It’s been a year since the publication of Am I Boring My Dog and a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Sad to say, the reports about publishers not having the time or money to promote all but the most famous authors or the most topical books are true.
Which is how I became a bookseller, with a single-book inventory.
I made lots of mistakes and I’m still learning. I’ll get to all that another time.
But I also did some things right.
1. I began blogging about dogs before the book’s publication
You need to establish yourself as an authority on the topic you’ve written about if your book is nonfiction, and there’s no better way to do it than by blogging (assuming you’re not a TV personality and/or don’t have a regular column in a popular magazine). I already had a website, ediejarolim.com, but it was more of a resume, covering my writing in general but not the topic of my book in particular.
I considered giving my blog the same name as my book so people would make the connection between them, but decided that was too constraining. Now, when I write another dog book, I don’t have to establish another blog.
2. I got on Twitter
Writing a blog is all well and good, but you need to get people to look at it. One of the ways I achieved that was by being a good Twitter citizen — engaging dog bloggers/dog professionals/dog lovers in conversation, provide links to interesting articles, pictures… and, of course, to my blog posts. For me, it was a gradual, organic process, one that I continue to enjoy, as much for the virtual friendships as for the professional perks.
Here’s a good intro to Twitter.
I’m told that Facebook is even more effective. I’m working on that.
I also read ProBlogger and haphazardly follow its instructions such as reading other blogs, commenting on them, etc… But that’s also a fairly natural and organic process once you find yourself in a virtual community — which I was led to by Twitter.
3. I held a contest
My friends and I had so much fun coming up with titles of books that would bore a dog, as per my cover illustration — War and Pee, for example — that I decided to continue the festivities with a contest. A lot of people joined in with great contributions. It’s hard to gauge the results precisely, but the contest piqued sufficient interest in the book for at least some of the contributors to buy it; one of them reviewed it.
An old boyfriend turned up, too, but that’s a whole other topic. As far as I know, he didn’t buy a book.
4. I got helped by HARO
If you’re not familiar with Help A Reporter Out (HARO), you should be. It provides a service to journalists who need sources for their stories, as well as to people who want to promote their products — including books.
I’ve used HARO in both capacities.
- As an experiment, I decided to pay for one of the ads that run with every thrice-daily e-newsletter. It was expensive, even though it was on sale. I discovered that people pay a lot of attention to Peter Shankman, the guru behind HARO — and that a lot of people weren’t aware my ad was an ad, and assumed I was getting an endorsement from the HARO guy. Within hours, my book was #14 in the Pet Book category on Amazon. My “fame” didn’t last much beyond the proverbial 15 minutes and I don’t think I got anything close to the return on my investment as far as royalties were concerned, but what a kick!
- By answering the media queries related to my book’s topic, I’ve been cited as an expert on-line and on the radio. A prime example of my HARO success was my interview with Tracie Hotchner, who posted a HARO query seeking pet book authors to talk to on her NPR shows.
5. I networked.
I don’t really like the verb “network” — it’s one of those jargon-y biz-speak constructions — but it’s the best I can think of to sum up interactions with people that can be professionally beneficial.
I contacted people I knew from other professional contexts — including the terrific Paris Permenter and John Bigley of DogTipper.com, whom I’d met in my travel writing days — and asked them if they were interested in reviewing my book. In the case of Paris and John, they were and they did.
I also went to the BlogPaws conference in Columbus, where I met other bloggers, some of whom ended up reading my blog and/or doing reviews of my book, including one of my favorite writers, Dr. V of Pawcurious. I’m going to the second conference, in Denver, today — which is one of the reasons I was inspired to write this post.
I’m not suggesting you become an egotistical self-promoter — unless that’s your style (in which case I totally begrudge you your success, if you are in fact successful). I’m just saying don’t be self-effacing to the point where no one even knows you wrote a book — my default MO. People attend conferences to form mutually beneficial relationships. If they don’t know about your accomplishments they won’t know that you can be helpful to them — and vice versa.
6. I realized it was okay to ask for “just one more thing.”
When I got emails from people who said they liked my book, for example, I would thank them effusively and then ask, “Would you mind putting what you said on Amazon?” No one ever refused, though a few people forgot. Follow-up bugging remains beyond my capabilities.
7. I had great friends.
This isn’t really something you can achieve all of a sudden — or, if you’re one of the aforementioned phony self-promoters, ever. I was lucky enough to have several friends plugging my book for me, including two cat people who bought copies as gifts for dog lovers, told their friends about it, etc. The much blogged-about Clare, in particular, went far beyond her job requirements as my best friend: She not only bought ridiculous quantities of books (I lost count at 25!) but was even more irate than I was when my book was snubbed, belittled, etc. I find righteous indignation on my behalf extremely comforting, far more so than sympathy.