As you probably know, I'm a huge fan of Laura Pepper Wu of 30 Day Books. She featured today's guest a few weeks ago on BOTH of her blogs, so naturally my ears perked up. Jenny Ladner Brenner must be one to watch!
And, now since Laura was gracious enough to introduce us, I am proud to present Jenny, author of The Dinner Party, to you!
I’d queried exactly one hundred agents. Not purposely—it just worked out that way. A part of me fantasized that it would be the hundredth who would pick up the phone (without relying on some lackey to do it), squawk into my ear without letting me get a word in edgewise, and promise to plug my debut novel to publishers, who were desperately waiting for “me” to come along to rescue the industry from the quicksand of Snooki-books and other forms of mediocrity. Then I woke up. To a glaring inbox, featuring invites to brunch, discounts for diet pills, and sandwiched between the spam, an e-mail from the very last agent. Oh Molly/Anne/Julia/Andrew/Calypso/whatever-your-name-is! Won’t you pretty-please muster some passion for my book, since these days it seems that this trite, overused word—passion— drives the entire publishing pony show?
I’m sure you can imagine what happened next. Unleashing a barrage of expletives, I slammed down the screen of my laptop, much to my husband’s horror, and the four stages of grief began to play out in overdrive in no particular order.
Anger: WTF?! Who was actually reading the slush piles, anyway? High school interns? They wouldn’t know a best seller if it was dressed in head-to-toe American Apparel!
Denial: After sending my hundredth “thank-you-but-no-thank-you” to the trash bin, I began to panic that I’d misread the email. There was no way they didn’t want to represent the next rock-star of chick lit! I’d have to go to the nearest Apple store ASAP to retrieve my golden ticket.
Bargaining: What if my book was somehow tweaked to become “high-concept?” Or even better—what if I gave every one of my characters fangs and an addiction to high-fashion? It would only take a little reworking…
Acceptance: Okay, so I wasn’t going to be the next Emily Giffin—and maybe that was a good thing. So…now what?
I have been resistant to technological change my entire life—I still use an answering machine, I barely microwave, and I stay as far away from Twitter as possible. But, I had to face the facts. I wouldn’t be Emily Giffin, but what was stopping me from being the next Amanda Hocking, e-publisher extraordinaire? I knew that if I hesitated, I wouldn’t do it—I’d find an excuse such as Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition, or the joy of baking Oreo chocolate-chip cookies, to postpone. Rather impetuously, I found a cover design, uploaded my manuscript, and voila! I was suddenly “live” on Amazon, in both print and Kindle formats. It was exhilarating, and terrifying. What if no one bought it? Worse—what if people bought it and loathed it and tweeted about loathing it? Well—the latter has happened on occasion, but interestingly enough, I can’t complain about sales. How’d I sell thousands in just three months as a self-publishing newbie? Take notes on my seven tips below (and buy my book if you haven’t already!) Only kidding (I’m in it for the karma)!
Know your audience. Contact websites and businesses that share your target audience, and see if they’d be willing to review, promote, or run a giveaway of your book. Word of mouth works both ways, so oftentimes the quid pro quo factor can seal the deal.
It’s all about connections. You might think you exhausted all your friends-of-friends throughout the querying process. But were just thinking in terms of “book publishing?” Know someone at a magazine? An editor at a paper? A luxury consultant? An event planner? Who knows how their “ins” can get you “out there.”
Be relentless. Everyone is busy. Especially now that we’re entering that pre-holiday hustle and bustle. Some contacts you’ve made might not follow up, and some might have genuinely forgotten about you. Gently remind them, but don’t let them off the hook so easily.
Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites can help spread your words (all 91,000 of them). Appear on someone’s radar by making a friend request, liking a silly picture, and sharing the link to your fantastic blog and debut book with your vastly larger community. And what better way is there to stalk old frenemies and exes?
If someone has been a source of inspiration, let them know—in your dedication page. This gives you an excuse to reach out and will guarantee sales to your muse and their loved ones. Who doesn’t love to see their name in print?
Take advantage of any cross-promotion opportunities that come your way. This might require some creativity on your part. Wrote a book on beauty? Gift your dermatologist a copy and see if you could sell it at her next Botox party.
Power of the mouth. So this is the one time that you actually want people talking about you behind your back. But, you can only generate buzz when you unabashedly put yourself on the line. Hand out ten copies to beach-goers. Sneak a copy into “the library” of your favorite resort. Ask a local bookseller if they’d take a couple of copies on consignment. And finally, shamelessly enlist your most reliable friends and family members to publicly shower you with praise, particularly in the form of Amazon reviews. Yes, you might be adding one more thing to their “to-do” lists, but that’s what friends—and fans—are for.
What about you? Have you done something totally out-of-the-box to get YOUR book in front of readers?