But first: Congratulations to client Beth Ricanati, who just signed with  The Culinary Entertainment Agency for her memoir/self-help book, Make Challah and Call Me in the Morning: A Physician’s Simple Recipe for Healthy Living. Beth’s story of how she went from vague idea to signing with a powerhouse agent is so instructive and inspiring…. and I had the thought that it might be fun for me to chronicle the whole process for you guys (well, um, if Beth agrees….) It might take 4 or 5 Friday newsletters…. Is that something you’d like to see? Click here to let me know.
And if you’re in the LA area, come join me at {pages}: a bookstore in Manhattan Beach on Tuesday July 1 at 7pm for a free in-person how-to-get published workshop. I'd love to see you.
Ok now onto the topic at hand:
One of the most frequent questions writers ask me is how on earth can they manage all the promotion a writer is supposed to do these days while actually finishing their book and also keeping up with all the regular demands of their day job and their life. “It’s just too overwhelming,” they say, “It’s just too much.” It’s an excellent question and a good point.
Now keep in mind that I specialize in helping writers write books, which means that I work with many people from ground zero, or from the middle “help I’m stuck!” stage. In other words, I work with writers who are not always within sight of the promotion stage – at least in the old school way of thinking about a writing career.
So this question is smart because what it means is that these writers know that they have to be thinking about promotion long before they finish writing, and, in a perfect world, long before they even start. They’ve gotten the message that they days of writing alone in your room and assuming that your publisher will do the work of connecting your book to an audience are long gone -- if, in fact, they ever existed. (For proof of this, see my friend Beth Kephart’s post today about Stephen Crane and the promotion circus circa 1880.)
I consider myself relatively skilled at book promotion. I designed, pitched and executed a cross promotion with Ford Motor Company that resulted in their buying 100,000 copies of my breast cancer memoir, and I have helped many writers develop killer marketing strategies for their successful book proposals, which is a critical part of the work I do. I have to be good at this stuff because it’s part of being a writer in the modern world and I’m in the business of coaching writers. It would be pretty shortsighted of my to only focus on the words on the page without thinking about the readers who are going to one day consume those words.  Same for you.
But the truth is that other people are way more skilled at this than I am (Dan BlankJoanna Penn), and I turn to them to continue my education. One such mentor (can you call someone with whom you’ve exchanged two polite emails a mentor? Well, I just did….) is Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies, which is, at this moment, free on Kindle in celebration of the fact that he just sold 10,000 copies.
I am a new raving fan of Tim and his book. I attended a webinar he gave yesterday that was awesome. I learned a dozen great things, but I want to share with you two of the most important:

  1. The first is simply knowing what the point of writing is. “Your writing makes people’s lives better,” Grahl says, and it’s so deeply true. Good books save lives. They change lives. They bring solace, clarity, information, power, passion, insight, resolve, and sometimes a happy afternoon lost in a thrilling narrative that takes you far away from the here and now. Promotion, then, is not an onerous burden or something “other” or outside of writing. Because, as Grahl goes on to say, “The more people you connect to your writing, the better this world will be.” So…problem solved, by a slight shift in attitude. It’s not either writing or promotion. It’s all part of the same thing.
  2. The second idea is a simple, tangible, do-able piece of productivity advice. Gralh advises that you do two things a day to work towards promoting your book (which is another way of saying connecting with readers). Just two. Who can’t do two things every day in service of their book? If you don’t have a website, it could be researching the best way to develop one.  If you don’t have an agent, it could be signing up to attend a conference where agents congregate. If you have just read a blog post written by someone working in your same arena, it could be writing a comment. If your favorite writer is coming to town, it could be going to hear them talk and saying hello. If you hope to one day speak at a conference, it could be writing a draft of your pitch. The next day you polish it. The next day you send it. In this way, you work on building your reader connections at the same time you are writing your book, so that when your book comes out, you have the channels to tell people about it, and the people to tell.

Yes, it means being focused and taking time and effort, but if you’re going to write a book that you hope will touch people, you might as well do it right.