Wednesday, December 29, 2010


For all of you who see your everyday lives morphing faster than you ever dreamed possible, let me say that nothing is changing quicker, or with more uncertainty, than book publishing. Those of us on the inside can only stare and shake our heads. As authors we try to adjust, but few of us can predict which of our books will sell best—if at all--or in what format. Will old-fashioned paper even be involved?

Only a handful of years ago, nobody thought book stores would soon become obsolete. Yet while they still stand around looking formal and important, except for teens with computers under their arms—all heading for the coffee bar—adult readers have largely abandoned them.

Part of this is the fault of the chain bookstores themselves. In their zeal to rid themselves of competing independents, they also killed off the eager librarian types who once “sold” their readers the world’s best books. Today, the chains are not known for selling anything; all they do is display. Which Costco--or your best friends--do just as well.

Meanwhile, we authors are scrambling to become known in that mysterious and semi-visible world of the Net. Those of us who aren’t kids any longer soon learn we need expertise on steroids--so I’m finding computer mavins to make me and my books internet-visible. Will this help me sell some of the books in my garage?

I honestly don’t know.

I’ll be happy to share the answer in a few months.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


EACH DAY I'M learning afresh: There are writers and PR types, and they're seldom the same person. My daily wish is simple: Please, dear brain, grant me the skills to find the readers for all these words I've already written.

Writing is the part I love. I could cheerfully spend every day creating word pictures. I love the process, and everything about it: the search for rhythm, for vividness, for the exact right word. I love looking back to see what I've done, to decide whether I managed to get to where I intended to go. I love the re-writing--taking this wobbly little skeleton and propping it up, making it stand on its own feet and sing to the world.

There's nothing about writing I don't like. The moments spent in creation--surely they are a kind of life force, a renewal of the most exquisite sort. When you've written something good, you've LIVED. And nobody can take it away.

But what's this business about PR?

How hard should we work to get known? How many internet/web tricks must we learn? And how many of them work? How many people read what I've written on the web? And will any of that reading translate into sales of my books?

What about the hucksters who appear on your e-mail and glibly promise to make you famous, who swear up and down they can make your books best sellers? How often does this happen? Are any of these promotions worth the price? Can they REALLY create huge audiences for your books? Or are all these promotional types simply padding their own pockets? Of one thing I'm sure. If I send this Harrison fellow ten thousand dollars, I am definitely making HIM rich.

I haven't a clue as to whether he'll do the same for me. And frankly, at the risk of losing ten thousand dollars, I'm afraid to find out.

Meanwhile, as I ask these questions, I keep searching--I peek behind new internet doors, scramble to learn the latest tricks, ask other authors what they do. Currently I'm trying everything: Writing blogs; enhancing my author page on Amazon; calling all the groups I can think of, offering myself as a speaker. I'm giving writing workshops at libraries, applying for slots at writers conferences, calling womens' groups and book clubs.

Once in awhile, to my amazement, somebody calls me. I try to act blase, as if it happens all the time. I never tell them that they've just made my day.

If any of you have suggestions, please tell me. I'd love to hear them.

Do I yearn to be rich and famous? Well, maybe. But only because rich and famous would mean people are reading my books. But more than that, it would mean I could stop making all these phone calls, soliciting speeches.

Rich and famous would mean I could once again concentrate on writing books. Maralys

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I'm not crazy about giving away time. After twelve published books it feels like I ought to be paid for speaking and teaching. Yet more and more I'm learning that what you do for free often pays off best.

A couple of stories make the point: A writers group at Leisure World contacted me to speak at a writers day--the first big event of their new writers club. Nobody offered to pay me, but I agreed to go anyway. I was one of several speakers, and sold a few books--four or five. Not many, but I felt good about the day. I felt I'd really connected with the group.

It seems I did. Weeks later they called me again, this time to give a talk on memoirs. They asked how much I wanted to be paid--always a tough question to answer. How much is too much? But I asked for $75.00, and the club readily agreed. Expecting 20-30 people, I was flabbergasted to find a crowd of over 70. This time, to the group's excitement, I gave away some books--but I also sold about a dozen.

Now the group wants me back again, for two in-depth, all-day memoir workshops. With no fuss at all, the price has gone up to $150 each. Even so, it's not the money that's so exciting, but the fact that this group and I have made an exciting connection. We all expect the best out of each other, and my stints down there have become a lot of fun and not much work. For everything I gave away in the beginning, I've been repaid many times over.

And just today I heard a wonderful story about Landgrove Inn in Vermont--an inn I've stayed at many times and with whom I'm now engaged for my second writer's workshop. It seems Landgrove agreed to host a charity event for a worthy cause, offering not only their site, but also picking up the bar tab. In what could have been a losing event, with perhaps 50 to 100 people, the Chocolate Festival attracted 500 people and earned $30,000--giving the inn free publicity up and down the state of Vermont. For the price of some liquor, they received what will turn out to be a hundred-thousand-dollars worth of publicity. You couldn't BUY an event that attracted so many people from so many Vermont towns. Because of their generosity, little-known Landgrove Inn has suddenly become one of the premier inns in the state.

Whenever I consider the advisability of doing something "for free," I think twice about turning it down. The payoff is sometimes in doubt, and never the reason you do anything. On the other hand, often enough the good-luck gods are right there with a reward.