Publishing: The Power of Your Own PR

Publishing: The Power of Your Own PR

150_Randy_RossBlogging and social media are not the only ways to develop a platform or audience for your writing. In 2013, I spent a chunk of my book-marketing time promoting myself with special events, such as lectures and public readings. The nice thing about special events is that the venue will promote you to local newspapers and online events listings – they will do PR for you. Oh, and some venues will pay you. Note: I did all this without having a published or even finished book. I plan to finish my novel and circulate it to agents in the fall. I swear!
Here’s what I did and my results:

Special Events: 16 total in 2013

1) Lectures for Non-Fiction and Fiction
If you’re writing non-fiction, lectures are a no-brainer – you know your material, right?My example: Since I have a background in online marketing and I publish a blog, I’ve lectured about social media and blogging for writers at a local adult education center ($50 per class) and appeared on a panel for a low-residency MFA program ($175).Even if you’re writing a novel, you’ve likely done a lot of research. Your novel probably mentions real people and places. That makes you somewhat of an expert.My example: I’m writing a novel about a chronically single guy who takes a trip around the world looking to change his luck with love.The novel involves world travel, something I know about. Prior to this year, I gave travel lectures at a local adult eduction center (I was paid $60 per lecture) as well as a local sporting goods/camping store calledEastern Mountain Sports (unpaid). In 2013, I was paid to read at alocal youth hostel.

2) Public Readings

Even if you do not have a published, or even finished book, you can read at public venues — along side published writers. In case, you missed that — you can read like the big boys without a published book. And you can get paid for it. As evidence, see my list of public readings and lectures and upcoming events for 2014.

Where can you read?
• Literary events: open mics, salons, reading series, book stores.
Public libraries: Many will pay you. I read with two friends in 2011 and we each got $100.
Slams: Poetry slams, story telling slams — I once read at a smut slam. Note: For slams you will need to memorize your material. Poetry slams generally want less than three minutes of material. Story slams want about five minutes. It takes me two weeks to memorize a five-minute piece — and I’m old and senile.
Comedy open mics: I “performed some of my memorized material at a local comedy club. An audience member threw a cup of ice at one of the performers. The other comedians left. I stayed and was declared the winner by default. I earned $50.
• Fringe theater festivals: A novel is 12 hours of material. In 2013, I boiled my unpublished manuscript down to a one-hour, one man show with the help of a drama coach. It took about four months to memorize 45-pages of material and to learn to use  some props and gestures, as well as a few foreign accents to differentiate my characters.

•Have a friend video tape your readings, and then upload them to youtube.
• Collect e-mail addresses at your events.
• If you like reading and performing, up your game by taking an acting class or at least getting feedback from someone you trust.

Some Background

•I’ve been working on a novel for the last five years and plan to circulate it to agents in the fall.
• I self-published excerpts from the novel and have sold about 50 copies for $8 a piece. (My self-publishing endeavor: I had copies made a local copy shop. I also uploaded a PDF version, which I sell for $1 – I’ve sold two of these.)

• I spend about one day a week on marketing and promotion. My goal is to develop an audience well before my novel comes out – be it through traditional or self publishing

by Randy Ross of

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