The Secret Angst of Book Promotion – Susan Sundwall

In my last piece for WritersWeekly, Blabbermouth Your Book, I focused on getting the word out by seizing the moment, wherever you are, in order to do so. But as I become engulfed in the process I’m finding more things to stress about than I ever suspected existed. I had a good time writing the book and I love the idea of being a published author. But nobody told me about situations that would cause hair pulling, brow furrowing and night sweats. For instance:

Thinking on Your Feet – The first time a stranger asked me what my book was about I couldn’t believe a stranger was asking me what my book was about. If I’d had my log line or short synopsis right in front of me, it would have been a snap. But my mind went blank. I saw the whole story passing before me and couldn’t even pull out two sentences to give back to this inquiring mind that wanted to know.

Cold Calling – I’m great with those I know well and often the life of the party when there isn’t much at stake. But now I was expected to walk into bookstores, seek out book fairs and conferences, knock on big scary doors and sell myself. This is what authors are expected to do now and it left me quaking. The notion I had of shooting to number one the best seller’s list and only having to run to the mailbox for royalty checks went up in smoke – poof!

Money Matters – Following the advice of those who have gone before me, I bought books to have a stash to sell from my trunk. Then I began tracking the pricing for my book at the Big Discount websites. What a dance that is. Anyone buying there would get one price one day, another two days after and another a week later. How could I determine what to sell my out-of-the-trunk books for? I never expected this dilemma.

Indecent Exposure – Readers want to know about your life now that you’ve become an author. I understand this. I’m guilty of wanting to know where my favorite mystery writer vacations, and if Mr. #1 on the bestseller list for three months looks as good in person as he does on his book jacket. I get it. I simply don’t want to do it. I’d far prefer that the buying public read my book and wonder about my main character instead.

The Competition – One of the reasons I write is because I like to read. After many years of enjoying what others have written, I’m delighted to actually be in their number. But really, really famous writers are leagues above me in their skill level. I don’t want to be compared to, or feel I’m in competition with, them. I only want to please the readers I wrote for. I know who they are and earnestly hope they find me.

All of this is to say that you must simultaneously raise, and lower, your expectations when you’ve finally got a book to sell. You have to love yourself and what you’ve written to be able to weather the storms of angst in all their vast array. Here are some ways that may help you cope –

First of all, ease your mind and lasso those three or four sentences that will let strangers, and others, know what your book is about. Say them in front of the mirror until they are well imbedded within your little gray cells. Deliver them with a smile.

Cold call when you’re cold. Don’t over think it. No good will come from a hyperactive imagination conjuring up the worst. Bad things happen less often than you think. So, next Tuesday, when you spot the gift shop on your way to the post office, veer sideways into the gift shop. Ask the owner if she’d consider a book signing. You may be just the boost she needs to draw more customers. Reciprocal back scratching works.

Your “signed by the author” book is more valuable than the one Big Discount website shoves into a box and ships. Ignore those price fluctuations and give yourself permission to charge for your signed copy. Pick a price point and stick with it, especially in the beginning. Don’t undersell. You can always discount later.

When it comes to exposure, don’t, I repeat, don’t take it all off. Determine your public persona and stick with it. My book is a fast; somewhat comical read therefore I expose my fun side to readers which includes a bit of wacky humor and a positive outlook on life. I don’t feel it necessary to saddle them with more.

Lastly, forget about the competition. Enjoy your bit of the spotlight because you are no longer a wannabe. Nope, you have become what others want to be, a published author. Go ahead and love it.

Susan Sundwall is a freelance writer and mystery author. Her debut mystery, The Red Shoelace Killer – a Minnie Markwood Mystery, is available online and in bookstores. Visit her blog to see what else she’s been up to at http://www.susansundwall.blogspot.com.