David, I used the wrong name when leaving a message and because I had a cold and sounded like a hard-drinking smoker, he wasn’t certain who I was at first. When I explained that I had 3 writing projects out in 4 weeks under different names and personalities, he used the term bifurcated. That’s me. And if you play your cards right, it can be you!

NewGuyDave told the story >> I heard recently [of] author x sitting beside bestselling author y at a signing table (removed to avoid embarrassing a friend). Nobody to come see x, while the store was lined out the door for author y. Finally, a fan from y’s line asked x if he was one of y’s assistants.>>

NGDave, I have a bit of advice for all the big name writers and wannabe-big-names out there. I am not often the one with the long line, but on the occasions when I am, I make a point to meet and greet and sign, then turn to the person beside me and say to my fan, “And you must speak with author X, here. He writes Insert Book Titles Here, and I love his work!” Being nice is important and many big name writers don’t know how. Or don’t bother.

Edmund said >>The strategy I adopted early on was not to do JUST signings, but to offer some kind of workshop or talk first.>>

Edmund, that works. I did it for over 15 years, often traveling the 250 miles one way to Atlanta. I recommend it to writers just starting out, to attract readers at book stores or libraries. But I’ve had so many events-that-didn’t-work because of bad weather or some other problem, that I’ve almost stopped now. Paraphrasing David’s comment last week—cons are a much better use of my time.

David said >>I am convinced that that vast majority of what we authors do in the name of “PR” is a waste of time. … I really don’t believe that my sales numbers would be that different if I did none of this stuff. I do it because if I didn’t I’d go nuts. When I have a book come out, I feel that I have to do SOMETHING to promote it.>>

Heck, yes. The *I must do something or I’ll go insane* hits all writers. And cons are expensive. And far away. And so I’ve put most of my eggs into the Internet basket. And it is working for me. That said, we all hope to see all of you at StellarCon and ConCarolinas in 2011! (End of plug for cons.)

David also said >>But mostly [at cons] I get to hang out with other writers which pays dividends in other ways. >>

And this leads us into this week’s post. Relationships.

I am still learning how to build relationships. Knowing how is not something that nature hardwired into me. I am having to learn how to build them. Relationships make PR much easier in every way. Here’s one way they work:

MW is a direct response to a meeting at a con attended by Misty, David and one-of-me. In case I haven’t made it clear enough, I am a shy person by nature, so when I meet someone and there is an instant click, a singular moment of, “Hey. I like you,” well, it’s rare enough to stand out in my mind for years. That singular moment happened with Misty way back when. That moment of acceptance that means a relationship is not only possible, but a certainty. And it happened again many years later when I met David. We met at a con, and instantly wanted to do something career-wise together. Brainstorming took us all over the possibilities from signing together (We live over 300 miles from each other, so that wasn’t gonna happen) doing a short tour together (hard for writers from different publishing houses to make that happen) to doing something for both writers and readers, which left us at, “Yeah. Something. I’ll think about it.”

Add Misty into the mix and it happened. She was the missing link. I am pretty sure it was Misty who said, “Why not do a website?” It was magical. In case you haven’t guessed, Misty can build relationships much better/faster than I!

The MW How To book is another result of the relationship magic that can happen at cons. And, BTW, most of it happens at the bar (or in an RV) with copious amounts of libations available, and it happens after hours, when no fans are around anywhere to see us get silly when we let down our hair. We wear comfy jeans or sweat pants, we curl up on the floor on pillows, we kick off our shoes. No one (usually) gets sloppy drunk. Actual drinking is not the only, or even the main, point. The point is that we build relationships with other writers and out of that meeting of the minds, great things can, and often do, happen. The moment when the How To book became a reality was another singular moment, this time with … was it ten? … people. It stands out in my mind even now, six months later, with almost audible click in my soul. Magical. The magic of relationships.

Stuart said >>Since every author I’ve ever talked to about this agrees that book signings don’t usually pan out, why do them? …  Isn’t there a better use of our PR time?>>

Building relationships, with bookstore sellers, the few readers we might meet, the rare fan who might show up, is the only reason to do a signing. Now I do book signings in my little indie store when I have a new book release. I’ll do a signhing the day before a con, or when I travel to Myrtle Beach or some mountain town. If I travel to New Orleans I’ll sign. But as means of PR, no. It just isn’t worth it. As a means of building a relationship, I am much more willing. Why 

Last week, David also said >>The one thing I try to do that I think IS effective? Talking to bookstore staff in as many local stores as possible. They are the ones who hand sell books. They have the greatest potential influence over my book’s success or failure. But the rest is, in my opinion, window dressing.> 

He was talking about relationships. Build them with bookstore people, which is hard because there is such turnaround in them, or used to be. Nowadays, people with bookstore jobs might stay put longer, so it might be easier. And my local indie bookstore attracts and keeps people for years. Always has. Relationships help. Build them. One trick? When I go to a bookstore for the first time, I used to take a dozen Krispy Kremes with my book info taped inside the lid. Booksellers remembered me.

