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Lusty Lady

Watch my first and favorite book trailer for Spanked: Red-Cheeked Erotica. Get Spanked in print and ebook

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why I believe in DIY PR

As I posted a while ago, I briefly flirted with hiring a publicist for In The Flesh. I did in fact do so and probably due to my last minuteness, we got zero hits and I was out some cash. But it reinforced for me that though sometimes it makes me want to crawl under a rock, I've found that the best PR efforts for me are DIY all the way. This is not a scientific study or anything, just my observations from running readings for the last 7 years. The very first one I organized was at Bluestockings in 2001 for Best Lesbian Erotica 2001, and then right after for Faster Pussycats, neither of which I edited.

But those were the first books to publish my stories and I wanted to make sure they got heard. Since then, I've pretty much done most of my publicity stuff on my own. I do have publicists at my various publishers, but when you're with small presses, I think one of the first things you learn is that you have more time and energy and knowledge to devote to your projects than they do. Perhaps at a big house too, I wouldn't really know about that.

Anyway, I was reminded of that today when via a simple email, our cupcake blogiversary party got posted about on Grub Street (New York magazine's food blog) and Serious Eats.

That's also how I've gotten In The Flesh into the New York Times's UrbanEye newsletter. I printed out and mailed the details to Melena Ryzik. Or I sent an email to Flavorpill. I try so hard not to pester peopel, which is why for a long time I didn't even sent out my newsletter (you can sign up for it here). But now that I have

To me, so much of it is simply about being available, not pestering, being nice, and having your information ready. I got someone to make a graphic for our party specifically so that we could give that out to other blogs. Sometimes it's frustrating because I have no idea if something like blogging about a specific topic reaches anyone at all. But it's free, right? I love that part of it, that at least I can get the basics of my books up and out there where people can read and click and find out more. I truly think that's what will keep someone's interest, even if they don't buy a given book. And on my better days I think that's great. On the days when I wish my royalty statements were higher, I don't really care, I just want more sales, but ultimately, this is the wrong business to get rich from, and I know that, and am just happy I get paid to write and edit at all.

Often I can't really keep up. I have wanted to hand over some of the PR duties for In The Flesh to my assistant for a while, but I can't quite let go. I really want the Susie Bright event to blow the hell up, and I'm sure it will, because she's Susie, but still, I can't rely on that in the middle of winter.

I read on Julia Allison's blog about this book Dirty Little Secrets of Buzz, and as I tend to do, clicked on over to Amazon and bought it. It's a quick read, and author David Seaman is known for things like the Free Paris (Hilton) campaign and other media-savvy ones. It's a little different if you're with indie presses trying to build a writing/blogging name for yourself, but similar nonetheless.

I really liked the book, and while a lot of it isn't for me, a lot of it opened my eyes. I was stunned when I read on Twanna Hines's blog that she got an audio transcript of her Sirius Radio appearance and posted it. Brilliant! Yet how many times have I been on Derek and Romaine, plus a few other Sirius shows, and the thought had not even occurred to me. In part, I hate the sound of my own voice, but you know what, if I'm gonna do this thing, I need to do it right.

I think there are of course limits to DIY PR and if I had the funds, I'd consider hiring someone. But the fact of the matter is, I don't. I'll be gearing up to do more book trailers in 2009, even though I've yet to see whether they boosted the sales for Spanked or not. Why? Because it's not just about the sales of any one book. Seaman reinforced that for me. It's about the whole package, about building everything together.

I think where I get into trouble is where I doubt what I'm doing in the first place; that makes it very hard to be out there self-promoting. Quite often I wish what I did were a little more family friendly. I wish I didn't have that reflex that cringes and whispers when I tell people what I do. Not always, but still, working at Penthouse Variations and editing books like Spanked and Crossdressing is not the same as being an administrative assistant, my previous job, or a lawyer, my once-upon-a-time future job. I usually get over that fairly quickly, but I also know that there's a part of me, a strong part, that wants to do something else. Something more PG, something new, something a little less sex-centered. What that is, I don't know yet, but I'm trying desperately to figure that out.

