Monday, September 13, 2010

You're No Elizabeth Gilbert But We Still Like You (Just Not As Much)

If you're ever lucky enough to get a publishing deal, it may seem like a dream come true. All those years of toiling away in obscurity, the existential self doubt, the excessive drinking, the loans from your sister, your father, your mother, your Aunt Ruth, the anti-depressants, the friends who thought you'd end up homeless and the nagging feeling that perhaps you should have taken more math classes in college, are all magically washed away by three little words...




But once all of the excitement and delusions of grandeur subside, you quickly realize not only do you actually have to write the darn book, you have to promote it too!

Is that a dingo on my hood?
Unless your book has more of a buzz than Mel Gibson at 2:00am on a Saturday night,  chances are it's all up to you. Sure, most publishing houses have a publicity department. But they're usually understaffed and overwhelmed and too busy promoting their high profile authors who actually stand a chance of bringing in some real $$$. 

I'm rich. You're not!
 If you're a first time writer, you'll probably never see a copper penny for all your golden efforts. That lovely advance they gave you won't even begin to cover what it cost to print your soon to be National Book Award recipient. There's a one in a million chance you'll get lucky. Did we learn nothing from Elizabeth Gilbert? (See smug side pic) I'm not saying you can't write, I'm just saying the only way people know you've been published is with a book tour. A book tour says, hey, you! I spent a lot of time writing this when I could have been ballroom dancing so sit down and listen! But sadly, it takes an awful lot of money, time and effort to set up a book tour. And money is always the operative word. If you're like me, your 'tour' extends to bookstores within a fifty mile radius of where you live. This includes barns, livingrooms, bars and birthday parties. Hey, don't knock it.  Anywhere there's a group of people gathered is a chance for a rapt audience. Or a hostage situation. It depends on how interesting you are.

I wanted a Pulitzer not a stupid cake!
I learned the hard way that it's always best to let the birthday girl blow out her candles first before launching into a poem about Hitler's favorite mistress. The point is, there are flyers to be made, phone calls to cranky bookstore managers, books to be mailed out to bloggers & critics, books you have to buy from your publisher to mail out to bloggers & critics, more phone calls, getting your reading listed in the local paper and countless emails to friends begging them to show up at your reading or you're no longer friends. Try it, it works.

It's a very simple equation really. So let's summarize:

To sell your book, people first have to hear about it. Unless you walk around with a bullhorn and a wheelbarrow full of your wares, readings and good reviews are still the most civilized way to boost sales. You could hand them out for free but that would defeat the purpose. And the purpose is to get people to read your book.
Oh. wait.
Anywhoodles, your publisher wouldn't like that. At the end of the day it's all about sales.
So slap on a smile, zip up your pants and spray on the glitter and charm. It's showtime people!

As for me, I'll be pole dancing--er, reading at:                               


An Evening Of Bad Poetry on Thursday, September 23rd, 7:30pm 
1716 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026
Next to the Echo Park Time Travel Mart
This is open to all so bring your own silly scribbles and ridiculous sonnets to read! presents B Is For Bad Poetry Guerrilla Reading at
The West Hollywood Book Fair - Sunday, September 26th at 2:20pm
647 N. San Vicente Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 
Since this is a guerrilla reading, I'm not sure quite where I'll be.
Who knows?  I could pop out of a cake.
I'll be at booth #E40 prior signing books

The Cobalt Cafe 
22047 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA  on Tuesday, December 14th at 9:00pm

"There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money either." - Robert Graves


  1. very amusing! i have become a fan of this blog and hope that you will keep at it!

  2. Hi Pamela.

    I'm the poetry editor of Feathertale Review. I'd love to interview you about 'B is for Bad Poetry' for our monthly newsletter The Egregious. You're funny, our magazine is funny. I think it would go really well.

    Please email me!

    Best, Corina