Don't You Dare Tell Me My Baby's Dead, Fool!: Part 1-- Reb MacRath

 


Oh, They have a long list of reasons why the book that's your baby belongs in the casket they've already made. It's too short/long/purple/plain/commercial/literary/off-the-wall/common...or to put it simply:



I've spent the past year on a project that had Too-Too all over it before I'd even started. And yet I continued with some trepidation. But, as I continued, I grew more defiant. I also grew more confident that there was a market for my project: seven radical renditions of poems by one lesser-known Roman poet--'inspired-by covers' instead of conventional translations. I envisioned a book totaling maybe 50 pages, including commentaries that I hoped would be half of the fun. Since nothing like this book exists, it might have a fighting chance if I remembered E. Lynne Harris.

 


Harris was a bisexual black author who self-published this first book in 1991. Like other authors in those pre-Web days, Harris drove around in a car loaded with copies. But unlike other indies, Harris had a core target group of readers in his mind: black hair salons, the sort his sexually fluid characters would patronize. Meanwhile, Harris also called on indie bookstores, knowing a godfather or godmother would help. He found his at Atlanta's Oxford Books, where the head of PR took him under her wing. At that time, Oxford Books still had a lot of clout. Result: a sale to Anchor Books in 1994. Fame and fortune followed, along with 9 more books.

Lessons E. Lynne Harris Mastered

1) Know your target audience.

2) Find ways to get your book into the hands of those who can help you spread the word that something new and exciting is here. Give away as many copies as required instead of focusing only on sales.

3) Do your best to be blessed with a True Believer too.


Translating those lessons today

1) I decided to convert my book's brevity into an asset and key selling point. The book's cover and design had to tell my target group--teachers and students of Latin Lit--that this wild thing belongs on their shelves, that it can be read and reread in short time. 
 
2) I needed to transcend new COVID and online limitations that Harris didn't face. Face to face meetings are now mask to mask--and cold calls are mostly a thing of the past. Furthermore, thanks to Amazon and the internet, the competition has grown unbelievably fierce. about 1.7 million self-books are published annually in the U.S. alone--and even newbie authors are growing savvier and more aggressive in their demands for attention. Result: burn-out all around, from agents to editors to digital readers.
 
3) At the same time, getting through by mail has become more challenging. Might a sealed package contain anthrax? Could something have been slipped into that gift bottle of booze? The box of chocolates: poisoned? Or...just as fatal: does your presentation too closely resemble scores of others in the mail?
 
4) While the core group I want to reach will receive fewer approaches, I'd still need to approach with care. First things first: the gift books I want to send must make their way clear of the mail room....and onward, past wary secretaries, to the recipients' desks. Nothing should be sealed within the mailing envelope. But classy and intriguing touches must appear on both the mailer and the inner envelope to ensure my gift gets a good look--and is enthusiastically passed along.
 
5) The book's cover and jacket copy must signal at a glance how my renditions are different. And a second copy to be passed on to a friend or student, along with promotional post cards, should help to build a buzz snowball.
 
6) I need to build a highly selective mailing list, one harvested from research on the best universities with Classics departments and careful faculty study. The goal is not to get gift copies into a hundred or two hundred hands--but to reach those who share my interest and may relate to my approach.
 
7) Let the book's long bibliography attest to the research I've done and overcome resistance to my not being a Classical scholar. And let my brief bio inside lay out my writing credentials.
8) Publish it only in print form. No online free events or Super Savings. A class act at a fair price. 

The book should launch on Amazon by February. In Part 2, next month, I'll share the specifics of my promotional campaign.

Till then, here's the cover of the book I'll mail out in pairs in carefully spaced tiers of twenty.



This is my report.


Comments

Umberto Tosi said…
That's the spirit! I look forward to reading this. Thanks.
Ruth Leigh said…
I love this, Reb! Great, trenchant advice in these difficult times. Your poisoned chocolates and dodgy alcohol made me laugh lots! Love the title, love the cover. More power to your post-Covid elbow.
Peter Leyland said…
Great stuff Reb. I look forward to seeing it and hope my comments helped.
Bill Kirton said…
If nothing else, Reb, the energy you put into your books and campaigns deserves rewards. I hope justice is done. It's certainly a unique (and highly enjoyable) offering. I look forward to hearing the results. Good luck.
Reb MacRath said…
Thank you, Umberto. I think you may enjoy it--certainly the 1-page flash fictions attending each poem--chronicling the rise of an erotic poet in Rome, under the rule of a moral tyrant.
Reb MacRath said…
Thank you, Ruth. In another lifetime, I worked in the same building as The Toronto Star newspaper. I was able to enter their office without a security check or an appointment and sell a senior editor on an idea I had. Those days are so far gone! But I do believe that mail campaigns can work...if they're clever and original enough--even without chocolate.
Reb MacRath said…
Thanks, Peter. And thanks again for being one of my five beta readers. Your comments certainly helped.
Reb MacRath said…
Much obliged for your kind words, Bill--and for your beta comments on an early draft. My campaign for this book has become a way of life. And I'm fueled by the utter inability to imagine anyone not wanting--wanting? NEEDING!--my little book in their life.
Great strategies! Love the cover, hope it goes well, looking forward to part 2!

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