Friday, May 1, 2009

Guest Blogger (1.0) ... Pat Bertram


A couple or three days ago, I had the honor of being a guest blogger at Bertram's Blog, a writers' how-to and advice blog renowned across the Internet.

Today, I have the even greater honor of hosting Pat Bertram as a guest blogger here.
Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado, where she is a lifelong resident. When traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character- and story-driven novels that can't easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, available from Second Wind Publishing, are Bertram's recent novels.
           
Puzzling Out Promotion

by Pat Bertram

Writing means many things to many people. It is like a mythic journey into self, other lands, other minds. It is like archaeology, like exorcising demons, like channeling, like performance, like a faucet. It is like having an adventure. It is uniquely human, and it brings out the divine in us. It is breathing, a compulsion, a necessity, a reason for living, an obsession, a fun pastime. It is exhilarating and frustrating. It is liberating. And it is like comfort food, chocolate, and cherries. It is like magic.

Because of this mystic connection to their words, other writers don't seem to understand why I can stop writing to promote my newly published books. For me, writing is like the world's longest crossword puzzle, one that takes a year to complete. I like playing with words, finding their rhythm, and getting them to behave the way I want. I like being able to take those words and create ideas, characters, and emotions. Amazing when you think about it, how we can juggle twenty-six symbols in different ways to create words, sentences, paragraphs, worlds. And what one person writes, another can read.

The puzzle of promotion is every bit as intriguing to me as the puzzle of putting a novel together. We are told that to promote ourselves we need to blog, to "social network," to participate in discussion forums, to create a presence on the Internet. But these things don't work. At least not by themselves. How do I know this? If they worked, most authors would be successful enough to quit their day jobs, yet very few writers ever reach that pinnacle. Sure, some authors don't promote because they prefer to spend their time writing, some are satisfied with what they have achieved, a few are lazy, but most authors are out there promoting themselves every single day with varying results.

I am successful enough at creating my online persona that, moving from site to site, I meet people who recognize my name. I am not subtle about promoting myself, nor am I annoying (at least I hope not). I don't force my books down people's throats — I want readers to feel as if they discovered my books, because that will give them a stake in their success.

Despite all my efforts, I feel as if I am missing an important piece of the puzzle, the key piece that makes sense of the whole. What should I/could I be doing that will translate name familiarity (meager though it might be) into sales? How can I go from where I am to where I need to be?

All things take time to come to fruition, so perhaps time is the missing key to the puzzle. Unfortunately, time is one puzzle no one has ever figured out. Which brings me back to that missing piece.

I do know that promotion is as personal as writing. We need to write the book that only we can write. We need to promote in a way that only we can promote. So, how do we find that? I don't know. Some people are lucky enough to find the key at the beginning. Others are smart enough or knowledgeable enough to figure it out. Me? I will have to find the missing piece the same way I fill holes in my stories: experimentation. Try everything I can and hope I can puzzle out the solution.



Please leave comments on Pat's article below. She'll be responding to your comments here. Thanks for a very useful meditation, Pat! Book promotion is, personally, something I don't think enough about. But, with you, I'll be puzzling it out. Brava!

Happy Mayday, everyone!


12 comments:

Pat Bertram said...

Vince, it's great to be here. I am truly honored to be your first ever guest. It seems as if all I talk about anymore is book promotion, but it is an important subject to me -- to all authors, actually. If we don't get the word out about our books, they moulder in the back recesses of the internet, and that does no one any good. I just wish I had the answer. I'll let you know if I ever figure it out.

Sun Singer said...

Promotion is a puzzle. That's because publishers don't want to do what every other company does with products: advertise them. So, writers are stuck doing the work a company with a budget and a trained staff could do so much better--if they only would.

Malcolm

SueG said...

It's been a year since my novel was published, and the act of promoting that novel has taken up a huge chunk of that year. I first thought that having a "big" pr company behind me would help, but I don't think it really did.I took myself on a book tour around the UK. I blog. I facebook. I meet and greet. It's exhausting and frustrating, but also fun. But even after all that, I still have the feeling that I have to sell one book at a time, one reader at a time. So now, I'm talking to as many book clubs as I can. Readers love meeting writers and they have all seemed very responsive. But whether that really generates in sales, who knows? It's a great mystery, as you say. And, unfortunately, one that can undermine the writing of the next novel, if we're not careful.

Kenna Coltman said...

Eloquent, as usual, Pat.

Pat Bertram said...

Malcolm, supposedly books sell best by word of mouth, so publishers use that as an excuse not to advertise. But unless there is some advertising going on, there can be no word of mouth, because no one will have heard of the book. It sounds like an excuse not to spend money on untired authors.

SueG, you illustrated my point. We all work to exhaustion to promote our books, yet it always seems as if we have to sell one at a time. When does that vaunted word of mouth kick in? I think that's the missing piece of the puzzle, but how do you get people to talk about a book if they don't even know it's out there? I know there is a solution -- or rather, I believe there is a solution. It's just a matter of finding it. And you're right, it definitely can undermine the writing of the next novel. Promotion has already overwhelmed my writing time.

Kenna, I am pleased you stopped by. Some day perhaps you will be dealing with this same puzzle!

Vince Gotera said...

Hi, Pat. In turn I am honored to have you as my "first ever guest." Wouldn't have had it any other way. So THANKS!

Pat Bertram said...

Vince, it's been a pleasure. I look forward to getting the next installments of your "submitting to literary magazines" feature for my blog.

I've been thinking about the puzzle of promotion, and I'm wondering if perhaps their is no missing piece. Instead of looking for the right site to promote, maybe I should think of a different way to use the sites I already belong to. Something for me to think about as I continue to puzzle out promotion.

Pat Bertram said...

Just goes to show I need to double check everything. Their = there

Deborah J Ledford said...

You're right, Pat. Promotion is a puzzle. I suppose that's why it is so important to get yourself out there once you've actually got a book in print. Even the major publishers don't spend money on PR for the authors--it's all on us. I do believe that if you can get enough people interested in your work, word will spread and sales will follow. You have done an excellent job in establishing an online persona on numerous sites. Because of this, you have built name recognition which puts you ahead of many writers out there. Keep up what you're doing.

Pat Bertram said...

Hi, Deborah. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you're right about establishing name recognition. Any recognition I have is just within a small group when you consider the vastness of the internet, but even the most vaunted bestseller had to begin with a single sale, right?

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