Thursday

Tanya Eby: In Praise of the Awkward Book Tour

Tanya Eby writes romantic comedy, including a book which has the most awesome title I’ve ever heard: Blunder Woman.  She’s also the only person I know who has published a book with Sausage in the title (not shelved in cookery).  Thank you, Tanya!
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Sarah. I feel honored. For real. I’m not just saying that. In fact, I will send the check (as discussed) as soon as I make some money off of selling books out of the backseat of my car. I plan on making money in about, oh, 2047.
If you haven’t heard of me, and that’s a really strong possibility (unless you remember the mention of me on a certain bathroom wall in Little Bo’s Bar circa 1993) I’m a writer. I’m a published writer. There are no trumpets or beams of light when I say that, and I wish sometimes, there were. Was. Whatever. I thought that once I was published there would be a red carpet that unrolled under my feet and people would toss roses at me…hopefully without the thorns.
I published my first book on my own, and then I convinced a small publisher to take me on for two more.  I’m deeply grateful to those who saw the potential and got more of my work out there.  Making that leap took longer (and involved a lot more hangovers) than I’d imagined.
Getting people to read my work is another story.
So I’ve become That Writer. You know, the one who carries around her books in a duffel bag just itching to sell you one. I now talk about my work to strangers: at the grocery store, at restaurants, in elevators, and especially on airplanes. I’m that woman you want to avoid, and I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve even started wearing sequins.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, in our modern world all writers now must promote themselves. Even big publishing houses don’t do it anymore (though it helps to have your books available everywhere). Writers for small houses must go a step further. They need to walk corners with a sandwich board to get people to read their work (and possibly buy a cell phone). I’m doing whatever it takes. I Tweet. I Facebook. I have a Street Team (BlunderTeam Powers activate!) My mom takes Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage around her retirement community and tries to sell it to 80-something grandmothers.
What I’ve learned from this is that if you want to write, write. If you want to be published, you need to write, promote, dream, hope, agonize, obsess, sweat, and do it all publicly.
I’ve also learned a few other things. I’ll bullet point them so I look clever.
·         There’s more luck in getting noticed than you’d think.
·         Promoting is like dating. If you give up, it may never happen to you. And by ‘it’ I don’t mean sleeping with someone. I mean ‘it’ as in actual book sales.
·         You can write great stuff, but if it’s not easily available, people won’t search for it. You’ve got to make your stuff easy to access.
·         When you go on a local TV show to promote your work, have someone else do your hair. You’ll thank me later.
·         You need more than one book these days. If someone reads one of your books and likes you, they’ll look for more. If you don’t have any more, they’ll forget you.
·         You need thick skin and possibly therapy to endure the long hours of promoting and believing in yourself.
·         When all else fails and you’re exhausted and tired and you think no one will ever read a single word you write, take a breath and remember you write because you want to tell stories. You believe you have a story to tell. Everything else is static.
I’d love to make one more leap—I’m still dreaming of that ‘big’ publishing contract. Until then, I’ll keep up my Awkward Book Tour. It means I’m randomly going to show up at restaurants with my quirky boyfriend, order a sandwich, and put out a sign with a price for my books and a Post-It that says: “FREE AUTOGRAPHS”. If there aren’t any takers, my mom has promised that she can arrange a bus tour from Eastgate Retirement Homes.
I joke about the process, but there’s a lot of fun in here too. I have connected with new people and occasionally I get tweets or Facebook messages from someone saying “I read your book and laughed so hard I think I peed”. That’s high praise, and it makes me feel like all the energy I’m expending into endless promotion will eventually pay off. Even if it’s after my kids are grown and out of college and moving back in with me because they want free rent.
It’s all going to pay off then. I have faith. 
Sarah: So, I've been told before that having a thick skin is really important.  But where can I get one?  I already tried Amazon...
Tanya: It involves a process of complicated yoga poses like Eat This and Bow to Your Computer, followed by an intense diet of junk food and coffee.  A baton and marching music are also involved.  I'll show you later.

8 comments:

  1. Very nice this blog!
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  2. I'm approaching the date where I have to start marketing and I keep hoping I can skip it. Guess not. Thanks for at least making it funny.

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  3. Tanya, you are always good for a laugh and I sorely needed one today! Thanks!
    Wendy
    W.S. Gager
    www.wsgager.com

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  4. This warmed my heart, like the heart-microwave-oven of blog posts. What you've accomplished already is so inspiring and impressive, fingers crossed for so much more luck and success!

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  5. Admire your stamina, Tanya! Keep on truckin...

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  6. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to also have to do publicity for your book. That's a full time job in itself!

    It's interesting that publishers have kind of laid off advertising for authors. Good luck, Tanya!

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  7. I love hearing thick-skin stories. Don't forget this timeless essay by Ann Patchett about soul-sucking book tours (in the days when maybe five people show up, if you're lucky), in which she wisely reminds us, "Watching a book wither on the shelf would be worse than never having the chance to fight for its success."

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/08/my-life-in-sales/6903/

    Thanks, Tanya!

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  8. Tanya, you know I love you to pieces. And because of you, I have laughed and laughed and teared up a bit too. And I so plan on showing up at your sandwich book signings...you know, when I escape the farm for a few minutes. And happen to not get lost in GRR. Your book is one of my favorite things...can't even put it on the shelf yet because I like to see it out - not just because I'm lazy about it. Keep writing, I'll keep reading!

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