Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Self-promotion minus the chicken suit

As an author, self-promotion naturally becomes a big part of your life. Of course, I'm referring to classy self-promotion versus the chicken suit variety where you weave your way through traffic wearing a placard that says: Read Holly Kennedy. Fall into a good story!

What we do for a living isn't of the 9 to 5 variety and at any time you may run across a situation you'd be a fool not to capitalize on. (If you haven't already, read my Wal-Mart post from June '07 as a solid example of this: By the way, for some reason when you click on the above link, blogger shows the Wal-Mart post below this one. Who knows why.)

Self-promotion aside, though, I also enjoy my privacy and for the most part I like to remain as anonymous as possible, especially when I'm having a bad hair day, or my eyes are bloodshot the way they were yesterday (sick dog the night before/long story).

That said, last night I was late as I rushed into the city for my son's basketball practice and sat next to another mom (someone I've met once, but otherwise don't know.) Within minutes, we found ourselves discussing books the way men might discuss football. We talked about titles we loved, compared authors we admired, etc., and when she told me she was an avid reader, I grabbed my bag, yanked out two autographed copies of The Tin Box and The Penny Tree, and gave them to her.

(No, I don't carry books everywhere I go. That I had them with me was purely coincidence. I was supposed to deliver them to a book club in the city, but couldn't find the address -- I'm very address challenged -- so had decided to do it later.)

Anyhow... the woman was thrilled (it's always fun seeing someone's face light up like that) and then as she examined the hard cover of The Tin Box, her face fell and her eyes slowly went wide. Growing increasingly excited, she explained that a friend had given her a paperback of this very book weeks ago, that it was one of her friend's all-time favorite books, and she had told her it would make her cry.

At that point, my face lit up. I mean, what are the chances that you'll go to your kid's basketball practice, sit next to a stranger, discuss novels, and get told that someone in a city of a million loved your debut novel?


Larramie said...

You're incredible, Holly. I love your enthusiastic and giving nature all done without the need for a chicken suit!

P.S. Who could forget the Wal-Mart story? ;)

Adam said...

Great Wal-Mart post. I wasn't lurking around your blog then!

I'd wear the chicken suit in a hearbeat if it meant getting publisehd. I have zero pride.

kyla-dale said...

That is way cool!
If I were that woman I'd be so touched by your gesture and if I were YOU I'd be grinning.

Anissa said...

You have the most incredible encounters, Holly. Very, very cool.

Travis Erwin said...

When you are as talented as you are the odds are somewhat better. ;)

Maprilynne said...

Awww, how nice for you!!

Ramona said...

What a great story.
It must have made your day.
It woulda made my year!

wordman17 said...

Betcha her friend'll be green now that her buddy has an autographed hard cover!!!!

ORION said...

Oh this is so great!!! I love this.
Reminds me of the day I was getting a pedicure (naturally) and a woman sat down and began reading my book right next to me!!!!!!!

Victoria said...

How funny!
And how nice for you.

Chumplet said...

I've heard about that guerrilla marketing technique and I can't wait to try it out.

I must get those stickers! Pat Wood sent one along with her autographed sticker thingy for my copy of Lottery, all the way from the Hawaiian islands.

My one fan experience was a co-worker who said she stayed up till 1 a.m. to finish my book. Not bad.

Heidi the Hick said...

I love this.

I am interested to know more about the need to stay a little bit anonymous but still promote yourself and your books. I'd like to hear more about this.

I haven't even decided which last name I'm going to use....the one on the mailbox? The one of the driver's license? The one I was born with????

The one that's unique, or the one that's easy to pronounce??

I hate the thought of someone coming to my house to talk about my book. But I would love it if someone was reading it beside me at the hairdresser's!

Looks like I still have some time to figure it all out...

Holly Kennedy said...

Chumplet -- That's a huge compliment, having someone tell you they stayed up until 1 a.m. to finish your book! The rest will come, just wait. We're just all on our own individual trajectories, that's all.

P.S. I gave Pat 2000 of those stickers when her debut came out as a congrats gift. I think she's already running out!!

Holly Kennedy said...

Heidi --

When it comes to your pen name, there are many factors. I know authors with hypenated names in real life who went with their maiden name professionally. However, I know others who simply go with their real name, as I did.

Your agent will have suggestions, btw. That your name is easily pronounced might be important, whereas 'unique' (if it's not a mouthful) can also be a good thing as it'll make you quickly recognizable to readers as you build your career. You are, after all, a 'future brand name' in the works! Keep that in mind.

I always say if you aren't writing erotica (when you might want to remain 100% anonymous), why not use your real name?

I would, however, use my maiden name, Holly Holt, when/if I ever publish any children's or YA books, keeping that body of work separate from my adult fiction.

(ie., my 11 yr old son and I are working on a series of books I'd like to co-author with him, toi help him get his foot in the door at an early age, but they keep falling way down on the priority list next to my current deadlines/demands.)

Speaking to your comment re: remaining anonymous, here are my thoughts, in a stream of consciousness sort of way...

I don't give interviews in my home. Ever. Instead, I'll meet someone at a restaurant/coffee house, keeping my family/children out of my professional life as an author. There's no need to have a reporter come to your home if you don't want them to, Heidi. You control that, no them.

I do, however, believe an author should be accessible to readers & the public as much as possible, whether by email, a website, blog, on speakerphone with book clubs, via Skype or iChat (if they're comfortable with this format).

To me, inaccessibility fosters a chasm between reader and writer that makes zero sense if you truly want to build a successful career as an author.

That said, when it comes to your 'public persona' the beauty of being a writer vs. an actor is that you're less apt to be recognized in your everyday life (yay!) so you CAN retain a certain amount of anonymity, choosing when or if or HOW MUCH of yourself you feel comfortable sharing with the public.

However, seeing a stranger reading your work (while on a plane, while having a pedicure, etc) would be a huge thrill -- it hasn't happened to me yet -- and if/when it does, I KNOW I will have to cross the line and ask them if they're enjoying it!

We put so much of ourselves into our stories (if you're a writer, you know what I'm talking about) and spend so much time alone while we do it, that it's a huge thrill to know people are eading your words and, potentially, liking them!

There yah go, Heidi.
Sorry for the long comment back!
Amazing what espresso does to my fingers on the keyboard this early in the morning, hey?!

Melissa Marsh said...

Wow - what an awesome story! And very serendipitious (is that spelled right???) that you had those books with you. :-)

Nadine said...

I got a shiver from this!!

I also like the insights you shared with Heidi the Hick above in the comments.

The life of an author is truly an interesting one.

Caroline in Ohio said...

What a nice story.

I wish you'd find me sitting next to yah at some event and do the same thign!!!

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh Holly, thank you so much for that looooong answer!!!

This is all good to know. I really do believe in being accessible to readers but I'd want to keep it arm's length, as in, here's my email, but don't come to my house. I totally agree with you about not doing interviews at home. I'm outgoing but home is like, sacred!!

My maiden name is different (except in a ten mile radius of where I grew up, haha!) but not a long long long name. I am leaning towards going with that. I don't think in any case it'll be any kind of secret identity. But I also think it's interesting that you could consider a different last name for a different genre. Good idea, probably.

We, as writers, do become a brand. I'm okay with that. It is showbiz although a very isolated solitary kind of showbiz!

Thanks, Professor Kennedy!!!! (that walmart story is still one of my favourites!)

spyscribbler said...

That is So cool! What a great story! I think my smile would be wider than the reader's!