Why The Gas Cans

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A friend recently asked me if my publisher for my women’s fiction/contemporary romance series would be marketing for me. Common question. As much as I enjoy working with my publisher, and my editor rocks, the majority of the marketing is my responsibility. Doesn’t matter who your publisher is; one of the big five or yourself – marketing your book is your job.

And that’s no easy task. Not only am I not experienced in marketing ( I was a director of special events before I had kids) I don’t have enough hours in the day to write multiple books, and market them well. But I’m trying. Believe me.

What I am is creative. Creative people think outside the box because usually their box looks a lot different than the standard, beige, cardboard, rectangle with four flaps.

I attend many conferences for writers and readers. Often the conference offers a “goody room.” The goody room is a place for authors to display promotional items to get buzz out for their books. I’ve seen everything from pens to candy penises. I don’t know if any of this stuff sells books. Especially the pens, bookmarks, and chocolate. (I love bookmarks. Don’t get me wrong.) Personally, I won’t read your book just because you gave me a nail file for free. I have a nail file.

At the RWA conference in Orlando this past July I wandered the goody room and saw pretty much what I’ve seen before. I even passed over the candy penises attached to a card for an erotic romance. Yeah, I get it, book with explicit sex and a penis made of chocolate. Boring. Next.

Later I thought – if that chocolate penis had been attached to a card for a contemporary romance whose cover had a vase of flowers, a cute dog, and colored in pastels then I might pick up the book and say, “what’s this all about?”

I knew I had to do that for my book A Second Chance House. It’s a women’s fiction/contemporary romance coming out in early 2018. The cover shows a wrap around porch and a porch swing. What could I create to make someone say, “what’s that all about?”

I needed a light-hearted scene from the book. I needed a promo item that wouldn’t cost a fortune and would get people’s attention. My heroine runs out of gas. She’s mortified because the hero comes to save her, which is exactly what she didn’t want. I had to find gas cans. Nothing else would do.

I brought those bright red cans attached to a card with my cover on the front and the excerpt on the back. I heard, cute, clever, I love it, who came up with that for you? (I tried not to be offended. I don’t think she meant it maliciously.) All my cans went. I was very excited.

Will my gas cans sell my books? I don’t know. I can only hope that someone said, this author is creative and when her book comes out I want to read more.

For the second book in the series, A Bridge Home,  I’m thinking a men’s razor. Or maybe a kit for stitches. That chocolate penis might work too. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.

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The Journey to Bliss: A Detour

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Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons Virginia State Parks

I recently read a blog post from Writers Unboxed about letting our creativity rest. It’s a wonderful blog written by a large list of writers for writers about the craft, the business, and the life of writers. If you’re a writer and don’t follow it, I suggest you do. Just the posts from Donald Maass alone are worth hitting the subscription button. (If you don’t know who he is, click on his name. You’ll be impressed. I promise.)

I recently went through a period of not writing. I’m not sure I’d call it a “rest” because I didn’t choose to stop. It was more like a detour. My life became stressful and the voices in my head that feed my work just dried up. I had nothing to say. And was beginning to realize no one was listening anyway. My friends and family told me the inability to write was understandable with all that was going on. One insightful friend said, “three books in three years. You deserve to rest.” Others said be patient (not something I’m good at) the voices would come back. It was over a month before I wanted to sit at my computer again. I didn’t stay there long. Words stretched and yawned reluctant to throw the covers off. The desire to sell my work stayed in hibernation. I had to take a detour whether I liked it or not.

The thing is I’m afraid to take time away from my writing. I haven’t made my full dream come true. I’ve published three books, but they aren’t selling because I haven’t handled that part of my business correctly. I feel like a failure. And a part of me thinks if I stop, if I don’t produce I’ll never have the readership I want. It’s a voice on a loop, “you must write. you must do more. Learn more. Read more. Be more.” Why am I so obsessed with more? Why isn’t what I’ve done enough? Why can’t I take another route, and enjoy the warmth of my accomplishments as the sun streams through my open sunroof?

Is it because I think time is running out? And time resting is time wasted. My father-in-law asked me once if I ever sat down. The Coffee King will tell you, I hate naps. I also hate getting lost. Detours are not my friend.

But I couldn’t force the words. They would awaken when they wanted to.

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Photo Courtesy of Flckr Creative Commons Kate Ter Harr

I let the words lie and tried other things. I read more. A lot more. Genres I didn’t normally read. I colored. I exercised and caught up on some television shows. I sat at my computer and waited for the voices to tell their story. And they did. Slowly.

I’m writing again. It’s different than the other times. I’ve outlined the entire book in more details than I’ve ever used for an outline. I still worry the words will elude me because my word count is low for the time I’ve put in. I worry the story isn’t good enough and no one will like it. I feel the loop of “more, more, more” creeping into my brain, but I can tell it to pull over and turn off the engine once in a while. Not often and not for long, but it’s better than running out of gas on the Parkway.

The full dream will come true. In time. Just not my time. And not my route.

How are you handling the journey to your bliss? What steps have you taken? Are you finding yourself faced with an unexpected detour? What does the road ahead look like?