The Thrills and Spills of Book Marketing

Here’s the scoop. I self-published a book before I ever considered marketing. The fact that I’d even written a book that could be published was beyond my comprehension. Who thinks of marketing before the book is even a real thing? Well, as it turns out (as many of you likely know from personal experience) any self-published author who wants their book to be read has to think about the whole ball of sticky, gooey marketing wax. It’s the same in any artistic endeavor – the artist must ask, “how am I going to get this art out to people who may be interested in it, who may benefit from it, who may love it?”

I’m a social media light-weight dummy (slowly losing my fear), but – I created a website including this blog, made a Facebook page (Joy Ride – Rolling Around in Life), had a book launch, and some spotty opportunities to share the book at a few minimally-attended events. I approached the local papers and venue newsletters and scored a couple of small mentions. Next – I decided to pay the bucks for a Kirkus review, secretly hoping, (honestly, more like believing) it would solve all my marketing woes. If it was good, I imagined Kirkus would roll out their plan (free, of course) and that would be all I needed. The book would be snatched up by everyone in every country in a matter of days.

Ha! What am I? Dumb, naive, a wishful thinker? Obviously, all three and just a tad out of touch!

Here’s what’s happened. I got a nice Kirkus review and an immediate offer of a phone meeting with one of their marketing folks. Great! I thought. The woman I spoke with was a dear – she hadn’t read my book, but said she’d known of others like it that had benefitted from Kirkus’s marketing “packages”, and proceeded to outline individual and bundled options ranging from $500 to $5000. She sent me the descriptions earlier in the morning the day of the call. They looked good – lots of ads, maybe a book giveaway, arranged by Kirkus – likely 300,000 print views of my book in three weeks. I was almost sold – how else would I get that much press? I have no access to any of the stuff she was talking about, and isn’t Kirkus supposed to be the best?

Thankfully, I’ve grown up enough to know it’s best not to sign on in the moment of excitement, when praise and adulation is being heaped on me by someone who knows nothing about me, or my book (since she hadn’t read it). Granted someone had, but…so what?

I emailed my editor, the woman who helped me finish and publish the said book, the one person I can confide in about all things book-related knowing she has my back. I told her I was considering the $5000 Great Book Package. Really – I was, even though that small voice deep in my wise-woman gut was shaking her head, mumbling, “yes, you have the money, but what’s the guarantee?” Here’s what my editor wrote back:

“I’m nervous about you spending $5,000 on ads that don’t include widening your social media presence. It’s a lot of money being spent in only one direction. I don’t doubt Kirkus will do all they say they’ll do, but it’s book marketing—a highly ephemeral ratio between effort/cost: results…I know you’re flying high from that great Kirkus review and Kirkus is your new BFF and you’re excited about what they’re offering, but I feel that you’ll be disappointed with the results from Kirkus’s narrow campaign track…”

A wise woman! How many books would I have to sell to net $5000? At ~$9.00 profit per book, more than 500. That’s a ton of books. What if I sold just 20? Would I feel the investment was worth it? Would I say it doesn’t matter – I tried, wanting to justify my desire to see results without having to do much work? I’m sure I’d secretly regret it – another episode of impulsive, wishful thinking/acting that I’d get to add to my list of similar experiences. When. Will. I. Learn?

I have another phone meeting with the same Kirkus rep in early July. I’m still tempted to go for the Great Book Package. Like most authors, I want my book to be considered great, though I don’t want you to know that I want that. I want you to think it’s not important to me. Truth is, I know from experience that feigning indifference rids my soul of all it’s passion and joy – so best put the truth out there and hold onto the live-giving soul juice.

Meanwhile, I’ve contacted Smith Publicity. Maybe they have something to offer that’s more suited to my book and my marketing needs. I’ll still need Eva, my life-saving editor, to catch me as I’m falling under the spell of their pie-in-the-sky offers. And, I’ll watch out for the BFF phenomenon, and do my best to remember that nothing comes without some measure of work.

Dancing a Life

Becoming Who I Was is a 2017 documentary about a Buddhist boy in the highlands of northern India who discovers that he is the reincarnation of a centuries-old Tibetan monk. He and his godfather embark on a journey to discover his past. I saw the film this week, and the journey is truly a fantastic one. They travel on foot, with minimal supplies and no way to summon help, for more than two months, crossing the great mountains of India and Tibet. The scenery is awesome, and their relationship, already beautifully captured in the first part of the film, is the epitome of love and respect. I sat in the theater mesmerized, in love with the people and the place. Yet it was something more subtle, something I’m ever curious about, that struck me the most.

As I watched, I saw people who were dancing through everything in their lives. Their bodies were alive, in stillness and in movement, with the beautiful nuances the physical body expresses on it’s own, without intention, pre-conception, anticipation, or even awareness. We all move in our lives, frequently in ways that we’ve scripted for ourselves, ways that leave little room for the spirit to move us. And often we’re not even aware we’re moving, we don’t feel our bodies as they carry out the awesome tasks of daily living. We don’t acknowledge or find curious the way our fingers glide across the keyboard as we write, or the way our legs maneuver as we take each step. Many of us analyze our actions, and the shape and size of our bodies, yet fail to notice the grace and beauty in our unique contours and our unconscious gestures.

