I really don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to marketing my books.
Sure, I have a social media presence, including many Facebook friends and several Twitter followers, and I make the rounds of the free publicity groups. I’ve listed my novel on iauthor, and I’ve arranged for several blog interviews, mainly through my writing friends, who have been kind enough to host me.
Still, I’m not sure this is enough. I want to make sure that my marketing is as wide and deep as I can make it.
So, what’s a person to do?
Well, you know the old adage, weather is local? At some point it occurred to me that my thinking on advertising might benefit from such an approach.
The first thing I thought of was how can my book connect to the world right around me, that is, in my own community?
With Conversations Among Ruins that is a relatively easy question to answer. You see, I wrote the book with the goal of helping people who might be struggling with an addiction to alcohol or other drugs as well as those who battle mental illness, and especially for those who suffer from both, that is, those who are dual diagnosed.
That led me to believe that there are several local groups/organizations that might be interested in the book, the regional office for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), for example, and detoxes and rehabilitation centers in my area. Given the fact that mental illness is a very relevant topic, I also thought the book’s topic might appeal to local radio stations and newspapers.
This having been established, it dawned on me that I had little idea how to contact such groups. Well, I might have some idea of how to do so in some cases, but the thought of the time and effort involved left me worried. How was I to have time to write and market?
I’d heard of publicists, of course, but I always thought they were beyond my financial reach. I recall reading some place, probably on Poets & Writers, that a publicist ranges between $5,000 and $50,000. Right, I thought. I might just as well strap cardboard wings on my arms and try flying to the moon.
But I decided to look into the matter anyway.
What I found is a local publicist with great community connections that can help build a grassroots presence for the book.
For relatively little money, this publicist assured me that she could do the following things: 1) create a sell sheet, with my input; 2) create a press release; 3) schedule signings at local bookstores; 4) contact NAMI and other mental health and substance abuse facilities; and 5) contact local media, both newspapers and radio.
This experience is opening my eyes. I’ve come to believe that a good publicist with strong contacts in your community might be the best way to go.
I encourage you to check into this and to please let me know how you make out.
I am new to the world of having a publicist as well, so I will continue to write about my ongoing experiences.
All the best,
Anyway, for the rest of us, writer’s block, or what I’ve called writer’s blahs, happens, and I’m always trying to find a way to break through.
Now, there are plenty of books on this, some of which don’t even cost money.
What I offer here is simply my own experience, and I share it freely, with the hope that you might benefit from it.
When I have writer’s block/blahs I usually find that it results from some form of negative thinking. As Henri Junttila wrote in a helpful blog post, these negative thoughts can take the form of all-or-nothing thinking, a bad case of the should/have-to’s/musts, or dwelling on the negative, among other things.
Regardless of the thoughts, the source of the negativity is pretty clear. And that is the editor or the internal critic in all of us, the part of ourselves that rears its ugly head on a regular basis and sets up road blocks to our writing. So persistent and recurrent is the voice of this critic in the writer’s psyche, that I’d rank it along with death and taxes as permanent features of life.
Sometimes it seems that whatever you do, you can’t silence the voice of the internal critic. It just keeps ranting, telling you what a charlatan you are, that you have no talent, that what you are writing is tripe, and that you should just quit now before you fully embarrass yourself.
Does any of this sound familiar?
If it does, you might wish to try the following:
When you first wake-up tomorrow morning, head straight for the computer and start writing whatever comes next in your current work in progress (WIP).
I recommend this for the following reason: this is the time when your internal critic is the most silent, and this will allow you the freedom to write. Think of it this way: this is when your subconscious is still active, when the defenses of your conscious are at their lowest point.
The other time when your subconscious is very active is when you dream. And you know the freedom of dreams. When you dream, there is no critic telling you, well THAT doesn’t make sense, there is no way your ex would live in a flying cabin over Katmandu.
By the time you are fully awake, you might just find yourself in the writing swing.
If you try this, please let me know how it works out.
I haven’t posted in a while and I’ll tell you why. My novel Conversations Among Ruins became available on August 13, and I’ve been pretty busy with marketing and promotion. I’ve also been engaged in marketing efforts for a second book, The Brothers’ Keepers, which will be released as an e-book on October 1.
