Thursday, March 27, 2008


(NOTE: People who give advice know less than they say they know. Smart men and women keep their own counsel unless asked, and then they make up things so the questioner fumbles his or her own way. Giving advice will come back to you in blame, insults, and subpoenas to appear in court next Wednesday at 9 AM. Still, advice is dumped on the unsuspecting and there is no end to the shattered lives caused by opinion tendered as fact. With the caveat that the following is not advice, read with caution. My lawyer is bigger than your lawyer.)

Writers who have signed a contract with a publisher, gone through weepy sleepless nights of the editorial process, and finally been given a ship date for their book now have to promote the thing. Web site up and running? Good. Friends and family promise to buy the book when it comes out? Swell. Now hit the bookstores.

Most promotion is the responsibility of the writer. Publishers, especially independent publishers, help where they can in setting up dates but the writer is the one who has to get to the gig. Once there, the writer can either make a good impression or screw up. The following will help with the good impression. To screw up, you’re on your own.

Take three excerpts from your book, print them out double-spaced in 14-point type, and read them out loud. Complex compound sentences and sentence fragments will need to be rewritten for the oral presentation. Do the work. When you are satisfied the excerpts sound right, read them until you have them almost memorized.

Read a different excerpt at each appearance. When on a tour of more than five bookstores, the writer can get bored with their own material. Having three excerpts to choose from will keep you fresh.

Always arrive thirty minutes early to greet the bookstore staff and events coordinator. Tell them how thrilled you are to be in their store, their town, and their neighborhood. A little lying helps everyone involved.

Bring your own water and drink only hot tea with honey before reading. Tea is a weak sister compared to the pleasures of coffee but tea and honey are nicer on your vocal chords. This is true.

Call the bookstore in the afternoon before the reading and make sure they have books. Even the big publishers fall down once in a while. Always travel with plenty of your books in case there is a problem with shipping. When there is a problem, smile gracefully and do not toss blame around like plastic beads from a Mardi Gras float.

Get the name of the events coordinator and send him or her a thank-you note, not a thank-you e-mail. Personal notes make you a class act.

Dig deep into your lint-filled pockets and buy a good pen for signing. Watermans are best at showing the breadth of creativity. Ask the purchaser’s name, shake their hand, and have a brief dedication ready. “All best,” is safe but dull. Come up with a line that has flair, like: You’re so cool; Moms rule; Love that blouse/shirt; Thanks for being here; You’re so you; and Thanks for not pushing.

Audiences are unpredictable, especially their numbers. How many show up at the event does not matter. Give each appearance your best.

The audience will likely be in casual clothes and there is no reason to go formal. Make sure everything you wear is clean, pressed, and in good repair. No nudity. Please.

Cultivate fans and groupies by carrying a notebook with you for people to sign up for an e-mail list. Everyone wants into the act.

Have bookmarks or calling cards or both printed with the cover of the book, the ISBN number, the publisher’s name, and your web site. These are good for those who are a little behind on their bills and will remind them to buy a copy of your book as soon as that check comes in, the one they have been waiting on since last November.


Rebecca Woolf, who wrote the foreword to THE DOG WALKED DOWN THE STREET: AN OUTSPOKEN GUIDE FOR WRITERS WHO WANT TO PUBLISH (Cypress House, ISBN: 978-1-879384-66-8, $13.95), is on tour in support of her new book, ROCKABYE: FROM WILD TO CHILD (Seal Press, ISBN: 978-1-580052-32-0, $15.95) This poignant and compelling memoir of contemporary motherhood is an intriguing study that eschews the normal and is crafted with lyrical musings. (For those interested in the preceding sentence, see THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 25, 2008, “Seven Deadly Words of Book Reviewing” by Bob Harris.)

Here are the dates for Rebecca’s tour. Come on down and buy a book!


Los Angeles: Saturday April 5th
Book Soup, West Hollywood: 5:00 pm.
8818 Sunset Boulevard
W. Hollywood CA 90069

San Diego/ North County: Wednesday April 9th
Borders Carlsbad @ The Forum 7:00pm
1905 Calle Barcelona
Carlsbad, CA 92009

Orange County: Tuesday, April 15th
Borders @ South Coast Plaza 7:00 pm
3333 Bear Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Oakland: Tuesday, April 22nd
A Great Good Place for Books: 6:30pm
6120 LaSalle Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611

San Francisco: Wednesday, April 23rd
Books Inc, Marina District: 7:30pm
2251 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA, 94123

Grass Valley, CA: Thursday, April 24th
The Bookseller 5:00pm
107 Mill Street
Grass Valley, CA 94945


Seattle: Saturday April 26th
Elliott Bay Book Company, 4:30pm
101 S Main Street
Seattle, WA 98104


Vancouver: Tuesday April 29th
Sophia Books: 7:00pm
450 Hastings Street West
Vancouver BC


Portland: Monday May 5th
Powell's Books, Burnside Location 7:30pm
1005 W Burnside
Portland, OR 97209


THE DOG WALKED DOWN THE STREET made Dan Jana’s Cool Book of the Day for February 14. Here is a quote from the article:

Q: Is there anything else we should know?
A: Opinionated, irreverent, and derived from years of hands-on experience, THE DOG demystifies the problems faced by both first-time writers and experienced pros.

Read the whole shot at

NEXT: Orthodontics for Blue-tick Hounds

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