Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, December 01, 2006

Free Stuff! (So, Do I Have Your Attention Now?)

by Kerry Blair

This becoming-an-author thing hasn’t turned out the way I expected.

Little girls become ballerinas because they love to pirouette before adoring audiences. Little boys become pro baseball players because they crave the roar of the crowd. (The multi-million-dollar contracts probably aren’t a deterrent.) But little people become writers because they like to hide out in small, dark rooms and talk to people who don’t talk back.

At least that’s why I became a writer.

Writing is perhaps the most insular, heady process in the world. Not only can you go to work in your pajamas (or in a bear suit, if you want to) but everyone in the world you create must do exactly as you dictate. It’s nirvana for self-conscious, introverted, control freaks like me. At least it is until some crazed publisher wrests the creation from your gnarled, writer’s-cramped fingers. All at once you have a novel instead of a manuscript—and an obligation to shed the bear suit, leave hibernation, and morph into a bookselling diva without the aid of a magic cloak or fairy godmother.

I know it’s a rather Grimm fairy tale, but it's my story. (Everything except the bear suit, that is.)

I’ll never forget one of my first book signings. Unfortunately. I showed up early and scooted my table over when the store manager wasn’t looking. That way I could partially conceal myself behind a towering stack of somebody else’s books. Minutes later, a well-established author breezed in. She scooted her table front and center, whisked off the plain tablecloth, and replaced it with something jewel-toned and satiny. She added flowers (probably home-grown orchids) and rearranged her books artfully behind a crystal bowl of imported Belgian chocolates. As a finale she looped a silver lanyard around her swan-like neck. Attached to the cord was a badge that proclaimed: Princess Perfection, BESTSELLING AUTHOR in four-inch, glittery letters.

I crawled under my table.

I have since come back out. I’ve even learned to play the game. (Ask Stephanie. You should have seen her jaw drop at our first signing together when I whipped out a lime-green tablecloth, string of twinkle-lights, and genuine stuffed raven.) Alas, although I now love book signings and can decorate a table with the best of them, that’s pretty much all I’m good at. (I’d probably only hang myself with a lanyard.) But I’m trying. I blog on Fridays and have worked hard to update my web site. Besides a creepy new look and a quirky Curiosity Shop, I’m adding twice-weekly blogs and even have a holiday contest up and running. (Everybody go enter, okay?) But that’s about as far as I foray into self-promotion without developing brain freeze, panic attacks, and/or a nasty case of hives.

Which (450 words later) brings me to the thesis of this blog. I simply love it when other people come up with creative, inspired ideas to promote their books. I followed Rob’s prequel with fascination. I think Jeff is brilliant. Another of the greats is Marnie Pehrson. On this very day (December 1) she’s doing something innovative and absolutely stunning. It’s called a Launch. Everyone who orders a copy of her new book Angel and the Enemy from Barnes & Noble online today will get a free cyber shopping bag full of goodies worth more than $700. (One of the more modest gifts is a download of Digging Up the Past, a book I co-authored with my sister-in-law, Christine Wolfe.)

To make this happen Marnie has recruited friends and associates across the Web. She has – at last count – more than 512,000 individual mailings going out simultaneously. (Yes, you read that right. A half-million people will hear about her book today.) If a miniscule fraction of them buy the book, she will be catapulted onto B&N’s Top Ten Best Seller List, probably ahead of John Grisham – who only wishes he’d thought of it himself. This will be an incredible achievement that she can list on every forthcoming book cover and/or brag about forever.

Brilliant, huh? Undoubtedly you’ll want to be part of literary history-in-the-making by buying one, two or ten copies for yourself and everyone on your Christmas list! Check out the book (and the promotion) here. Or here. Or here. Each page was targeted toward a different market, depending on the mailing. Impressed? Me, too.

While you go order the book I’ll get out the glitter and make Marnie one of those badges I told you about. I just hope she has a flashy lanyard to put it on.


At 12/01/2006 11:02 AM, Blogger Matthew Buckley said...

You've got me beat, Kerry. I haven't even got to the 'bring your own tablecloth' stage yet (maybe Rob and I should go shopping).

My book signings involve me curling up in the fetal position and rocking back and forth slowly.