That’s not really a good excuse, though. I need to stay in touch more often, and I will try to do so in the future.
I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve been doing, and what I hope to do, in terms of marketing. I share this because I don’t believe marketing should be mysterious. I think we all can benefit from sharing our experiences and discussing what has and hasn’t worked.
First, I have mentioned the book to my friends and have secured reviews from other writers, as well as from the Readers’ Favorites review service.
Second, I’ve been posting beautifully crafted ads, compliments of my girlfriend, on a variety of Facebook sites that allow for free promotion. Truthfully, I’m not sure how much such postings help, and I’d love to hear your comments on this matter.
Third, I’ve scheduled blog spots with some of my writing friends, who have been kind enough to interview me and allow me the opportunity to talk about my book. I may at some point consider doing a book blog tour, using Orangeberry Book Tours, or a similar service.
Fourth, I’ve been e-mailing radio/blog sites to see if they would consider having me as a guest on their show. So far this has yielded an interview in late September on the Lina Jones Diamond Network, which I am really looking forward to.
Fifth, I’ve engaged the services of a friend, an Internet marketing specialist, the same person who designed my website and made this blog possible, to help me with tweets and Facebook posts.
Finally, I’m meeting with a publicist on Tuesday, to see what she can offer in terms of promoting the book. (I’m sure she can offer a lot; I’m just not sure I can afford her.) I will let you know how that goes.
I offer this to you so that you can see some of what I am doing to market my book. I am too early in to gauge the effectiveness of my efforts, but I want you to be with me from the get-go, so we can discuss what does and doesn’t work.
What I am beginning to realize is that marketing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I am in this for the long haul and the long haul consists of writing more quality books in the hopes of attracting more readers.
I would like to hear from you, especially regarding anything you’ve found particularly useful in terms of marketing. A couple of other things I’ve considered are taking out a Facebook ad, and holding a giveaway contest. Your experiences with such things are greatly appreciated.
We both expressed a need to enjoy the journey of life, to focus less on the destination and more on the process of living each day to the fullest.
She asked how I planned on doing this.
I told her I needed to cultivate my gratitude for everything in my life. Then she said something that touched me very deeply. She said by living the path I’ve chosen—actively managing my dual diagnosis—I demonstrate my gratitude every day.
I’ve often mentioned the gratitude list I keep near my computer. On it are things like gratitude for food, shelter, clothing, and sleeping in a bed every night—there were stretches in my life when I didn’t have these things.
I am also enormously grateful for the people in my life, my rock of a girlfriend, her loving parents, and my sisters, and other family and friends.
An item on my gratitude list that some might find surprising is children’s books.
You see, five years ago, I couldn’t dream I’d have a book coming out, let alone two. My symptoms of dual diagnosis surfaced and I suffered a shattering breakdown. Afterwards, I read children’s picture books because they were what my brain could process. It was only over the course of several months that I worked up to YA novels. It took me eighteen months to read an adult book.
Some people who have dual diagnosis never experience such difficulties.
Some experience worse.
I am one of the fortunate ones.
And every time I get frustrated or feel like giving up, I remember how I literally had to start from scratch and work my way up to where I’d been. And I remember the wonderful picture books that slowly helped me come back around. I am so grateful for them, and for the distance I’ve traversed over the course of the last few years.
Thank you for letting me share this journey with you.
All the best,
In the wake of Robin Williams’s suicide, I am re-posting this piece on dual diagnosis. Parts of it originally appeared on Laura Zera’s website in June. I offer the following insights and suggestions as someone who has dealt with and suffered the consequences of dual diagnosis for years, not from the perspective of a medical doctor, of which I am not.
What is dual diagnosis?
There are some variations in definitions of dual diagnosis, but the term generally describes a person who has a mood disorder (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) and some form of chemical dependency (e.g., alcoholism, and/or addiction to cocaine, heroin or prescription medication). For example, I have depression (Major Depressive Disorder) and I’m an alcoholic.
