This morning I had breakfast with author Lisa Jackson, her assistant and her publicist, who is also my neighbor – thus I was on my best behavior. In classic Pittsburgh fashion the breakfast buffet was the best deal, and featured every breakfast product known to woman. Since breakfast is generally my favorite meal to eat in restaurants, I was very happy. Plus there was coffee.
So after everyone at our table got their healthy breakfast and I had more coffee, we talked about regional accents, small towns in the west, small towns in the south, how many traffic lights qualify for small town status, and how to get to outer parts of Pittsburgh.
Then we started talking about author celebrity, and Jackson had some really interesting thing to say about promotion, the internet, and blogging.
Jackson writes suspense and romantic suspense, and told me about her earlyefforts to promot herself and her books, and how she figured out that authors nowadays often do have to promote themselves as well as, or as an accessory to, their books. As I said during breakfast, it used to be that movies were marketed based on the story and then mentioned the actors in it. Now, the movie is often marketed as a vehicle for fans to see their favorite actor or actress. The individual is as important as the created product – and authors are marketing their books following much the same pattern.
Lisa: About 10 years ago, I was paying attention to the sales for my books, and I realized I needed to do something to push my career. I could not let my next book slide in sales. So I sent myself on tour. I went to places I could drive to, where I had friends I could crash with, and I hired a publicist I couldn’t really afford, and it really seemed to make a difference. The book did well – it could have also been due to the cover, the timing, whatever, but sending myself on tour definitely didn’t hurt.
But authors have to be very proactive. Name and title often appear in equal size on the book cover. And readers don’t ask “What books do you read?” They ask “Who do you read? The name and the backlist behind it are compared to other names when readers talk about romance – and mysteries, and suspense, etc.
We chatted about author blogs, online research and promotion as well. Jackson has a clever twist on the “you must have a blog” author mandate: her recurring protagonists from her book series have MySpace pages:
Lisa: I did a lot of online research for my new book Lost Souls by reading about vampire clubs because the main character Kristi Bentz is investigating the disappearance of young women linked to these clubs. So now my character has a MySpace page with a few hundred friends, many of whom are connected to or active in these clubs I found online.
Christine blogs and gives away hints from or about the book and sends out bulletins to her friends, and other lead characters have their own MySpace pages as well, like Reuben Montoya.
Seeing how authors promote themselves as personae representative of their books is fascinating – and if I were in their shoes I’d feel a little naked. Used to be you didn’t know so much what an author looked like and it didn’t matter so much if you knew all about them. Now an author’s presence online and role as representative of her own work – and the genre – is so mixed up in the promotional effort that it’s impossible to separate sometimes. As itchy as MySpace makes me personally, using it to develop character presence online makes a lot of sense for maintaining some distance.
Thanks to Lisa and Joan for the interview.