Yesterday, I got a taste of one aspect of a working writer’s life. I accompanied Casey Cowan, who heads up Oghma Creative Media, my promo company, Greg Camp, author/Editorial Director of Oghma, and Pamela Foster, the author of many fine books, on something of a whirlwind tour of some local public libraries and college campuses.
It was tiring but I enjoyed it. We made some contacts, got to talk to a group of creative writing students (I think that was the class. Or maybe it was a critique group run by a professor) at Northeastern State University (NSU) in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, donated books to the Van Buren and Fort Smith public libraries, made some contacts at University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS), and visited the Fort Smith Historic Site and the Fort Smith Museum of History. These last two were for the benefit of Greg and Pamela, who write westerns, among other things.
Why did we do this? Well, for several reasons.
First off, every publisher under the sun wants you to have your platform. They want you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, maybe even Pinterest. They want you to have a blog and a website. It’s a digital presence, and the idea is to give you exposure out there in cyberspace.
But as anyone who’s been online can tell you, separating yourself from the unwashed masses is difficult at best. There are literally millions of websites out there, and a lot of them are author sites.
The upshot of this is that there’s still no substitute for getting out there and pressing the flesh. For a lot of people, there’s a mystique about someone who’s written a book. It puts the author in some rarified place. I still feel it myself, even with a published book under my belt and another one coming out later this year.
So if you go out and meet people in person, it helps a hell of a lot. Especially here in the middle of the country where, as one of the people we met yesterday (Tony O’Selend at NSU) said, there are a lot of great authors who are overlooked because we’re not in LA or New York.
But take a look at the big publishing houses. Their model isn’t working, and hasn’t for over a hundred years. They stayed in business because they were the only game in town, but thanks to indie publishers, that’s changing. With the advent of print on demand—which eliminates the need to keep a large stock of books on hand—the model offered by the big houses is becoming obsolete. They’re driving themselves out of business by being afraid to take a chance on new authors while paying out huge advances to big-name authors that don’t always earn themselves back. Even Stephen King has changed publishers in order to get royalty payments rather than a hefty advance.
Meanwhile, the indie presses are blooming all over the place. Just like with any big boom, the quality of these publishers varies, but there are enough of them you can pick and choose. And since they’re local—or very close to it—they can make contacts the big houses would ignore. Especially if you live in the flyover states as so many of us do.
Not all these publishers are going to have contacts, though. Most of them are done as a second job (like so many of us authors), and they don’t have time to edit/publish your book and pound the pavement doing the meet-and-greet. So it falls to us authors to do that.
There’s an old saying that you have to spend money to make money, and that’s what we did yesterday. We gave away books, banking on the hope that it means they’ll be interested in ordering from us in the future. And we’re working on making contacts in local colleges to make up-and-coming young writers aware of these alternate avenues to publishing.
So, if you’re in the middle of writing a book, or have one or more written and published, get out there and meet folks. There’s still nothing like meeting them in person to drum up interest in you and your work. And who can explain you and your work better than you?
Don’t let it interfere too much with your writing, but get out of your cave occasionally and let eh public—especially the reading/writing public—know you exist.
It’s the only way you’ll sell those books.