Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Conflict of Interest: How to Be Your Own Book PR Dream Team

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Conflict of interest

“The book is an extension of who you are and what you do so don't be afraid to talk about its greatness like the amazing thing that it is to everyone that you see, know, meet.” — Sean Cranbury, Executive Editor, Host, Books on the Radio

“Find out what you love about marketing, and then put your heart into it. Self-promotion without love and integrity can be really smarmy. Always be honest and transparently yourself. Promote out of love, not fear. People can tell the difference.” — Sarah Selecky, author of Giller finalist book This Cake Is for the Party (Thomas Allen Publishers, 2010)

We’re about a quarter of the way through the fall 2011 book season and some people are falling by the wayside in fatigue, fear and exhaustion. Some are looking up to the heavens for courage and inspiration. And some are getting ready for a night where two launches at either end of Toronto are happening simultaneously. With all of the palpable book anxiety in the air, first-time authors need a way to get their books out into the solar system without breaking any hearts or legs or getting too many paper cuts.

Follow my easy six-step program, outlined here loosely, and you’ll become THE I-TEAM of your fevered dreams.

Part One: The Camilla Gibb Effect

In 2000, Camilla Gibb bought up a chunk of the initial print run of her first novel, Mouthing the Words, and sold it out of her backpack for months, booking herself at every possibly reading, an effort that eventually amounted to her winning the Toronto Book Award. Okay, so peddling your book doesn’t always equate to award glory, but it’s a nice little fable to think about considering where Gibb is now.

In her charming and revealing interview with Susan G. Cole, Gibb is seen as a confident PR phoenix, flitting around in pre-Twitter (heck, pre-Friendster) Toronto. “She is in many ways a marketer’s dream — someone with chops galore and, crucially, a willingness to sell herself.

"I bought a hundred copies, read at every series and sold the thing out of my knapsack. And I got my friends to go into Chapters and take it off the bottom shelf and put it on the Oprah’s picks table. I went to practically every independent bookstore in the city and signed copies." (I’ve always romanced this part of the story because when I worked at Indigo in 2005 or so, I would hand sell dozens of Camilla's books throughout my day and even got invited to the Random House paperback release, where I ate strawberries and drank champagne and talked to Team Camilla, which was quite pleasant, and of course I was extremely jealous and cried the whole way home.)

The point is: you can control your inventory and monitor personal author-to-reader sales in addition to traditional sales methods your publisher is taking care of. This approach also keeps you out of your publisher’s hair and makes them love you more come grant time. Also you can negotiate a good deal with your publisher if you are buying in bulk and then selling at live shows or even on your own website.

Take a trip back in time and read about how it all began.

Part Two: Friends in Any Places

First thing that pops to mind is keeping up on sending out emails/status updates/author Facebook status updates/twitter/blog news, etc., which can all contribute. More important: chatting to people in person, at readings, launches, etc. And asking for what you need is okay, too! A reading, an introduction to someone else, a review. I don't make a habit of pestering people, but I also think there's no shame in asking other writers/editors for info and sharing contacts, etc. It's nice to just sit back and wait for everything to come to you but I think that's not entirely realistic unless you've won a major literary award. — Myna Wallin, author of Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar

Get some of your writer friends to not only hype your book but write short essays on various topics of your soon-to-be-released book. For my next book, if that ever happens, I have asked some of my closest writer pals to write 300-word essay introductions to help spruce up the promotional material for the book. The idea came when I was trying to imagine different ways my next book could be interpreted, not necessarily from a critical perspective, but more academically or culturally. By starting these sorts of discussions with your contemporaries, you also get more out of it than a blurb that uses the word “DARING” or “BRAVE” or “FIERCE.”

And who knows, maybe your writer friend’s essay-in-waiting will become a real piece of journalism they wind up pitching to a national paper or a world-famous blog. Plus, friends make great co-hosts or guest readers at your launch and can do a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff for your book while you sleep or worry.

Part Three: The Launch — Less Is So Much More

A lot of first-time or even third-time writers over-plan their book launches. The best thing to do is pick a venue that everyone in your writing community is familiar with. In Toronto, that is either the Supermarket or the Gladstone Hotel. In Montreal, it’s the Sparrow or the Green Room. In Ottawa it’s rob mclennan’s living room. Joking! Make a big email and postal address list of everyone you know and send it to your publisher for mail out invitations and evites. Write a simple two-line press release for local weeklies and radio stations with the confirmed time and location. Have a slightly larger press release online and send the links out to newspapers and other media outlets. Most writing communities are small, even in Toronto, so it's best to publish your listings just in the same few standard places as everyone else does. Don’t overdo it.

