Friday, April 2, 2010

The Non-Writing Stuff is the Hardest Part


Please help me welcome romance author Terry Odell. Terry was born in Los Angeles, moved to Florida, and now makes her home in Colorado. An avid reader (her parents tell everyone they had to move from their first home because she finished the local library), she always wanted to "fix" stories so the characters did what she wanted, in books, television, and the movies. Once she began writing, she found this wasn't always possible, as evidenced when the mystery she intended to write rapidly became a romance.

When she's not writing, she's reading. She also volunteers for the Adult Literacy League in Orlando, training new tutors. She used to do a lot of needlepoint, but ran out of wall space in the house. Terry is a member of Romance Writers of America, as well as the Kiss of Death Chapter and the Central Florida Romance Writers chapter. She also belongs to the Mystery Writers of America. Her contest successes include the Suzannah, Gotcha, Jasmine, Molly, Great Beginnings and Finally a Bride, The Lories, The Gayle Wilson Award Of Excellence, Aspen Gold, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense.



Here's Terry: Thanks for inviting me to be a guest here today.

As writers, we tend to be solitary beasts, sitting at a keyboard, usually blocking out intrusions. Even those who write in public places manage to get into their own zone. I started writing more for fun, for myself. It was a challenge, and a creative outlet (since I'd run out of room for needlepoint on my walls). I never thought beyond the creative process—until I met a friend at a meeting, and she said she was writing too. She introduced me to a critique group, and I began picking up a lot of knowledge of the craft.

Eventually, I finished the novel. I don't know what I thought came next—I was content to start writing another, but my crit group insisted I start submitting. Assuming someone would knock on my door and ask if I happened to have a novel lying around wasn't the way things wo
rked.

Dealing with submissions, rejections, more submissions, more rejections wasn't something I'd considered, but it was still a solitary ordeal. However, I did get published with The Wild Rose Press, Cerridwen Press, and Five Star Expressions. Had I but known how much "non-writing" stuff accompanied being a writer, I might not have ever started.

If you're not a big name with a big NY House, you have to promote. A LOT of promoting. Now, I'm not shy about speaking in public. I spent many years as a teacher, and I love doing things like giving workshops or talking about the writing process. What I don't like is having to initiate contact.

Last year, at the Romantic Times conference, author Barry Eisler was a panel speaker. He was in the room well ahead of time, and instead of sitting behind the table, he was in the middle of the room, introducing himself to every person who entered, handing a business card (as if anyone at that conference didn't know who he was!). I'm not sure I could do that.

I've done book signings, but always in groups. I'm not confident enough to approach a book store and ask if they want me to have a solo signing. I'm not comfortable enticing people to my table. Ask me to wander around the bookstore handing out bookmarks? Not me. I did get brave once, and offered a bookmark to someone who was reading a book at Panera. She said, "No, thank you." Devastating. I mean, how hard would it have been to take it and throw it away when I wasn't looking?

Even the more "anonymous" promotion bugs me. I've got the Social Networking sites. I've seen authors who reply to every friend request with a "thank you for friending this author of [insert name of book]". To me, that's intrusive, and I can't bring myself to do it, although I'm sure it's effective for many. If it bugs me to see it, then I don't want to do it.

Had I known how much self-promotion was involved in writing, I might have had second thoughts. Right now, I'm supposed to be asking published authors if they'd be willing to read my manuscript and provide cover quotes. And of course, they want well-known authors or the quotes aren't going to sell the book. I know lots of "much bigger than I" authors, but I'm reluctant to approach them. They'll be put on the spot. How to decline politely. Or what if they do read the manuscript but don't like it?

For me, writing is fun. But trying to get the word out about ME isn't. Which might be why I'm willing to bet very few, if any, of the people reading this post have read any of my short stories or books, despite positive reviews.

Meanwhile, I'll keep writing. Because not writing is like not breathing.

To learn more about Terry and her books, visit her website and her blog.

24 comments:

  1. Terry,
    Great post, Terry! The writing is the easy part, but promotion...Yikes!

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  2. I know your pain, Terry!!!! Do you have a friend (a cheerleader) who would go with you to book signings and hawk your wares? That has really helped me in the past. Or sign with a fellow author/friend and be the promo guy for each other.

    I've noticed that some authors just have a lure. I saw one author in costume at a book signing and thought - that's crazy - until she attracted EVERYONE walking by to her table. Hmmm.

