Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Publicity Advice from the Nicest Author on the Bloc

One of the respondents to my Author Publicity Questionnaire was Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of AROUND THE BLOC: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana and 100 PLACES EVERY WOMAN SHOULD GO. Her second memoir, MEXICAN ENOUGH: My Life Between the Borderlines, is coming in August from Washington Square Press.

Stephanie had such great comments that I'm running them all in one piece.

What's the most effective thing you did to publicize your book?
I committed myself to publicity about six months prior to the release of my first book, and haven’t stopped since. You have to be relentless in this business, and grow the skin of an old rhino.
What's the least effective thing you did?
I’m all about guerrilla marketing, but some campaigns can be a serious waste of time. For instance, I squandered dozens of hours on MeetUp, emailing book clubs. [However, this was very effective for another author; see comment #10 here.] Only one club accepted my offer to call in to their meeting, and set the date while I happened to be traveling in Mexico. Since they assured me a good turnout, I called them from a pay phone in downtown Guadalajara, at considerable expense.

Only two people tuned in: the club president and his girlfriend, and neither had actually read my book--“But we’ve checked it out from the library!” I spent a small fortune answering their questions (“So, like, how can we sneak into Cuba without getting busted?”) and hung up, feeling like a chump.
What would you do differently for your next book?
I sent out so many thousands of publicity emails for AROUND THE BLOC, there was no time to follow-up with any of them, and ensure they were received. Now I am much more focused with my outreach, and persist until I get a response.
What do you wish you'd known about promotion/publicity, but had to find out the hard way?
Having read Jacqueline Deval’s PUBLICIZE YOUR BOOK! and interviewed a number of authors about their experiences with book promotion, I was fairly aware of what was in store for me. About a week after handing in my first manuscript, I had a stiff drink and dove in. Four years later, I’m still at it. In 2007 alone, I traveled to 35 cities! Promotion never really ends: It’s like being a traveling salesman.
Any tips you'd like to pass along to other authors?
Always express your gratitude. Send handwritten thank-you notes to absolutely everyone: reviewers, journalists, the hosts of all your events, conference and festival organizers, bookstore owners, librarians – EVERYONE.

Involve your friends in the promotion process. For both of my book tours, I’ve invited friends on cross-country road trips where we literally sold books out of the trunk of my car. It hasn’t always been a financial success, but we’ve had a blast.

Book promotion can be so many things: exhilarating, shattering, energizing, heart-breaking, invigorating, nerve-wracking. Remember that no matter what happens, you have fulfilled your dream of becoming an author.

Celebrate it. Own it. And above all, promote it.


Beth said...

I attended a workshop that Stephanie put on in Seattle a couple of years ago, and was fortunate enough to meet her afterwards, and have dinner with her and her friends. She was a dynamic speaker, staying to answer questions long after the workshop was over. I loved her first books, and can't wait for the next one to come out. She is committed to being accessible; just reading her schedule wears me out. I'm thrilled that you shared her comments with us, Bella - thanks!

Thursday said...

I had the pleasure of covering a talk Stephanie gave for my college newspaper in spring 06. Without a doubt, it was the best lecture I 'had' to sit through — Stephanie was vivacious, outgoing — all the things that every other speaker had failed to be.

Eric Riback said...

A key to successful low-budget marketing (which is what most authors need to do in some form) is trying a lot of things, finding what works, and doing more of what works. That you will have failures, and that what works for one person/business is different from what works for another, is a fact of life. If you don't have failures, you're either pure genius or not trying enough stuff.

Rebecca Burgess said...

Bella, Thank you for sharing all these invaluable insights from the trenches. Truly an education.

Sustenance Scout said...

I agree with Rebecca, Bella. These recent posts are just priceless. K.