Sometimes I feel like I have a bazillion things to learn and I'll never catch up, and probably the latter half of that is true. One can never truly be "caught up" because there are an infinite number of websites to read, not to mention books, magazines...that's a futile effort, but still, I am trying to become a little more tech savvy. I hate wanting to do things and not knowing how. I'm pretty much technologically inept. I know the barest of bare minimums of HTML. I've been reading the book Blog Blazers, and though it's meant to be educational and inspirational, I think, I have a feeling that if I'd read it before I started blogging I'd never have started. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the giant gap between what I want to accomplish and what I seem capable of. Some months my website gets updated, some it doesn't. Some months In The Flesh's info is out at every possible site and publication I can think of, but more often, that languishes. It's a lot and I often am not sure I'm up to any of it. Yet I'm fired up too because I'm excited about the work I'm putting out.

I learn on the job quite well. For the 2+ years I wrote my Lusty Lady column for The Village Voice, I caught on real fast that it wasn't enough just to write it, for me. I made sure to send that link to carefully targeted sites and blogs, and it worked. I'm learning that with Flickr, even though my personal account is now moderated to my extreme aggravation. I'm learning to seek out groups and post my photos all the hell over the place. I learned from my friend Aaron that Creative Commons is my friend.

And I think that's the main thing about doing your own PR: it's a constant learning process. It never ends. Quite often things pop up out of nowhere and I feel so blessed, like this interview on Capessa but I also think those things happen because I'm pursuing things that I believe in, that matter to me. I feel like I barely know a thing, and yet something I'm doing does work. As I book my SXSW panel (almost done!), I know there's more of that ahead, and for me the challenge is to conserve my energy for when I'm in the mood to brainstorm and email and research and find every possible venue I could send something to, and the times when I just want to curl under my blanket with a good book.

Anyway, I've babbled too long. I was just excited and am so thrilled about all the cupcakes we're gonna have tomorrow and all the prizes we're giving away. Please join us tomorrow at White Rabbit, 145 East Houston Street, NYC, from 6-9. It's free and there are going to be more cupcakes than you can possibly eat.

Cupcakes Take the Cake's 4-year Blogiversary Party

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At December 03, 2008, Blogger Eric Riback said...

Big houses too have way more books than their small and shrinking publicity staffs can service, and this especially affects first-time authors. This is why there's a growing industry in teaching authors how to promote their books, such as this. The interesting thing is that when a publisher sees the author is active in promotion and having success, they will then often jump in and start supporting those efforts. That said, part of the plan for authors often should be to hire a publicist -- do it with proper lead time and choose one that knows how to work the media/markets you're after. But even when you do, there are many promotional things an author can do for herself if you're motivated and creative.

At December 03, 2008, Anonymous mike in Albany said...

You do alright. ITF is a very enjoyable time, and if I lived in NYC I would be there every month. The one I attended in July 2007 was well-attended. While those who came, including me, had no doubt that you would present a fun program with entertaining authors, I think the real draw was the time we all would spend hanging out with you. We know you from your writings and your blogs, and we have common interests in the various subjects you explore with your work. It's a chance for us to give ourselves back to you. The best part is you don't have to wash the dishes afterwards! As long as there is value in what you do, that will be the publicity you need. Do what you and love what you do; the rest will take care of itself.

At December 04, 2008, Anonymous Nancy Juetten said...

The road to PR success is paved with small business owners who have been disappointed at one time or another with the results they earned as a result of their investment in expensive PR services.

Having heard that story on many occasions, one thing I know for sure is that no one cares about the success or your book or other project more than you. You owe it to yourself to learn about how to promote your own initiatives. You can make a lot of magic happen in the media if you just get into action and follow some essential tips.

And, when business gets strong enough so that affording a PR firm to represent you is a viable option, you'll know more about the process and the skills involved to ask the right questions and make the right choice to best carry your business forward with the RESULTS that matter most to getting that mission accomplished.

Besides, it is pretty darn intoxicating to read, listen or see your story in the media, knowing that you made those results happen on a DIY basis, especially during these challenging economic times.


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