It is estimated that 6 out of 100 Americans have a dual diagnosis. It is estimated that 29% of those who suffer emotional/mental disorders have abused substances and that 53% of substance abusers have had a psychiatric problem. Famous individuals among the dual diagnosed include Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, and Sigmund Freud. Robin Williams was also dual diagnosed.
Having a dual diagnosis differs, in terms of recovery, in that it is not just about refraining from alcohol, or taking anti-depressants. It is a synergistic condition where one illness exacerbates the other.
Major bouts of depression, for example, are often accompanied by the desire to self-medicate. It might sound counter-intuitive to want to drink alcohol, which is a depressant, when you are depressed, but the mind and brain chemistry of the alcoholic differ from that of the non-alcoholic. Drinking may actually alleviate depression in the short-term, lifting your spirits, so to speak, and quickly, too. That makes drinking very enticing to a person going through a depressive episode: the solution to feeling bad seems just an arm’s length away. Of course, what happens is that you might feel better after taking a few drinks, but when the effect wears off you are at a lower mood baseline than before you drank.
I drank regularly by the time I was thirteen. I sought help at a local substance abuse clinic when I was fifteen. Despite being dual diagnosed from an early age, the diagnosis didn’t stick. Over the years, as I made my way through countless detoxes and rehabs, and a few psychiatric wards, the standard course of treatment was to deal with one disorder without addressing the other, or the combined effect of both. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence.
Why is treating dual diagnosis so difficult?
Part of the reason is that the use of certain drugs can mimic psychological symptoms associated with some mental disorders. Alternately, people who suffer from psychiatric conditions often self-medicate to feel better. A professional treating someone with both disorders may tell a patient that he/she must first address one issue (e.g., stop drinking) before the other (e.g., depression) can be treated. Unfortunately, this leaves open the possibility that the underlying depression will never get treated because a person may be unable to stop drinking without dealing with the depression. Additionally, the problems of diagnosing/treating the dual diagnosed is exacerbated by insurance policies, which are set up to treat every ailment as a separate condition.
What can be done?
Again, I am not a medical doctor, and these are just my suggestions for ameliorating the difficulties of treating the dual diagnosed. In the presence of one of these conditions an aggressive effort should be made to determine if the other is present. Both alcoholism and mental disorders are genetically-based. So if a person presents symptoms for one, a professional should ascertain whether the other condition is exhibited in the patient’s family history. If both conditions are identified, an effort should be made to address them concurrently. In cases in which there is no family history of either mental illness or addiction, it should be ascertained whether the mental disorder preceded the addiction problem or whether both developed at the same time. If the former, then both conditions should be treated simultaneously. If the latter, then the addiction problem should be the initial focus of treatment to see if the mental symptoms subside with the cessation of the use of addictive substances. Of course, it is imperative that the patient be completely honest in reporting the use of addictive substances.
Is there hope?
Yes. The most effective treatment program I have found is the approach used by places such as ASAP (Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. During my last hospitalization for depression and alcohol-related matters, my aftercare plan included attending ASAP. ASAP takes a comprehensive approach to substance abuse that involves education and group therapy as well as one-on-one sessions with therapists. Crucially, there is a strong psychiatric component built into the program because of the recognition that mental illness and substance abuse are often comorbid. I would encourage anyone who suffers from dual diagnosis, including the families of the dual diagnosed, to check out the treatment options available through places such as ASAP.
This is medium-long term help. In the short run, if you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). People have called this number for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.
For important information on suicide please visit the website of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
People care about you. I care about you.
 Information in this paragraph is taken from Dennis C. Ortman, The Dual Diagnosis Recovery Sourcebook: A Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Approach to Addiction with an Emotional Disorder (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2001).
That’s right, Robin Williams was dual diagnosed.
How many deaths do we have to endure before people realize the power of addiction and mental illness?
If you think Robin Williams died because he was weak, or had a character defect, you probably belong to the majority.
Most people are sad to see the loss of yet another celebrity, but they are less willing to believe that Williams died because he suffered from dual diagnosis, a medical condition whose symptoms resurfaced, and led him to take his own life.
This is not the place to recount Williams’s career. You can find his accolades anywhere online.
But it is the place to ask why we remain so reticent in our society to talk about addiction and mental illness. Why? Because of the social stigma attached to each of these conditions, one that seems to increase exponentially when they occur together.