I've thought about dressing up in a straight jacket, just to make people wonder. I could sign the books with a pen in my teeth.

Hmmmm... Have to give that one more thought.

At 12/01/2006 12:24 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

I'm still picturing Kerry in a bear-suit!

At 12/01/2006 1:35 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Not much of a stretch, is it? :-)

At 12/01/2006 3:46 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Kerry's lights and stuffed raven were fantastic--plus the free chocolate and pencils! Being a newbie, I hadn't even thought to bring anything with me, and Kerry very kindly donated candy to me so I'd have something to hand out. If I ever get good at booksignings, I'll have Kerry to thank for it (my natural tendencies run toward curling up in a fetal position like Matthew . . .)

At 12/01/2006 6:55 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

Good blog, Kerry. I didn't even know what a lanyard was until now. (I always thought it was that annoying piece of property in front of my house that I strive to keep mowed, until winter hits.) ;)

Regarding book signings: I love to meet people, but I hate trying to sell my books. Which is why I've decided to begin a new career as a professional retired writer. This means I can write all I want, I just don't have to bother with getting anything published.

At 12/02/2006 11:27 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

UPDATE: She did it! A little after mindmight last night, Marnie Pehrson made the B&N bestseller list! "Angel and the Enemy" is sitting proudly at the tip top of page seven of that list as I write this. I'm so pleased and impressed I just had to repot back!

If you want to read Marnie's touching, inspiring thoughts on the experience, check out and read the last few posts.

Way to go, Marnie! I'll send you that badge!

At 12/02/2006 1:21 PM, Anonymous Marnie Pehrson said...

Thanks, Kerry, for everything you did to spread the word! I think your bubbling excitement was what made me believe it could happen! :)

This has been so much fun. I've really enjoyed it. Now it's time to roll up my sleeves and use this B&N Best Seller status to get some media attention. The journey's just begun. After I get some much needed sleep (I think I got 4 hours last night) it'll be time to crank out some press releases for a Valentines "Clean Romance" media blitz.

At 12/02/2006 2:50 PM, Blogger Kathryn Brown said...

I'm trying to write at the moment. It does make for a great time sitting in your jammies at 3 in the morning when you can't sleep, with your mac book on your lap typing away. I'm still a receptionist during the daytime though, yes, I haven't been discovered yet sent off plenty of email manuscripts though.
If I ever get published I'm gonna put a starry tablecloth over the table and put loads of star lights over it and then u huge chocolates bowl in the model. And two gifts for everybody who buys a book too. This is my site

At 12/02/2006 6:53 PM, Anonymous Amy said...

Geeze Kerry, I was considering sending my manuscript off today but now I don't think I ever will! If I ever get published I might have to do my first book signing with you or some other author that would intimidate me so much that I'd be under the table, in the fetal position, before the first person even walks through the door! Just kidding!

At 12/02/2006 8:53 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Wow, Kathryn! I've only skimmed the first couple of pages thus far, but what a concept. I can't wait to read more about Melanie . . . and Mel. Thanks for sharing your site with us.

As for you, Amy, send that manuscript off! Today. (Well, it's almost the Sabbath. I guess you'll have to wait until Monday. But DO it!) I'm so excited for you! Keep us posted, okay?

As for being intimidating -- give me a break. When my son heard that my first book was going to be published he kept walking around the house saying, "That's great, Mom. That's really great!" Finally he confessed the reason he thought it was so great: "Well," he said, "I've always wanted to be a published author and I figure if you can do it, anybody can."

So true.

I'll be first in line at your first signing, Amy. I'd like to promise you the same, Kathryn, but Belfast isn't exactly around the corner.

All my best wishes to you both!

At 12/02/2006 9:00 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Kerry, I'm an inspiration to would-be authors everywhere for exactly that reason. If I can do it, anyone can.

At one of my recent book signings, another author came into the store a few minutes late and looked at the bowl of candy on my table while hers was empty.

"Why did they give you candy?" she asked.

I smiled and said, "They like me better."

It wasn't until we were both leaving that she realized I'd brought my own.

But I would never even dream of my own table cloth. I think it's like Elder's Quorum lessons vs. Relief Society. We're just happy if we bring chalk.


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