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Lusty Lady

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

I was in Library Journal and I didn't even know it, or how to be media savvy when promoting your book

It's fitting that as I'm in the midst of planning my upcoming online course on How To Get Publicity for Your Book, Event or Creative Project, yesterday I found out that back in March, Library Journal wrote up my Bluestockings Best Women's Erotica reading. The one I frantically ran around the Lower East Side to get cupcakes for, the one my heart was pounding with stress over, the one I was convinced nobody would attend because it didn't get listed in Time Out New York or the other papers as far as I know plus it was cold out and a Saturday night in New York with umpteen other cool things to do. By that point, I'd been traveling on and off for a few weeks for book events and was pretty exhausted and burned out, living in NYC hotels for a few days. While I was thrilled to be reading with the four authors I'd published for the first time (one reading her first published erotica story, one her first in print), I was frazzled.

But despite my fears and franticness and concern that I'd be stuck with all the cupcakes, people came and listened and ate and asked us really great questions, which you can read more about in the Library Journal article. This series has been a complete and total learning curve for me, and often feels like I'm just starting out in anthology editing, rather than 60+ books and 13 years in...and I mean that in a good way. Because I think over the years I'd gotten stale and lazy at my job as an editor. I'd done the bare minimum: select stories, put them in order, maybe slap up a Tumblr site and post a few Tweets, then let the publisher take over. Yes, along the way I've done book trailers and events and virtual book tours and I'm sure other things, but the anthology creation and promotion process had felt both somewhat out of my control and secondary to my life. I told myself that I had to focus on other aspects of my career, like freelance writing (and now, copywriting), which is true in the sense that those aspects bring me income that arrives on a more consistent basis than widely varying quarterly royalty statements. But it was also an excuse to not push myself to be the best anthology editor I could be.

When I took over this series, following in the very brilliant leadership of the first two editors, Marcy Sheiner and Violet Blue, I knew I wanted to step up my game, and I have. I've done so many things differently with this series, which I'll detail in their own post, but some of them include: Only allowing new authors per volume, hiring an outside copyeditor from Volume 2 onward (who is a lifesaver), hiring a social media assistant who made quote graphics for every story in Volume 2, launching Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram accounts that I keep regularly updated, making sure authors see both their copyedited stories and the copyedited proofs of the book so they can carefully proofread their stories, doing outreach directly to bookstores about the titles and planning book tour events many months in advance.

Where I fell down on the job last year was doing sufficient media outreach, especially in New York, because time got away from me and I was in a post-election fog for a few months where all I was really excited about was playing bingo. Where I excel, though, is learning from my mistakes, so I'm booking my next readings over six months in advance and will be making detailed media lists so I can contact them and follow up at the appropriate times. I know how to do media outreach because I ran a reading series for five years that was written up in almost all the local media. I hustled every single month for In The Flesh because I knew it was on me to bring a crowd and that nobody wants to read to two people in the audience. I actually loved that part of the job because it had a rhythm to it that was easy to repeat each month; being out of practice and only running a few events a year means that those skills are rusty. Plus I live in suburbia so am not as up on what local people in any given city are reading.

That being said, I've done my best to keep track of all the media the Best Women's Erotica of the Year series has garnered so that I can use that to make the series grow, both in sales, bookstores stocking it and reach. We got a huge unexpected and incredible bit of national publicity when the wonderful Bea and Lea Koch, owners of Culver City, California romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice (check out their Summer Read-Along Bingo on their site and stay tuned because I'm planning to teach another erotica writing class there in late February) mentioned it and in the May issue of Cosmopolitan, which also ran the cover of Volume 2. I'm working on a media list for galleys for Volume 3 now while also spreading the word as wide and far as I can about the call for submissions for Volume 4, which is the last one I'm currently contracted to edit, so I gave it a timely theme: outsiders and risk.

But even I, who thinks I'm so diligent and on top of things, can miss things, like the Library Journal article. I didn't realize there was a reporter there and if I had, I would have made sure they confirmed that all my authors wanted to be photographed. My authors' privacy is paramount to me, because if I breach that, I should quit anthology editing immediately and never return. I would never deliberately compromise that, but I had no idea they were there, hence I didn't look for the article, hence I found it yesterday when a publicist whose services I can't afford emailed me to tell me that my book was mentioned in Publishers Weekly.

As it turns out, Volume 3 got a mention in a roundup of fall romance and erotica titles. Woo-hoo! That's wonderful and I hope will go a long way toward having bookstores and libraries offer it to their patrons. While I was searching for that, I decided to check out Library Journal, and here we are. So these lessons will be going into my upcoming online class (stay tuned for launch news): Track your media mentions like a hawk. Never rely on anyone else to keep you updated. Be diligent with your Google alerts. Regularly search for yourself and your book title in prominent publications.

Don't worry, I'm not beating myself up over missing this, but am simply grateful I found it because I can now use it to let the stores I'm contacting about 2018 events know that my event just might get written up and get their store some publicity and that I know how to bring in audiences. In the Bluestockings case, I reverted to my old trick of bringing free cupcakes, because old habits die hard and there's a little part of the people pleasing side of me that thinks just an erotica reading isn't enough, and I'm happy to shell out for snacks or desserts (hello, business expense!) again if stores think it will draw people in.

I'm pretty sure now that the reason on a cosmic level that I was selected to edit this series is both to publish as many authors as I can (once Volume 4 comes out in December 2018, I will have published over 80 authors in the series) and to keep me on my toes. To keep me always with what the Buddhists call monkey mind. To keep me constantly brainstorming new ideas, trying new experiments, finding ways to reach people that I may not have thought of before, reaching for the stars and learning lessons from what works and what doesn't. It's challenging, because sometimes it feels overwhelming, like now when I'm working on finalizing Volume 3, planning a book tour and making sure Volume 4 gets amazing submissions. It's especially so because it's so different from the other work I do, where there's a fixed rate by the hour or project. This work has no fixed rate because it's all dependent on how many books are sold, and at a certain point you have to let go and realize you have no control over that. But the parts I can control? I am determined to hit them out of the park. And I have faith that I will be rewarded for this work, and that these books are reaching both newcomers to erotica and those who've been reading it longer than I have.

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