Friday, January 28, 2011

How to Succeed in Writing without really trying!

Every writer who publishes her first book dreams it will be a mega success. The new writer naively believes that the publisher will pour enormous amounts of money into publicity, buy ads in the New York Times and everyone in the world will want to rush out and buy the book.

By the second book the sober truth dawns--for the majority of writers there will be little or no support from the publisher in the matter of publicity. If we don't work to promote our own books, nobody in the world will hear about them. And so we grope blindly in the darkness, trying to come up with brilliant ideas to make us rich and famous, while not costing an arm and a leg. Private publicist--the good ones cost two arms and two legs. Self funded book tour all over the country? Most bookstores aren't even interested in the fledgling writer because it costs money to host an event and they want a guarantee that books will actually be sold.
We join writers organizations and try to pick the bones of established writers, wanting to know what works and what doesn't. Unfortunately they are none the wiser. Some books are just lucky--they hit the shelves at the right time, they touch a nerve with the public and they are best sellers.

Be we keep trying anyway. We try postcards and bookmarks, pens with our names on them. Buttons with cute sayings. We wear funny hats to conventions. We offer to speak to womens luncheons for free.

Well, finally I have the answer. And it is: cupcakes!

I hosted a cozy writers panel last sunday and one of the panelists, Jennifer McKinlay, writes a series featuring a cupcake shop. AND SHE BROUGHT CUPCAKES for show and tell! And guess what? We had a huge audience and she sold a ton of books. In fact her books have made it to the New York Times extended list!
So now I know what I've been doing wrong. In my next book Her Royal Spyness Lady Georgie is going to join forces with her best friend Belinda and open a frightfully genteel tea room at which cupcakes are sold. And I'll have samples everywhere I go. I'll be a mega success!

But joking apart, in uncertain times like these many readers seek out books that represent comfort and security. Craft cozies, about quilt making and knitting are thriving. And comfort food books--cookies and cupcakes are doing even better. It's easy to understand why. How great to be surrounded by virtual cupcakes, to enjoy reading about them without putting on any calories!
So, fellow writers--do you have any tips to share on promotions that have worked for you? or any that have been simply not worth the time and effort?


  1. Oh, can't wait to hear what you all think! Meanwhile, I'll have a cupcake, please....

  2. No ideas, buT I to am curious...since my yet to be published book features a female impersonator, perhaps I could bring feather boas? And champagne?

  3. Obviously I cannot spell this early. Snow on the brain.

  4. I'm just guessing here: I don't think the cupcakes did it. Though it's adorable. If only it were that easy.

    When Claire Cook was on tour with "Must Love Dogs" she gave away dog biscuits.

  5. One thing I can share--for my firrst Boucheron I made, repeat made, 1500 teabags that said "A cup of tea and Evan Help Us Cozy heaven.
    I sent them to be put in every B'con bag. It was very labor intensive and I had a production line of friends to help assemble the bags.
    But years later people still said, "You were the tea bag lady!"
    So it's something that somehow identifies you and sets you apart.

  6. Cupcakes are the big thing in Britain now, too. Maybe I could have Duncan and Gemma open a cupcake shop? Although I think I have had them get cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road (not nearly as good as the cupcakes from Spoons Cafe on the town square here in McKinney, so us yanks still have the Brits beat on the cupcake front.)

    Seriously, I admire Rhys's inventiveness--and her stamina--with the teabags! I've never been that good with the promotional things. Since the next book is about rowing from Leander Club in Henley-on-Thames, maybe I should have a contest to give away something with the Leander Pink Hippo :-) This year's Leander calendar was to DIE for--all the male crew in their skimpiest. Maybe they'll do it next year, too.

  7. Hmm, I'll be a newbie promoting a female racecar driver protagonist later this year. That's great hook for places to promote (yes, catch me on the race circuit), but has me stumped for giveaways! Earplugs are a great idea for the racetrack, though they're done by others--and they wouldn't play quite so well at bookstores or conferences. Maybe cookies in the shape of a racecar?!

  8. My favorite giveaway was Hank's lip gloss. Ro had great giveaways, too -- gardening gloves? So cool.

  9. The seed packets for Pushing Up Daisies were a big hit - I had the package imprinted with the book cover and gave away thousands. When I didn't do it for book two, people at signings and shows came over to me and said.."where are the seeds?" - so I rushed out a thousand packets. They were fun - I had one woman in North Carolina come to an event the following year and bring pictures of the daisies!

    All depends on what the goal is. An inexpensive freebie for an event? Something memorable (and probably more $$)to send with the ARC? For Dead Head I had the ARC sent out a Fugitive Survival Kit - wig, a toothbrush, hotel soaps from motels all over the country and postcards from all 50 states. It got a nice amount of attention.

  10. Oh my gosh Ro, the fugitive survival kit is pure brilliance. And the tea bags too--only your labor was expensive, Rhys.

    For my first book, a golf mystery, I had my family and friends stuffing little bags with a bookmark and tees imprinted with "Six Strokes Under." Now collector's items, but truly, I can't say they sold books. I always cringe a little to see how much authors have spent on the goodies at giveaway tables at conferences.

    but I will have a cupcake too!

  11. I love Rhys Bowen's "teabag" strategy. Something similar might work for my mystery novel, "Murder in a Teacup."