The truth of the matter is that Robin Williams is not much different from any of the other 6 out of 100 people in this country who are dual diagnosed. Sure, he had more toys than most of us, and certainly his bank account was enviable, but he described his relapse after twenty years of clean time in a way that resounds with any of us who suffer from addiction:
He walked past a little bottle of Jack Daniels in a liquor store window and it called to him. “Just one,” it said. “You can have just one.” Well, Williams went on to have one and then another and then found himself unable to stop.
Stephen King, another veteran of the whiskey wars, puts it this way: Tell someone who has chronic diarrhea to stop shitting and you have some idea of how hard it is for an alcoholic who has taken the first drink to stop drinking.
I was in the hospital five years ago when Michael Jackson died, being treated for essentially the same thing that ended the King of Pop’s reign. I remember thinking how absolutely vulnerable anyone is to dying from addiction and the concomitant mental illness that often accompanies it. I felt extremely vulnerable upon hearing about Michael Jackson’s death. After all, if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. Some people would call it a wake-up call. I would call it a reinforcement of my desire to stop drinking and to manage my depression and anxiety in a way that would allow me to live.
You see, this is what it all comes down to: A desire to live. And you have to want to live more than you want to die. So you want to get better more than you want to stay sick. How does this happen? I wish I knew. But you really have to reach that point.
Please reach out to people who are suffering and who want help.
And please, if you are in active addiction and/or suffer from mental illness, know that life can get better. There is hope and help out there, but you have to want it, and you have to want it badly. That is the number one factor in the determination of successful treatment of addiction and dual diagnosis: the degree to which a person wants to get help.
Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. You will be missed by so many.
You see, my thriller, The Brothers’ Keepers, is available for pre-order and my literary novel, Conversations Among Ruins, will be out shortly.
These are my first published novels, and I have to say I’m a little excited. Okay, confession time: I’m bouncing off the walls.
What I’m facing now is what most novelists face these days: How to stand out from the veritable ocean of books published each year.
After I wrote the books, I started this website, made my first real foray into the world of Facebook, and entered the fleeting kingdom of Twitter. I’ve established many good relationships. I also belong to a number of Facebook groups dealing with books. In marketing my novels, I intend to make the most out of social media, without seeming too pushy.
Now, as we all know, you can spend tons of time and money advertising your books. You can take out ads in all the usual places and hire people to post to Facebook and Tweet for you. You can engage the services of a publicist. You can even go old-school and have a signing at your local bookstore.
I read a lot of stuff about such advertising pursuits, and from what I can tell, the results are mixed. Yet, despite variations in the success rates of these strategies, there’s widespread agreement on the one thing necessary for good sales. You ready for this? Listen closely. The secret to selling a product is … to have a good product in the first place.
And for us writers this means that the most important part of advertising takes place long before a book is published.
Here are some of the things that make a good finished product.
First, the premise of your book is sound.
Second, your idea hasn’t been done to death.
Third, an audience exists for your book. (The only people who will disagree with the latter are those who aren’t interested in selling books, and that’s fine, as long as you’re honest with yourself going into it.)
Notice these things occur before a single word is written.
Then, after you tell your story, and you tell it well, make sure you polish it till it shines. (It never ceases to amaze me the number of typos in the ads and texts of many authors. I can’t begin to say how much of a turn-off this must be to prospective readers. As authors, our words are our bread and butter.)
Thus, the book should be professionally edited, both by a content editor and a copy editor. Then and only then, after several revisions, some involving beta readers, is it ready for the eyes of an agent/publisher or the discerning eyes of the public.
Now, all of this consists of a massive expenditure of energy and resources up front, during the actual construction and writing of the book, and the post-writing stage as well, in terms of revisions and edits. But the bottom line? Such an investment is apparently worth it. For it’s hard to sell a less than excellent product in today’s overly competitive market.
So instead of last-minute, desperate attempts to market our books long after they’re written, perhaps we should spend a little more time focusing on the quality of the books we conceive and write. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that even in today’s day and age the best books will rise to the top. I hope yours and mine will.
All the best,