Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Thursday, June 24, 2010

We're Readers & Writers not Salesmen so Leave Us Alone

I like social media. As a writer, blogging & twittering are easy for me. I also like doing presentations-- speaking & meeting book-lovers and signing books. I do not like sitting at a table in a bookstore waiting for people to drop by. Unless you're a celebrity, customers avoid you and you feel like a shmuck.

But is all this enough to sell books? Clearly it isn't or I'd be on the bestseller list by now cuz I've done a lot of promotion. But only within my comfort zone.

I haven't gone out into the great big scary world with copies of my books in the back of my minivan and..... those people do. What John Grisham did with his first book, A Time to Kill. He and a friend went all over the South selling copies to bookstores. Yikes! Is that what I have to do?

Because no, I can't. I won't. Aaargh, I'm not a salesman. Leave me alone! Don't make me do that stuff!

So in honor of all us reclusive writers, whether we are published or not (yet), I have tossed a summer salad.
 And here's what's in this salad:










And to go along with this anti-salesman summer salad, I am having AN EVENT!  Everyone of these lettuce leaves thingies whatever represents a different contest with a new prize!! Here's a sampling of the prizes:

Free books!

Chapter critiques!

A full manuscript review!

Your book bought & reviewed here!

 Your blog featured here!

And more!

Why am I doing this? Shouldn't I be spending my time and energy out there schmoozing booksellers into handselling copies of Farm Girl and Uncut Diamonds? Well, yes, probably so. But I am not that person. I'm the person who, when I'm not writing or editing, sits at home thinking of ways to promote literacy and support authors.

And besides, there is something BIG coming soon!! Something REALLY BIG and REALLY HELPFUL to authors with books to sell. Although I'm involved with it, I can't tell you yet. Yes, I know-- it's killing me!! But believe me, you're going to love it!!

So to kick off the "anti-salesman summer salad" event, I'm going to have a competition to name the event!! Because I'm the first to admit, this name is pretty lame and it's such an awesome, summer-long series of contests that it needs a name with some punch and whammy!

The winner will get three bonus points at each of the future contests and their blog linked here at every mention!!

The only rule to enter is you must be a follower here. To keep your entry private, just email your event name idea to me at karenjonesgowen at Cut off time for entries will 12:01 a.m., July 1. I'll announce the winner next Friday! (after I get home from vacation woo hoo) At that time I'll feature another lettuce leaf and post the first contest in the soon-to-be-awesomely-named event!

And so NAME THAT EVENT begins the summer of the endless contests!! Let the games begin, send me those great ideas!


  1. :::Raises hand::: I'm a follower! Yay! Great post. I'm trying to figure out the whole salesman thing too. I feel kind of weird mixing my real life with my writing life. D'oh. I was just about to launch into a big old reply, but I think I'll use it for a blog post. At the same time, I'll link to your contest.

  2. Thanks Mary, and email me an event name if you have a good one!

  3. "if you have a good one" duh, of course you have a good one. Writers are the most brilliantly creative people ever. So send it in lol!

  4. I've always thought it 'publisher abuse' to get authors to sit in bookstores next to the gift wrap guy/gal to peddle books. I think, if the publishers raised their bottom lines to include more respect, everyone would benefit. Great post, for what you've brought up affects much. Enjoy your holiday.

  5. This sounds like it's going to be a fun summer. You know just how to keep us on the edge of our seats wondering what's coming.

    Thoughts in Progress

  6. You know that's a wicked thing to do to me...dangle the proverbial carrot out in front of me like that. Wait. A carrot wouldn't do it (yawn), but a double chocolate cake might...mmmmmmm.

  7. Karen, how fun! Contest name...I'll have to think about that one.

    And I can sympathize about the "I'm not a salesman" feelings. Aren't writers introverts? No? Yes? Even when I submit a ms, I feel like I'm screaming "Pick me! Pick me!"

  8. I love the idea of your contest. I'll have to give some thought to a name.

    And I know what you mean. People don't realize how many hats writers have to wear in this age of self-promotion. I'm finding that out even before I've sold a book since I'm a finalist in a contest right now where the grand prize (a publishing contract) is determined by popular vote. And I'm out there trying to drum up support for the contest and for my novel every day. It's been a great lesson, and the "salesmanship" is something that, though I'm learning to be better, will probably never come naturally to me.

    Thanks for an excellent post!

  9. Gee, I can't think of a name just yet, but it sounds like fun! And how nice of you to help out other writers!

  10. I hate doing stuff like that, but sometimes it's necessary. I'm not a salesperson either!

  11. How fun! I'm looking forward to seeing everything. Have a fun vacation :)

  12. You have us just where you want us- at the edge of our seats!

  13. I sat with a writer once (Jen was with us too in her wheelchair) in a bookstore in southern Utah to promote her books. It was awful. Just like you said, people glance sideways at you like you're some kind freak in a sideshow. Another time here in northern Virginia it wasn't quite as bad since the writer had some of her friends around her. But again, same response. NO NO NO.

  14. What a great idea! Or multitude of ideas. Hey, maybe that's a name: the multudinous contest. Wow, that really sucks. I STINK at names. Hmm...let me think some more. :)

  15. How exciting! And more news to come... hmm...

    The sales part gets me too. I can do school visit as I sub for a living. What's more stressful than that?

  16. Haha, Susan, so do I which is why I need a contest to name the contest(s)!

    Ann, Really I would not do a signing unless I had friends and family around for support and company. Like a party.

    Rayna, bwa ha ha!

  17. This is a great idea! Hmm, how about "Lazy Days of Summer Blog Contest". Okay, not original but I can't think of anything else!

    I'm happy to comment (of course!) but no need to enter me into the contest. I've won a lot of stuff lately and other people need a chance!