You don’t want to be seen as a diva or a difficult writer. You want things to go smoothly. Give some journalists review copies at the launch. Take some time to chat them up.

As for the reading or performance part of the launch, don’t read for more than ten minutes. Get some snack food, maybe a musical act and some other readers to share the line up with you. Bring plenty of books and always have your publisher and publicists walking around with copies of the book. Whenever someone is on stage make sure they are grasping a copy of your book. As a former bookseller, we were told to practically put the book in people’s hands; there is a power to physical contact of a possible fetish property. People love the smell of new books!

Also be nice to your family and ask them to buy copies to give to their friends for Christmas and birthdays. Keep a FAQ email in your drafts so you can send them all the news and best places to buy the book as they will always forget.

Bonus tip for launching an anthology: NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GIVE YOUR CONTRIBUTOR COPIES AWAY AT BOOK LAUNCHES. THEY WILL TAKE THEM BACK TO THEIR TABLES WITH THEIR FRIENDS AND THEIR FRIENDS WILL NOT BUY YOUR ANTHOLOGY. THEY WILL JUST ASK THEIR FRIEND FOR A FREE COPY OR TO BORROW ONE. IMAGINE GOING TO A LAUNCH WITH TEN CONTRIBUTORS SHOWING UP WITH FRIENDS AND HANDING OUT FIFTY CONTRIBUTOR COPIES AND SELLING NONE. I’VE SEEN IT HAPPEN. NOT TO ME BUT TO FRIENDS. IT ISN’T PRETTY.

Great bookstores include Words Worth Books (Waterloo) Type Books (Toronto) and The Word (Montreal).

Part Four: Social Media, New Media and the Art of Plugging In

To me, the book trailer is the comb-over of visual art or art in general and is a MPEG pimple that should be remedied before we are forced to watch another trailer that cuts to a black screen with the title of the book, then cuts to a cat, then a man walking down a street, then another black screen with the authors name, then a piano playing, then another shot of a cat or possibly a window pane. Maybe if book trailers served a purpose and could make more sense to me I’d support them. I have some ideas for good book-related films. Like Warhol's film Sleep, right? What if we shot people reading books for hours. Then looped it somewhere. That’d be good. Indigo would probably pay money for that idea.

I don’t know what purpose a trailer serves; isn’t an excerpt of your novel published in The New Quarterly more of a “trailer” for the actual finished full-length book? Another trick that works sometimes is getting bands to open for you at your launch, doing modest podcasts and useful and insightful blog tours.

The creation of unique single-purpose book websites — such as Project Rebuild for Sachiko Murakami’s second poetry book, Rebuild, in which poets are invited to rearrange existing poetry texts and “moving in” to various house archetypes — are great bonus features that can complement your book promotional campaign. I feel Project Rebuild is an exceptionally effective promotional tool because it empowers users, friends, poets and fans new and old to be a part of the project instantaneously.

Part Five: Back To the Future

As Huey Lewis once sang, “Don't bet your future, on one roll of the dice/ Better remember, lightning never strikes twice,” ("Back in Time," 1985). What he was most likely talking about was how the time between the launch of your book and the first critical review is possibly the most crucial time for you and your publisher. It’s the time to keep your title and buzz going before you get lost in the publishing shuffle for that particular season. And it will happen; your time in the spotlight could be brief, or you could just get totally ignored (especially in the cleared forest that is poetry criticism in Canada), and it's something that all writers have to deal with.

Part Six: The Afterlife of Your Book: Ebook, Film Rights and Library Presence

It’s good to come back to your book about a year later. Maybe you’ve been nominated for an award, maybe your publisher has been discussing film rights with local producers or taking your book to events like From Page to Screen. Maybe they want to do an ebook, or organize a talk at your local library. By now your book has made its way into the library, and it’s a great way to keep your book fresh in the minds of library patrons. Pitch an afternoon talk with your book as the centrepiece at a local branch. Keep things alive until your next book is ready to start this magical process all over again. And remember, your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.


With over eight years experience in publishing, Nathaniel G. Moore is now available for promotional consultation for any of your book promotional dreams. He would certainly be willing to discuss the finer details of becoming your executive book consultant for a reasonable fee. He can be found at Canadian Sadcore http://canadiansadcore.tumblr.com/ABOUT

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