Being an Author

Being a book author means you also have to do your own marketing. Most publishing companies don’t do as much as they did five years ago, and some do nothing at all. That’s now the writer’s job.

So I try to schedule book events rather than book signings. Events are more interesting and have a better chance of attracting people. Libraries are a good place to do an event. You are guaranteed to get people who like reading at a library.

HeroBookI called a library to arrange a book signing for my book, The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal.
We join the conversation in progress, as it slides inexorably downhill:
Me: . . . so I wondered if a book signing would be a good mix for your events this summer.
Librarian: Well, I don’t know, maybe if you did a children’s program. . .
Me: The book is really for adults who keep a journal.
Librarian: We are looking to do more performance art this summer, with guests from far away.
Me: Oh. I would have thought you’d be interested in your local writers, too.
Librarian: Look, it’s not like you are exactly J.A. Jance.

What a great praise for J.A. Jance, a writer of mysteries and suspense books who used to live in Tucson and now lives in Seattle. I’m a fan. So I wrote her and told her the story.
Her reply?
Many years ago, the same thing happened to her–except she was told “You are no Norman Mailer.” And then, incredibly, she told me two lesser-known libraries that had been helpful to her before she had several books on the New York Times best seller list.

None of us are all everyone wants us to be. What makes us great is the willingness to be who we have become. With some work, that is better than who we used to be. Because, great or not great, we can’t be anyone else.

-Quinn McDonald is happy about her book.  She is always impressed with the kindness of another writer.


26 thoughts on “Being an Author

  1. Love a close-minded librarian with an agenda, instead of one who might actually win with her readers by offering a wider variety of people to meet. Ugh.
    On the bright side, I’m now working on the sixth of my inner hero cards. Great fun and very useful. Thanks, Quinn, and I’d love it if you came to visit our local library. Wishes are horses..

  2. My worship of libraries (and librarians) took a little hit from that story. You’ve probably thought of this, but what about doing events at art supply stores? That’s where you’d find many journalers, I bet, and the stores themselves would love it because it would entice folks to buy supplies.

    • Thanks, Claudia, I teach at Arizona Art Supply, both in Phoenix and Tucson. Please don’t let your librarian worship be diminished. Here’s a story for you that will restore your faith: I listen to a lot of audiobooks because I drive a lot–to clients’ businesses, where I teach. I was digging through the audiobook section, looking for another in a series of books I had loved. But I was stymied–I could not remember the author’s name, the main character’s name. All I could remember was the cover art on the case and the general story line of the overall series. I went to the librarian for the section, and feeling like a memory-impaired geezer, I apologized and said I was going to be one of those annoying people who doesn’t know enough to get help. The librarian perked up, and said she loved a good challenge. She listened carefully and asked the most bizarre question–did I know the name of the reader? Astonishingly, I did. Out of nowhere. The librarian then named the series, the main character, and the name of the most recent audiobook added to their collection. THAT’s my hero librarian!

  3. Congratulations! on being snubbed. When you ARE J.A. Jance you will have a great story for other hopeful writers and you had the opportunity to get advice and encouragement from someone who has already established herself. What a great story on both fronts. Too bad that librarian didn’t understand that it’s the new hopefuls that work harder to entertain and inspire on their way up the ladder of fame.
    I love Wendy’s response too. Everybody has to start at the bottom, after all.

  4. :” None of us are all everyone wants us to be. What makes us great is the willingness to be who we have become. With some work, that is better than who we used to be. Because, great or not great, we can’t be anyone else.”

    I love every word here and admire your fortitude.Good Luck!

  5. I have not read J.A. Jance but I will give her a try soon. How unfortunate for the library’s patrons that the librarian was so close-minded.

  6. A few years ago a new bookstore opened up in Prescott and publicized they were local author friendly. I’ve been welcomed for talks and interviews on Native wisdom traditions and my work at spiritual centers, non-denominational churches and conferences, most out of state or country. So when my latest book came out last summer, I took the new bookstore at their word and contacted them, since they regularly offer talks. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and tried a few times over a few months via email, phone and in person. I never even received the courtesy of a response. Like that old adage: It’s hard to be a prophet in your own land–unless the book is a mainstream bestseller, of course. Nevertheless, my books have continued to find their readers and my programs their participants, most from out of town, state and country. An unfortunate thing about that old adage though…

  7. Hey, you’re marketing the wrong thing to libraries! Just because there are books there doesn’t mean books are their “thing”. I’m pretty sure libraries do marketing too, and have plans and campaigns like a commercial organization. And maybe they’d benefit from, I dunno, classes in innovation and new ideas — tailored to libraries. My guess would be it’s hard to think creatively in that environment.

    • I’ve done lots of programs at lots of libraries, and loved them. You often don’t get paid unless the Friends of the Library hire you, and I’ve learned how to do that, too. But I could approach the staff, too.

  8. Wasn’t it lucky for the librarian that you weren’t so small minded or mean as to say “And you aren’t exactly Melvil Dewey!” I’m having a small chuckle at the thought though.

    And yes, I’m the best me I can be today and tomorrow I might be just a tad better.

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