Four Part Harmony, Part IV: How to Promote Your Work on The Internet (And Beyond)
Again, I must give credit where credit is due. Some time before we secured a publisher, my agent recommended I start a FaceBook page. And again I said, “What’s that?”
He said after the book was published FB would serve as a vehicle to promote my writing. So I did what any old guy would do. When we went to visit my daughter I asked, “Sweetie, what do you know about this new FaceBook thing?”
She rolled her eyes and said, “Daddy, For Heaven’s sake.” Then she guided me through the process. She did not do it for me. As she observed, “You can’t learn if you don’t do it yourself,” but she was far more helpful than if I’d been on my own with “FaceBook For Dummies” if that book has been published yet.
What do you post?” I asked. I took a look and noticed some folks would write-up that they were gonna get a pizza or watch T.V, and I didn’t see why anyone would want to know about that.
“”Post about what you love,” she said.
“Well, some of that is okay, but you don’t want to post anything too personal. this thing is read all over the world.”
I slept on it, and the next morning when I woke up a song played in my head. (This had been going on with me long before the emergence of the personal computer.) I went to my new page and posted the song on my mind as my FaceBook as the “Song of the Day,” and have ever since. Some of the songs tie back to “The Mandolin Case,” but most do not. When the book was published my agent and publisher got together and created an official “Mandolin Case” fan page. People came to visit. Many were old friends I’d played music with over the years, but there were new ones too.
Here’s a favorite story. I became FB friends with a gentleman named Dean Eaton. He was from Massachusetts. We had never met in person. My wife and I were at the IBMA awards show in Nashville and by chance a man was assigned to a seat next to us. I heard him mention bluegrass in the state of Massachusetts and looked over his way. Lo and behold I recognized him. It was Dean Eaton. I leaned over and asked, “Say you’re from Massachusetts? By chance do you know a Dean Eaton?
He was quite surprised. “Why yes. I am Dean Eaton. I inhabit his body!”
I introduced myself and we all had a big laugh. We went out to dinner later in the conference and Dean became a fine friend. Harnessed correctly Facebook can be a powerful tool to meet like-minded people.
Going back to book promotion my agent has always said the book title has to be in front of people at least six times before it will have name recognition, and FaceBook kept it there every day. And I love the Song of The Day. I’m gonna wake up with a song on the brain anyway, so I might as well share it.
My agent also worked with me to create a Mandolin Case” website. A number of readers have ordered the book off the website via Amazon. I gotta admit though it is more static than the blog and I enjoy the interactive nature of the wordpress community. Here the link to the website http://www.themandolincase.com You might want to read about The Journey of the People’s Mandolin, a traveling testament to the power of music. The last I heard it was out on tour with The Grascals, one of the top bands in the biz. (They got their start as Dolly Parton’s backup band and still cut some tunes with her)
Between Facebook and my blog, I can keep readers posted when I am gonna be in their area for a book signing. In keeping with my life philosophy, I like to do these events where I think it has a chance to help someone else. My agent is an expert at harnessing local media for events. We always try to team up with some other party who could use the book as a vehicle to promote their cause. Through his efforts with radio and TV I have been able to co-promote with favorite bands, charities ( a very important one in bluegrass is MACC, or Musicians Against Childhood Cancer) book stores, music festivals, coffee shops, record stores, high school bluegrass clubs and English classes, music shops, and new Barbecue joints. (I am well fed on this tour)
We have also interfaced with the world of academic medicine. Early in my journey, my agent ran across a call for essays for a country doctor compilation by a Dr. Therese Zink. I recognized her name as a JAMA contributor. Via my agent I submitted an essay, and it was one of several selected from across the country. She is on a N.C. tour next week and we are gonna co-promote the two projects. At least for me, book promotion is the most fun as a “connect the dots to find the cool people” venture.
I limit my outings to one a month as I don’t want it to interfere with the doc gig. I’m now booked thru 2011, and will post as I go. I now have one tour sponsor, TKL Cedar Creek Custom Cases, and others who might also get involved. Tom Doughtery of Cedar Creek read “The Mandolin Case” and thought it was a perfect fit for their company. They are building me a custom mandolin case and co-promoting my book at their tour stops. We were at MerleFest together last week.
Another use of the Internet for me is to simply cruise through the WordPress Dashboard and click on blogs that seem to hold some interest for me. If someone writes in a style I like, or if I learn something that helps me in my writer journey, I leave them a note to that effect. Comments are like applause at a show and every writer I know enjoys the feedback. My agent always said my readers would teach me to write and over the years the wordpress community has been a major force to mold me.
It helps to have a “prop. My agent knows one writer who writes Civil war history who tours around in a Confederate General outfit. Another is an expert on Mediterranean history and goes on cruises in that part of the world to lecture on his specialty. Hm. Not a bad gig there. I might have to do a bluegrass cruise. For George Burns the prop was a cigar, but I figured that wouldn’t do for a doctor. Mine is my mandolin of course. My wife gave it to me for my 45th birthday years ago. It isn’t a vintage or collectible instrument but it means a lot to me. It is about the only material item we own besides our home that I have an emotional attachment to.
So my mandolin goes to all my book signings. It is part of me, and was one of the inspirations for “The Mandolin Case.” So far, I have played a few songs at every book gig. People don’t forget some gray-haired green (and blue) eyed doctor who plays a little bitty guitar.
We have plans for a library promotion in Kinston, N.C. this November, my last gig of the year. My wife loves the holidays, plus we have a grandchild on the way, so I stay as close to home as possible at the end of the year. I like the idea of a library promotion. I figure if I’m in the art biz I might as well promote the arts and “The Mandolin Case” has drawn significant attention to programs that deserve the recognition. Glamor and glitz get enough mileage with me and don’t need my help. (“Glamor and Grits” by Sam Bush, now that’s another matter) I believe the arts can empower us to be better people, and that all great societies should support the arts. Part of my mission is to show young people there is more to life than power, money, and greed. I hope they will see this old doctor who has invested a significant part of his life in the arts. While it didn’t yield a great sum of money it generated enormous tranquility. You can’t take money with you anyway, so it can only do so much good here on Earth, (I agree the essentials are necessary) but I believe tranquility will follow you on into Eternity. My book has yielded me much tranquillity.
So there it is. That’s how I promo “The Mandolin Case.” My agent and publisher have a lot of biz savvy. I have to concede my part of it is not very fancy. But that is consistent with who I am and I’m satisfied. The book is too quirky to become a big pop culture item and that’s okay. It has made me a bunch of friends, and is dead solid honest. That’s all I wanted out of it, and I am content. I have more projects on the way, and have the same fundamental aspirations for them.
So to all who have a book in the works, all best wishes. Hey, maybe you will leave me a comment as to your project. You never know. It’s like my agent said a long time ago, if you write it, one day someone might just read it! Good luck and don’t forget: the book world belongs to the persistent.
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