Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Art of Highway Singing: My Love/Hate Affair with Promotion

Today I'd like to post something a little different! Please welcome Lisa A. Koosis!

For the past few months I’ve found myself having to be a quick study in the art of promotion. I'll admit it’s not my favorite thing. There are people who are born networkers. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. Networking to me feels a little bit like standing in the middle of the highway and singing at the top of my lungs. It isn't a comfortable thing at all. For me, promotion was a learned art. But that’s okay, because I’ve realized that it is learnable.

This all came about on account of a contest. Now it’s a great contest, mind you. Back in December I was notified that my novel, Heart of the City, had made it to the finals of the Fresh Blood competition, a contest that seeks to find the next big horror writer. The grand prize was a publishing contract with Dorchester Publishing’s Leisure Horror imprint.

It was an amazing opportunity: to have a 1 in 10 chance of a publishing contract with a prominent genre publisher. But there was a catch. If I made it through to the Top 5, the remainder of the competition would be based on public voting. From there on out, each month the contestant with the least amount of votes would be eliminated. And while there was--American Idol style--a panel of judges to help the undecided make their voting decision, I knew that the determining factor would most likely be how well the contestants could promote themselves.

So yes, I cringed a little. Me, self-promote? How terrifying was that?

Still, I understood and respected the promotional aspect of the contest, because these days it’s vital for an author to be able to self-promote, to help sell her own books. Why wouldn’t a publishing house want to see how well an author could do just that before signing on with them? If you're willing and able to promote yourself prior to publication, then it bodes well for promoting your book after publication.

A few months later, I made it to that coveted Top 5 list, and my crash course in promotion began. So I started with the basics: family, friends, colleagues from various jobs that I’d held, members of my writing groups. I made a list of places where I’ve set out networking feelers over the past few years, and in doing so I was actually pleasantly surprised. Inadvertently, I’d already built up a pretty good network.

Then I tried to think beyond that, outside the box. What about the websites where I share my love of amateur photography? And what about alumni groups? And why couldn’t I ask for a shout-out in the newsletter that I once co-edited?

It was a good lesson for me, a reminder that as a writer (and as a person), not to focus too narrowly, but rather to really look around at all available channels. More, it was a reminder to not compartmentalize the “writer” part of me from the rest of me.

So promote I did. I promoted hard and I promoted often. But I always tried to remember to say please and thank you, I always tried to reciprocate when I could, and I never took a single vote nor a single word of encouragement for granted. Support in a contest is a gift, not an obligation.

What I found is that people were not only responsive to my efforts but often eager to help and excited to play a role in the contest. People who didn’t even know me prior to the contest often went above and beyond to support and encourage me. I met some great people, and much to my surprise, I made it through round after round of eliminations.

Now here I am, one of two novels remaining in competition for that grand prize, the publishing contract. Will I win the contest? I don’t know. What I do know is that win or lose, I plan on taking my lessons on the art of promotion with me and belting out a tune on whatever highway I find myself traveling down next.

Here's the blurb on Heart Of The City:

The Phoenix particle, created to burn out and replace damaged DNA, should have been the medical breakthrough of the century. Instead, it was the beginning of the end, its fires decimating person after person and city after city with a ferocity its creator could never have imagined. But cities don’t die so easily. The Phoenix particle was engineered to remember, and in the ashes, the particles remain, carrying within them the genetic blueprint from the billions fallen prey to the burning. And the Phoenix still has a mission, to pass on that information.

Eva Moline—immune to its devastation—is the perfect conduit for the Phoenix. She’s prepared to help put the world back together in any way she can, even when she feels the Phoenix at work inside of her, somehow sentient, somehow knowing. As the children of the Phoenix grow to term in Eva’s womb, so does the essence of each city become a part of her. And as Eva joins the creator of the Phoenix in a cross-country journey from city to ruined city, she must decide whether she’s recreating a world or giving birth to monsters.

Voting is about as simple as it gets. All you have to do is send a blank email to with “Fresh Blood Vote - Heart of the City” in the subject line. It’s as easy as that. They’ll accept one vote per unique email address and voting closes on July 14th at midnight EST.

Originally from Long Island, Lisa A. Koosis currently lives in New York’s historic Hudson Valley. She was recently named the grand prizewinner in Family Circle's 2009 fiction contest. Over the past few years her short stories have appeared in an assortment of publications including Abyss & Apex, Meadowhawk Press’s "Touched by Wonder" anthology, Susurrus Press’s “Neverlands and Otherwheres” anthology, and Murky Depths. In 2006 she was awarded second place in Poughkeepsie Journal's Talespinners short fiction contest, which was judged by a celebrity panel including bestselling author, Da Chen, and Michael Korda, former Editor in Chief of Simon & Schuster. Mr. Korda called her work, "sharply written and nicely conceived." Lisa is a dedicated and prolific writer of speculative fiction, and a former fiction manager at Barnes & Noble.


Hannah said...

Well it's good to know that self promotion is a learnable trait.

that book sounds fantastic btw!

Great guest post!

Natasha said...

All the best, Lisa. After reading your blog post today morning, I thought I would do one last shout out, but I realised the deadline has passed.

Will they give extra marks if the votes come from across the Seven Seas?

Simon Hay said...

Good luck Lisa, and it's nice to hear that self promotion is achievable. I'm working on that.

p.m.terrell said...

I just voted for you, also, before realizing the deadline had passed at midnight. But I hope you received enough votes to win you that publishing contract! Best of luck to you!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What a way to learn!


A wonderful post most enjoyable to read.


Anonymous said...

Nice to read about your journey! And all your accomplishments thus far. You deserve to be singing on a busy highway!

Jemi Fraser said...

What a great learning experience! Thanks for sharing :)

The Yard Bard said...

I'd say you've already won, regardless of the vote. :)

Lisa K. said...

I'm sorry I'm so late stopping by today! I didn't realize I would be on your blog this morning. Thank you so much, Diane, for hosting me on your wonderful blog.

Though it was too late to vote, I want to say thank you to everyone for your interest and for your kind words. You have my sincere appreciation.

Anonymous said...

Learning self promotion is like, umm, learning, you know. You have to find out what works and not repeat what doesn't work. But eventually, hopefuly sooner rahter than later, you figure it out and become successful. Promotion is an extension of you. Its who you are. And you might as well have fun expanding your horizons.

Stephen Tremp