    Promo is a toughy.

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  3. Victoria - thanks. I agree, I'd much rather be writing.

    Debra - for the group signings, there was usually some kind of 'help' but the downside of group signings is that people shy away because they think they'll have to buy a book from everyone. But it's more about getting your name out there than selling books. Or so I remind myself.

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  4. Terry, thanks so much for being here today. Great post!

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  5. Rebecca, my pleasure. I'll be out for a bit but will respond to any comments whenever I'm around.

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  6. Terry,

    You've said it for a great many of us who write!
    I love to write and hate to promote. In a perfect world, our publishers would spend a bit of coin to promote our work to the public. Oh, well, I'll keep dreaming!

    All the best,

    Jacqueline Seewald

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  7. Terry,
    I really liked this post. The thought of all the self-promoting is terrifying, and I haven't even sold my first book yet. I guess I always thought it was the publisher's responsibility to do the promotion - isn't it the writer's job to write?

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  8. As Jacqueline said, you may as well have been speaking for me, Terry. But we love writing too much to quit, so that's why blogs like Rebecca's are great for helping us move beyond our comfort zones.

    Excellent post!

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  9. Jacquline, GD. At a RWA Q&A with Linda Howard, an author asked how much time she spent on promotion. She said, "None. The publisher wants to make back it's advance. Let them do it." That's the difference between being Linda Howard and being an unknown or mid-list author, or writing for a small publisher. The burden falls on us. And I agree, it sucks.

    Cari - I agree. We write because we have to.

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  10. Hi Terry. I guess every time you're out there, wishing you were writing, hating to ask for favors from A-list authors and such, remember that some day you'll be able to think like Linda Howard. ;)

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  11. Jessi - Thanks for the encouragement.

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  12. Terry, I think we were seperated at birth. I love to write, hate to promote. I did a book signing by myself at Borders once and was terrified. I'm a total introvet and I can't change that.

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  13. I'm so with you on this, Terry. It's the one thing I dread, should my fiction get published.

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  14. Jerri - I've never even attempted trying to set up an individual signing. Brava!

    Terry S - it's WHEN, not SHOULD. You will get published, and you'll be prepared. I was clueless.

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  15. Hi Terry,
    I can really relate to what you're saying. In a perfect world I would spend all my time writing while marketing people sell my books. But until that perfect world arrives, I guess I'll have to keep muddling through myself.

    Jana

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  16. Jana - yep. That's the game today.

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  17. We all pretty much agree: we'd rather write than promote. Unfortunately these days so many people are writing (thank computers!) the publishers can afford to tell us to market our own books. That way, only the hardest workers survive, let alone do well.

    There's also the sheer physical effort. While we're reasonably young and healthy, we can put in the effort with only our sense of self suffering. (Hey, alliteration!) I, and there must be others, am 69 years old and have both kinds of arthritis as well as osteoporosis. No, I'm not looking for sympathy! It's simply physically difficult to work on the computer, let alone get out there and promote in person.

    Publishing won't be returning to the old days of publishers doing the marketing. Maybe we simply all have to get famous first!

    At least a computer's keyboard is softer than a typewriter's! And I use old nylon stretch gloves with the fingertips cut out to type; they save my finger joints a bit of pain. Actually, girls, if you're going to stay in the business, young as you may be, it might be an idea to start using them yourselves!

    With a prayer of empathy for you all -

    Monya

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  18. Thanks for the advice, Monya. I'm no youngster myself.

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  19. Great, Terry. And I'm amazed, I thought you did promo so well and so easily. I certainly agree, I find promo very hard indeed and so damn time consuming. Guess we have to do some, at least. Jean

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  20. Jean - I guess I managed to fool you! If I did it well, more people would have heard of me, right? And my book sales would reflect it.

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  21. Great post! The whole promotion thing scares me silly. (whines) I just wanna write.

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  22. Terry, I think we're cut from the same cloth. Love to write, hate to promote. But we gotta do it, eh?

    Thanks so much for stopping by. This was a great post.

    :)Becky

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  23. I know I'm late with my comments, but I have to say that this was one terrific post! Not writing is definitely connected to not breathing, at least for me it is. Self-promotion? What's that? lol I haven't even buckled down to start a website yet. Someday... Being in the spotlight terrifies me, but thanks Terry for letting us newbies know that we're not alone with our fears.

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  24. Tess, no worries about being late. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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