The dancing I witnessed in the film was a continual flow of individual bodies contacting other bodies, both physically and spatially, without body to body contact per se, but with powerful connections between bodies over the space that separated them. Bodies were alive and in communication – words and physical touching seemed secondary to the energetic and spirit connections. All of it seemed entirely spontaneous – there was no need for choreography – the bodies intrinsically knew how to dance their lives, solo and in relationship.

Celebrating the art, the beauty, and the profound wisdom of the body has been a growing passion of mine for many years. In my memoir, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance, I write about the beginnings of that passion. I came late to an awareness of my body as a vessel for knowledge, beauty and joy, having spent the first half of my life hating, berating and abusing my body in oh-so-many ways. Gradually, I’m finding a home in her, and as that comfort grows, I’m aware of what an incredible creation she is. She not only performs a myriad of tasks without any hint of conscious input from me (something I’ve been trying to change by paying more attention, and thanking her more for doing so much for me), but she is my connection to the incredible world of nature and beings of all sorts. I find when I bring my grateful awareness into the realm of my physical activities, my body is more animated and more open to the limitless universe of human experience.

In the film, I felt that grateful awareness of all manner of experience emanating from the bodies of the people. Their words were simple and brief. There were no monologues or even anything close. There weren’t even conversations as we know them. Their bodies, like open vessels comfortably infused with spirit, communicated as if they were one with the all-encompassing universe.

I’m still entranced by the feeling of the film. I hope I can keep it alive inside of me. After all, life IS a dance, and I want to be dancing with my whole self.

Massage Magic

I spent the morning at the keyboard wanting to write a post but coming up blank. No inspiration. I had only a few hours before a scheduled massage and the time tick-tocked away with nothing to show for it. I left the house asking the powers that be to send me something – some kernel of something that might jumpstart a post.

My masseuse is a friend and my yoga teacher. We always spend the first fifteen or so minutes catching up. Although I didn’t mention my wish for an inspiration to her, I hoped that what frequently happens – the experience of being showered with positive energy and the movement of healing hands over my body – would open the channels for something.

As she worked my muscles soft, I drifted to places mostly not remembered. Then, toward the end of the hour, I had an overwhelming sense of myself as “a being in a body” and sensed a connection to one of themes in my memoir, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance. While still under the spell, I began to repeat the phrase “a being in a body” and add other phrases, like “two arms, two hands, ten fingers – last I looked.” All the while in the semi-trance state that frequently occurs when I succumb to the whole enchilada of a massage experience. I mused about how it might grow into a poem – maybe even story – and began to remember the various body-centered experiences I’ve had that slowly, over the course of a few decades, created the pathway that has allowed me to be “a being in a body.” Things like swimming, skiing, sailing, even painting, and fooling with clay – and most especially improvisational dancing, which I began in my forties. In my first few years exploring Authentic Movement, (a form of dance featuring eyes-closed movement that’s witnessed, then written about or expressed in some other artistic way, and finally shared verbally, in a specific structure, with the witness) I would sometimes just move into a physical shape and immediately begin sobbing. The outpouring would be a huge release, and a mix of pleasure and curiosity. I understood it to mean that some emotion was caught up in the cells of my body – maybe pushed way down by my inability or unwillingness to feel it. During the movement, my cells released whatever it was, and the space that had been clogged with it for who knows how long, was finally clear, and free to experience something else. I’ve been dancing in similar ways since – eyes open and closed, sometimes with choreography, though more often improvisational-ly inside various loose structures designed to provide a focus, while leaving the mover free to play around with whatever desire and curiosity arises.

This ties in to one of my most recent desires and fears. At the end of June, I’ll be a part of an event in Seattle produced by the North West Film Forum. Along with four fantastic, diverse dance films featuring creative, inspirational dancers, I’ll be reading from my book and moving solo, and with others, to my words as others read. I want to find my way to a place where improvisational dance performance excites me more than it scares me. In workshops and informal groups, I’m more than comfortable as “a being in a body” dancing itself silly and seriously, with all of it’s altered shape and quirkiness. Somehow within the workshop venue I feel I can hide – I’m not showing myself with an intention or specific purpose. But, dancing solo, to my words, in front of a group of people who have come to be entertained – YIKES! That feels scary – and I want to do it.

I told my masseuse pal about this before I left her place. One thing I said pops out as the truest in all of it. I want to feel this desire to move for others – whether to my words, or to some other inspiration, whether alone or with others – as coming from the heart and soul of the “being in this body.” The one it took so long to embrace. The one that shines when I allow it to, without censoring or restricting or judging. The “being in this body” who is connected to the universal body and all the other “beings in bodies” wherever they may be.

Here’s a link to the NWFF event in Seattle at the end of June. Take a look…

https://nwfilmforum.org/films/joy-ride-screened-alive-adventures-unavoidable-embodiment/