Saturday, November 03, 2012

Advice for debut-book authors

by RudyG

River Oaks Bookstore's Michael Jones & author
I've completed the initial segment promoting my first book, The Closet of Discarded Dreams, in Denver, Nuevo Mexico, L.A. and San Anto & Houston, Texas. While I'm still digesting events in N.M. and Texas, I thought it might be useful to summarize some of the most important things I learned in that they might help others succeed with the whirlwind experience that many aspire to. In no particular order, here are my preliminary points:

Fine tune your book tour schedule to your abilities and capacity for stress. Mine was a whirlwind, not only rushing past me like a opening Xmas presents as a kid, but with too little time between events, too much driving that wore out my coccyx and jet lag that often reminded me of my age. It should have stretched over months rather than weeks. Once yours begins, the rollercoaster makes no stops for huevones.

Rely on published authors you know. Don't be shy; ask them everything. Ask them what surprised them most. See if they'll share their contacts, Email lists, connections, data bases and then be surprised when your familia and closest friends bring wine, cheese and biscochitos to a read.

Prepare everything well in advance. I devoted two solid months before my publication date (40 hrs./wk.) to setting up artwork, printing and shipment of books, bookmarks, business cards, posters, flyers and coasters; making connections for venues; contact media for publicity ops like interviews and reviews. Then a two-by-four came out of The Closet and struck me because I didn't begin early enough and/or I should have left additional lead-time before the first appearance.

Your largest audience for your first reading/signing of your novel, collection or poetry book may be your hometown or wherever you're best known. (Unless you burned too many bridges, in which case you go for the out-of-towners.) Do everything to make it the best showing possible. Even though over fifty people attended mine, I later realized how many corners of my little corner I'd not reached.

Some of author's best supporters - la familia
Overestimate and anticipate your need for books and bookmarks, at least. One day I had sixty copies of my book. Ten days later pendejo-Me had to tell three audiences that there were none available there at the event. I did fine on bookmarks, but ran out of business cards. Another place I lagged was on solidifying publisher orders by those hosting me. Entropy and disappointment somehow seem to converge like white lies with getting busted. Improved handling of the two sources for books would have covered my nalgas in all cases.

Develop and constantly update your database of contacts, events, meetings, etc. I started out well two months before publication, but the constant stream of E-mails, meetings and phone discussions didn't always get entered. The bill for this will come due, I know.

Keep a detailed log of what happens to copies of your book. Beyond who you billed and who still owes, the flood of book exchanges with other authors, books promised for reviewers or others will soon overwhelm you if your memory is like mine, which is casi ausente. Some of this is relevant for tax purposes but more importantly, all of it is necessary for the success of your first book and the future of your second.

Take no one for granted. Obviously you need to remember who to publically thank for their help on your tour. But also, don't assume that anyone you interact with is less intelligent or capable as you. I did this a couple of times and set myself up to be big-idiota-center-stage when I should have been most alert and prepared. I believe these were cases of the dreaded muy-muy syndrome attempting to take root in my ego.

Go for a more perfect reading. Periodically look up at some length at gente at your readings, not just peeking to see if they're still awake; the one whose your age often won't be. I read once with five other authors, including experienced ones, and I was the ONLY person to do this; the others NEVER looked up once. This requires prepping your readings, reading them aloud many times by yourself or with a critic, using typed copy rather than your book (or at least within a copy of your book), marking up your copy for pauses, word emphasis, intelligent enunciation (like I had problems reading "of value" and had to pause after "of") and at least for me, using fourteen point type. One day it'll be sixteen. I also learned that I didn't need to rote memorize my text; that came from repeated reading.

Do your best, especially for small audiences. Experienced, even well-known, authors with publisher support that included airfare, hotel, big bookstore liaison in large cities advised me they had had audiences of 3 people. When only two or three showed at a couple of mine, I was ready to give them the greatest performance I could.

Tweet, friend, share, post and make it a joy to read. I won't nominate myself as the best at this (consider this post), but my wisest daughter Marika has impressed upon me the importance of keeping mi cara in front of my fans by sharing news every few days. And at least trying to make it fun, funny, informative, interesting to read.

Give of yourself to your audience. I'm guessing that the majority of an audience comes to hear you, not your text. Yes, they want to find value in your book and your words may be great. But they want to know you, be a part of the special thing that's fallen on you the author. Don't give them dry facts about you, your life, your road to authorship. Give them the funny, the thrilling, the emotion behind writing that book. If you have to, invent some. But relax because they want the real you. Take pride, yes, because they expect for you to convince they should buy/read the work. Then fulfill your responsibility to make them glad they came and they'll look forward to book two.

Author Garcia finally takes a break
Take breaks to give yourself a qué-suave! You got a book published! Enjoy the moments. Remind yourself of the major hurdle you just leapt. Have some beers, some agavero, some President (not in that order) with family, friends and colleagues. And laugh, with joy. Then get to writing whatever you have the most energy and ganas for, because you're meant to be a writer, not some puto self-promoter.

Undoubtedly I've forgotten or not emphasized things that should be. Any one of these items could be expanded. This is also just one author's experience. I welcome additions, corrections, elaborations and contributions from others who know more. Or less.

Adelante con otra obra! 

RudyG, aka Rudy Ch. Garcia, author of The Closet of Discarded Dreams, taking a break before visiting northern and southern Colorado to share my work. Sometime soon after I catch my breath and get some more pinche books.


Viva Liz Vega! said...

Those were good tips and a good dose of humor. Thanks!


The truth is, writing a book is the easy part. It's all the stuff that comes after that will kill you.

Anonymous said...

Good tips, Rudy, especially the list making, only I keep misplacing my lists.


Sandra Ramos O'Briant
The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood (La Gente Press, September 2012)

Sonia Gutiérrez said...

Thank you Rudy Garcia for your wonderful consejos!

Juanita said...

Well said, Rudy :) What a great post! Good practical tips laced with the right amount of humor. Your enthusiasm is inspiring. It's wonderful to see you getting out there and getting the job done. Your tour sounds like a roaring success. I can't wait to see what you have in store next for the Closet.
All the best,
Your very proud editor :D

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Rudy, thanks for these thorough, witty, helpful comments. I totally agree with you that self-promotion takes time away from our writing, our passion. I also agree with Ernie Hogan that writing the book was the "easy part," and the PR is the killer! Not being able to avoid all this, we can relax that tips like yours will help us out! Thanks for your wonderful sense of humor, insight, and authenticity. Adelante, Rudy!

Rick Rivers said...

Orale Rudy, Gracias. My first book will be out soon and you offer many good avisos here. As an experienced reader let me add a couple of tips. Don't feel compelled to read entire stories or chapters, or LONG poems from you piece. Snipets will work. Keep reading short, don't burden the audience. Choose a selection of pieces to read which best show many sides of YOU, the serious,the human,the painful, the funny sides.