Broward News

Promote Thyself

Richard Pachter writes in the Miami Herald of the cold truth in the business of writing books: It is truly a business. This is nothing new, but Pachter, as part of the newspaper's coverage of the Miami Book Fair, does an excellent job fleshing out the hardships of writers who wind up having to shill their books all the time. In addition to the "shy" Edna Buchanan's disdain for leaving Miami, he gets some frank info from novelist Les Standiford:

''It's big bucks,'' said Les Standiford, author of the series of novels featuring South Florida-based sleuth John Deal, as well as several historical works, including Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America.

''The plain fact is that in an industry where $25,000 is a substantial advance, after your agent's commission, taxes and a little money to live on, how much is left? My publishers have always been collaborative and like to see me tour and do signings, but do you know how many books you usually sell at a signing?'' he asked. "Six to eight.''

"So if you do a 10-city tour with average expense of a thousand dollars a day, how much does that work out to be, per copy?''

Standiford, who heads the creative writing program at Florida International University, chuckled and added, "But the publisher thinks it's worth it and that it helps with word of mouth, which is how most books sell anyway. I'm fine with that, because it's the most valuable and effective thing I can do to help sell my books.''

What a nightmare. Most authors I know wind up back in the newspaper business before too long because the book publishing world -- even if they get "solid" advances -- winds up paying too

damn little and they aren't wild self-promoters. With no marketing for my little book, Florida Pulp Nonfiction, I dreamed up some ideas to get it out there, but have had neither the time nor inclination to do any marketing (though I am committed to doing a reading or two before the end of the year). I just don't feel like living like a traveling salesman and obviously don't have the time if I did want to (so save everybody the headache and buy a copy here at Amazon or here for cheaper). And you really do have to behave like a Bible salesman, according to "writer and marketing guru Seth Godin":

''The most successful authors drive from store to store in a sort of perma-tour, selling books out of the back of their car or just working with individual stores to make their titles stand out. Oliver North made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling his remaindered autobiography at speeches to right-wing groups. This approach is antediluvian and time-consuming, but it works.''