Multi-writer signings are another great way to use relationships to build a fan base. Signing with writers who want everyone at the signing table to make a sale is a great fun. When you can get a bookstore to agree to give 5 or 10% to charity for every signed book sold during the 2 or 3 hours that the signing takes place, or agrees to pay for shipping to overseas soldiers for signed books purchased by shoppers is a great way to get shoppers in. Multi-author signings at Christmas time is a great idea! Use your imagination to think of ways to build on your relationships with other writers.

 More next week on PR.



21 comments to PR Success – PR Failure, Part 2

  • relationship magic…happens at the bar (or in an RV) with copious amounts of libations available, and it happens after hours, when no fans are around anywhere to see us get silly when we let down our hair.

    As I recall, it was a slightly rambunctious night in the bar at ConCarolinas when we adopted AJ. 😀

  • Thank you, Faith. I finally have a good answer to the question of why should we do book signings. Just as weddings aren’t really for the people getting married as much as they are for the parents, and funerals aren’t really for the person who died but for those who mourn the loss, book signings aren’t really about selling books that day but are about connecting with booksellers and a few fans to sell books down the road. That makes sense. Just like networking, book signing can be a long term investment.

    And, yes, I doubt any of us will forget the RV!

  • Good stuff, Faith. I often agonize over what paltry proimotional stuff I can do in person (signings etc.) but there’s no question that relationships with bookstores makes a huge difference. My favorite independent store (Park Road Books in Charlotte) has sold more of my books than anywhere else in the country by far, I’m sure, because they know me, they read my stuff and they hand sell. There’s no substitute for that.

    And Misty, nights in the bar with me are ALWAYS rambunctious 🙂

  • Faith> Thanks for another great post. It makes me think about how I form relationships with people. Every time I write, I’m glad to have met the people here at MW (and I met y’all at Con Carolinas, the first con I ever went to.)

    And this talk makes me want to throw a party. But not for the MW writers (not that you all don’t deserve a huge party, you do…) but for the MW Beta group and MW readers. It’s been so helpful. We’ve been talking, a few of us, about getting to Con Carolinas and stuff like that. And I really want to meet more of these folks in person. I do okay online, but I’m much better having face-to-face meetings and THEN following up.

    So I’m offering now, for anyone who reads MW and is going to Con Carolinas this year (well, 2011), to have a get together one of the evenings (Friday or Saturday) whatever suits. I’ll offer up my hotel room, and/or if there are enough of us, let’s all go get dinner somewhere, or hang out in the bar, and spend some time just chatting and, heaven help us, networking!

  • Deb S

    Yes, another wonderful post, Faith. Like a Christmas stocking chock full of goodies. The “no one gets sloppy drunk” line was a little disappointing, however. I was hoping for a story. Still, maybe it’s for best. The mental picture of everyone belly dancing on the tables while clad in character garb could leave a scar.

  • Faith, that makes so much sense, developing a relationship with the bookstore staff. That way, they remember you. And one thing that I *know* happens is they sometimes say, “Oh, this author was in just the other day. They were such a great person to meet.” Because of that human connection, there is an added interest in selling the book.

    I once went to a SF talk given by an Author X and Author Y. 95% of the people who attended were there to see Author Y, but Author X was the better talker (frankly, X was more entertaining, IMO). Some of the audience was annoyed because they wanted to hear Y. But Y just didn’t talk much. It wasn’t in Y’s nature.

    Pea, I am so in for that!

    As I said elsewhere, this felt wild and crazy that I’d be jumping on a plane and crossing the continent, which I’ve never done before, to go to a convention and meet people I’d only met on the Internet. My husband’s supportive of it, thankfully. I can’t make this an annual thing, but I want to make the most of it! I’ll be having my birthday there, too. Can’t wait to meet everyone.

  • Emily, what a great idea. I don’t know if we MWers are invited (I think there’s a terrific argument to be made for NOT having us there and allowing the rest of you to be the focus), but if we are, count me in.

    Faith, this is wonderful. The networking is really the most rewarding and helpful part of self-promotion, and it can also be the most difficult. People who know me find this hard to believe, but I HATE networking. I hate making conversation. I feel like I’m terrible at it. But it is so valuable, so necessary. And occasionally you have those moments — SCWW, ConCarolinas — that make all the rest of it worthwhile.

  • I do apologize for being late to my own party. I was at Wal-Mart. Really. I make a once-a-month pilgramage. Not like to Mecca. The only religion is the sales. Anyway, it always takes me *hours*, and then I forget about that place again for for 4 weeks. Whew. I *did* beat the Christmas crowd, thank God. What a bunch of angry people! 🙂

    Misty, it was a lovely time! And AJ makes a great addition to our little group!

    AJ, I ADORE Park Road Books! Hmmm. We should all do a signing there together some day. I have a book out on Jan. 4!

    Stuart, a *very* long term investment. Gwen still gets emails from booksellers wh want to see more of her books.