    BTW, I gave you an award at my blog!

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  19. Oh, Karen. I can so relate. I don't want to be a salesperson either - I cringe every time I think about me rocking up to stores, trying to sell my book with a VERY red face... sigh. And yet, and yet... I want my book to be successful. I WANT to be on that Amazon bestsellers list, with integrity.

    What a tease you are, not giving us more details about your event! I

    Um, for names. How about:
    Summer Book Lovin' (I know, not much kapow there)

    Right, I need to wait for some inspiration...

  20. Can't think of anything to name your wonderful event - but I am a follower! Can't imagine having to push my book on people - that would be horrible.

    Oh wait - there's a horrible name for your event in there: The Great Book Push. I'm not going to email you because it's dumb, but it just came to me.

  21. Fantastic post, Karen. Three cheers to that, definitely needed saying.

  22. What!? I'm horrible at titles... I can't even come up with names for my characters.

    Here's some suggestions: (though they're pretty stupid...)

    1) The Lett-uce Alone Event! ha ha ha ... groan.
    2) Summer Splash Event!
    3) Endless Summer Contest
    4) Lett-uce make your summer!


  23. Just to clarify, no I am NOT trying to get buzz going for my book or books. They've been out for some time and the time for buzz has long past lol.

    This relates to all of us reclusive writers who feel lost when we're suddenly shoved into the role of having to SELL ourselves and/or our books. It's to build up to what cannot now be revealed but it will be welcome news for all of us in that position. And it's to build my follower base because I want as many writers and those who support authors & books to be around for the big announcement when it comes.

    And to keep us busy with fun contests until that happens. Sorry for any confusion :)

  24. Er... The Writers' Bonanza Giveaways! With Salad!


    GOOD LUCK!! Salads are good for you!

    Take care

  25. Great idea!!! I'm thinking about what a great name would make... when my thinking cap is on and the idea has been given to me I'll be sure to email you!

  26. Signings can be tough unless you're Stephanie Meyer. Maybe we could get her to come to one of ours. I'm just saying...

    Loved your salad. :)

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  28. Nice post, Karen...I think the key is to hold book signings in places that you know someone...then get them to invite everyone they know to it...feed them cookies and they'll stand in line to buy your book and get it signed...The key is cookies and friends...

    Contest names? Hmmm.
    I'll have to think about it some...

  29. I'm the odd man out b/c the idea of traveling all over the country holding book signings and trying to get my book into bookstores really excites me! My only dilemma is money. I can't afford all that traveling!

  30. The Lettuce Be Writers Summer Giveaway!

    (Did someone else already come up with that one?)

    Cool contest, Karen. I'm excited to hear your news and for the contests you have lined up. It's awesome of you to give back like this. :)


  31. Thank you everyone for your name suggestions! I'll be gone for a few days without the internet, but when I come back I'll pick a name and announce the winner and the next contest! You can continue to submit via comment or email. (And submit as many times as you have ideas.)

  32. Hi Karen. I hit the "Motherlode" on Rayna's blog when I read her "What is a Writer" post! I absolutely LOVED your Lettuce Salad...I want to enter your contest, but will email you to make sure I am clear on what type of a title you want...I would have followed you, had you not had the contest. Your blog is wonderful!

  33. Wow, what a summer it's gonna be on your blog, Karen!

  34. I'm glad to know I am not the only one who is uncomfortable with the salesman persona we keep hearing authors must increasingly adopt to make it in the marketplace. I am unpublished, but aspiring, and when I'm still dealing with issues of craft and submitting, the ideas of selling my books too is terrifying. Looking forward to see what tips you come up with!

  35. I don't think John Grisham had much luck with his first book though, apparently he and his mate dumped the books he couldn't sell (and now those copies are worth fortunes if you can find one!)

    I think you do a brilliant job at self-promotion. I think the most authors can do is be presentable, willing, and embrace social media as much as they can. Beyond that, it's a tricky world out there.

  36. I'm terrified to sell the thing! There's tnothing sadder than a lone figure at a table with a stack of untouched books. Maybe I can get people to come and pretend to be buying the book. :lol:

    - Corra

    The Victorian Heroine

  37. Good for you! I've thought a little about this but since I haven't sold anything yet, I'm still not sure what to do. I'd like to go into schools and do presentations. I love teaching kids and it's a great way to sell books too.

  38. Hi Karen! I don't know where I originally saw this funny video, maybe even on your blog, but here's the link:

    Not that I expect you to have the same experience, on the contrary, I bet you'll do great. I just thought you might enjoy his humorous take on book signing!

    I like all the "Lett-uce" names above for your contest. I'm already a follower. The main thing that jumps out at me from your post is "Ima W. Riter/Notta S. Alesman"

  39. Promoting is not an easy thing to do. I'd like to find a feasible place in the middle in which I'm neither a wallflower nor a circus barker.

  40. Grisham story or not, I hardly believe that handselling your book to individual bookstores is going to be what makes you a success in 2010 (actually, since I am working in a bookstore and all, I can with almost certainty say that it is more likely to not make you a success, as there are few things as annoying as authors coming into the store telling us how to do our job...)

    In my opinion the author's job is to write a good book, and the publisher's job is the publishing and marketing part. But maybe I am just old-fashioned that way...

    Anyway, I feel a little silly coming in as commentator # 44 to say this (did you know that I am in awe whenever I visit this blog? It is just so impressive!), but you've got an award over at my blog. You know, in case you can fit one more in that already decorated sidebar of yours...

  41. Cruella, I'm glad you did come in with your viewpoint. Authors get so much information and advice on what to do to promote & how to do it, and some of it's conflicting and some of it is bad advice! Very good to get the bookseller viewpoint!


Comments are welcome!