Thursday, May 24, 2018

47 Things They Don't Teach in Author School

By Steve Weddle

A decade ago when we started this blog, one of our goals was to help promote other writers. We would do Q&As with them when their books came out. We'd have them on the DSD Podcast, which is starting back up this summer. We'd post reviews and giveaways and host blog tours. That was part of our purpose.

So imagine my heartbreak when I asked an author we'd often featured to consider blurbing my debut and was told he didn't have the time to help.

And the next time that I saw you

You were larger than life

Yeah, you came and you conquered

You were doing all right
You had an army of suits behind you
All you had to be was willing
I said I still make a pretty good living
But you must make a killing, a killing
And I hope that, that you are happy
I hope that at least you are having fun
Oh, but everyone is a fucking Napoleon
This wasn't the last time I was big-timed by an author I'd broken my balls to help. I don't understand how someone could do that, you know? Arrogance? Carelessness? Jackassery?
Many, many authors are shitty human beings. I don't have any damn interest helping them. But I thought I'd offer a couple suggestions (not 47. sorry) for authors, because these things tend to get overlooked.

Send signed copies of your published book to people you had asked for blurbs.

Soon after my own book came out, I got quite a few blurb requests. I tried to honor each one. It takes time to blurb a book. Lee Child blurbs, on average, 739 books per year. I have no idea how he does that. I read every book I was asked to blurb, which wasn't close to 739. Still, it takes time. 
When an author takes the time and effort to blurb your book, be grateful. You're asking for help selling your book. Their name is going on the book. Their praise is going on the cover. When your book comes out, sign a thank you on the title page and spend the four damn dollars to mail that person a copy of your finished book.

Make sure the moderator of your panel has your book

If someone is moderating a panel or hosting you in a sit-down at a bookstore or in some way sacrificing time to help you sell books or promote your writing, make sure the moderator has your book.
I've been spoiled by the Virginia Festival of the Book, because they always make sure I have the books I need when I'm moderating a panel. Not all festivals and conferences do that. If you get an email from the moderator saying "Hi. My name is Hailey and I'm moderating a panel at BookFest with you and two other authors and just wanted to introduce myself" then make sure Hailey has your damn book. Please and thank you. Why should Hailey have to shell out $25 to buy your dumb book? At least you can make the offer. Maybe Hailey has your current book, but would like to have your debut. 

Be prepared to promote authors in interviews

Often in an interview or on a panel, you'll be asked who you're reading. Please, please, please do not name someone on the best seller list. I mean, you can if you want. You don't have to listen to me. I'm not your real mom. But it's super nice if, when you're given the opportunity, you can promote someone who could use a little push. I've been in the audience when a Big Famous Author suggests someone I've never heard of and has delivered a nice review of that author's new work. Of course I've bought that book. It was recommended by someone I dig. Please, make sure you're prepared to promote folks who aren't yet big enough to be up there on that panel. Thank you.
So, please. I know many of you try to be nice and get caught up in a thousand things you have to worry about as an author. And I know so many authors already do so, so, so much to help those "up and coming" authors. That is fandamntastic and appreciated. It's just that, from my experience, I've seen good people accidentally behave like jerks as authors and thought I'd just mention a few things here. Of course, as I've mentioned, some authors are just shitty people. I'm not offering these tips to help them. I'm not offering to help them at all.

You told me "they always pay for lunch

And they believe in what I do"

And I wonder, will you miss your old friends?

Now you've proven what you're worth
Yeah, yeah I wonder when, when you're a big star
Tell me, do you miss the earth? Do you, do you miss the earth?
And I know you'll always, always want more
I know you, you'll never, never be done
Oh, 'cause everyone is a fucking Napoleon


Dana King said...

I've never denied any of the small handful of requests I've received to blurb a book, but I can imagine doing it if I were too busy to read the book, and I always read the book before blurbing it. Had I a higher profile and received so many blurb requests it would cut too deeply into my own reading and work on my own writing, I can see where I might have to pass.

And I know there are authors who do this, but i would never blurb a book I hadn't read. If someone thinks enough of my opinion that they think others would listen t me about buying the book, I owe it to those potential customer to at least have read the book myself. So time available enters into it there, too.

I'm not saying whoever passed on you isn't a jackhole. I have no idea. I'm just saying there might well be more to it than that.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Very few authors give people who blurb their books copies. We'd have a lot more books around here if that were the case... and we have a lot already.

I can't count how many times someone has told me a blurb from them doesn't matter. Oh, but it does. The publishers want some quote to stick on the front so that people who don't know anything about publishing know someone liked your book.

But I do think the whole thing sucks. Plenty of people blurb friends, or exchange blurbs. I only asked a couple of people this time. (So, hey, if you want to consider blurbing my book email me.) Which means I'm right on track having 2 blurbs. But I've heard no more times than I've even heard maybe. And sure, by many authors I've interviewed, reviewed, etc. I know people get busy, so here's my tips:

1. Get those review copies out well in advance of needing the blurb. I just got a request this week for a blurb in June. No can do. Not a chance in a million. I'm finishing edits and checking proof pages for the manuscript and an anthology I'm editing and a short story I have being published in another anthology. I need sleep and I'm a slow reader. I really need 2-3 months.

2. Be willing to give a little in promotion. I've been inviting people regularly to do an interview or feature piece on the new site. I have a 28% return rate. I've had people add me to their newsletters without consent, I've had people promise a feature who haven't, and I've had plenty who have simply ignored my request. And those you have to jump through publicist hoops for are the worst. They want you to review their book but they don't want to do an interview. They don't want to talk about their book. Tells me they don't need the promotion that much. And I really appreciate people saying thanks but no because they're busy already or need promotion for something else coming out. That's cool. But damn, it sure seems like a lot of authors aren't interested in publicity. At least, not if they actually have to engage with someone else or answer some questions.

3. Don't just stick to the popular people with your blurbs either. Seriously. This is a big part of the issue. You aren't part of that cool club? You aren't closing down the bar with X and Y famous authors? Pass. I've definitely seen that. I've seen authors turn around from declining one request and accept someone else's on the spot. Some people are jerks. Nobody likes asking. And nobody likes feeling like they're being taken advantage of either. If people give to you... especially if it's a lot, then as Steve says, show some appreciation. That doesn't necessarily mean blurbing but plugging an author at an event or inviting them to do an event or offering to interview them or recommending their book when interviewed.

I met my husband because Ken Bruen recommended my book to him in an interview, so you never know what may come of that plug.

Steve Weddle said...

Dana, Yeah, I don't see why you'd blurb a book you haven't read. Seems weird.

Sandra, Great points. And I didn't know the Ken Bruen story. Cool.