  • Pea Emily, I think that is a fabulous idea. It is *not* too early for all you BETA readers and writers to begin networking and come up with ideas for your own promo. And having each other is a great way to get *much* more done at cons. Hmmm. Next week we have to discuss parties at cons… Yes, I know it’s Christmas week, but … I’m gonna try to post anyway.

    And I agree with David. If we are invited, I’ll totally be there! I’ll bring a six pack as my guest offering. And I won’t stay long, so you guys can party-hardy with out us.

  • Provided nothing hinkey happens to keep us from doing so, me and my wife will be hitting ConCarolinas in ’11.

  • Deb, I *do* have stories about some writers I’ve seen who dance on the tables, are too drunk or hungover to talk on panels the next day, and one who threw up in his editor’s lap. But if you tend to drink too much then don’t drink at all. People (read here: editors and agents) remember the sad, drunken writer.

    Moira, yes it is wild and crazy to jump on a plane and cross a country to meet people you only know from the Internet. Yes it is. But not really as insane as it is to want to write a book, rewrite it, and jump through all the flaming hoops see it in print. It’s a way to say yes to life!

    Booksellers also remember the writers who were mean to them. If there is one rule in the writer’s handbook it’s *be nice!* It gets you remembered for all the right reasons.

    And hey, for the people who have to come from far away, do what Moira and Mud did. Share a room. Just be honest up front about snoring, sleepwalking, addictions (smoking, drinking, reading in bed until 4 a.m., that kind of thing.)

  • David, I am very surprised that you have trouble with networking! You are so gracious, you remember names (which I stink at), and you are witty, amusing (yes, I mean on purpose), and gregarious. All the qualities that make for a great networker!

    But like you, networking is difficult for me. Just freaking hard. Instead I try to make one, maybe two, really good friends at a con. For me that is playing to my strengths. To build promo, I try to think of it as making friends. Then I can relax.

    And I am so with you on crashing the Betas/Readers party. 🙂

    Daniel, I think that is great!

  • mudepoz

    Erm. Moira. I *MIGHT* snore. Currently I blame it on the dogs, but…
    I am a big mouth. If I like things, everyone knows about it. I do houseparties that are sponsored by companies to advertise their products. I make short reviews on my FB page (Which is way too busy). I have no problem meeting people and driving them crazy. You sure you still want to share a room:)I am leaving the dogs at home.

    Faith, does making friends mean the first time, or just meeting for the first time? On an aside, when I get to NC, I’ll be meeting with people whom I’ve never met, or meet at dog shows. We’ll discuss our dogs, bloodlines and they’ll give reasons why others should use their studs. We USED to use magazines to brag, but FB and blogs have changed that a lot. Some of the mags are going to e methods of delivery, and that’s sad. The material I’ve been gathering for my dog history will die when that happens.

    So if I bring plants and bones, I’ll have room for everyone’s books to take back. I assume I can purchase and get them signed? (Jeez, making plans 6 months in advance. Moira’s fault!

  • Yes, Mud, you can buy (or bring) books and get them signed! We’ll have copies of the MW How To book there too. You can get all the author’s books and signatures except Catie’s and Misty’s (who won’t be there {hear me whine}). But maybe Misty will let me take some of her signed books to sell. Hint hint, Misty.

    Mud, I’m not quite sure what you mean about friends and making friends, but, when I make friends, it’s usually forever. And for me, it’s a bit like love at first sight. I meet, I like, I am a friend. So far, that has translated to the people I meet on the Internet too.

  • Well, not so much my “fault” as it is “if I buy the ticket now I pay half the price”. Which is a LOT cheaper, coming as far as I am.

    Mud, it sounds like we’ll get along just fine. 😉

    This will be so much fun!

  • Sarah

    Woohooo! Partee! I do much better with online relationships when I have faces and voices to connect to the words on the screen.

    By mid Con I’m always brimming with writing ideas, impatiently scribbling story notes in my margins as I try to take notes on what the panelists are saying. The people I meet at Con Carolinas are the single biggest source of inspiration in my year.

  • Moira, it will be a blast. And it’s okay to be the reason that people are making plans early! You go girl!

    Sarah, the people/fans/writers/MW-folk that we met at CC last year were huge fun for us too! It will be even bigger this year!

    And hey — there is StellarCon too! We’ll all be there. If you can’t make one con, come to the other!

  • Faith, I now see that apparently there is hope for me after all! Thanks so much for the wonderful, practical advice.

  • EK, if you happen to be an antisocial geek, or like antisocial geeks, search me out. We can be wallflowers together!

  • Faith, tell me more of these book signings where people might ‘hook-up’… I am intrigued… 😛
    I think this post is another one of those things that, as soon as you’re told, you say “But of course, that’s just common sense” Not that I really thought about it beforehand.
    Maybe one day I’ll meet internet people in person, but I suspect I enjoy internet relationships better because you can run off to Wal-Mart (or in my case Bunnings Hardware) and jump right back into a conversation without being rude.
    There is an old saying amongst the native people around Perth, Australia: “It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.”
    It’s probably an old saying amongst pretty much everyone, but…

  • Scion, it is a common saying here too! And my taking off in the middle of post day is just rude! 😀