I am so pleased to introduce Sylvia Dickey Smith as my guest blogger today. She has written her way through life as a student, a pastor’s wife, a psychotherapist, an adjunct professor, regional director of long term care facilities—and now as an author of mystery and historical fiction, along with self-help non-fiction essays.
Many of you already know her as a columnist for the online Austin Writing Examiner, but she’s a lot more than that. From her Sassy Southern – Classy Cajun cookbook to the Sidra Smart mystery series to her new release, A War of Her Own, Sylvia has demonstrated her varied interests and her talent. And here she is:
If I Tell You a Hen Dips Snuff… by Sylvia Dickey Smith
The same holds true when I tell you marketing historical fiction can be fun.
Truthfully, marketing any genre is difficult, time-consuming work. So my philosophy is we might as well have fun while we’re doing it.
Both published and unpublished authors often obsess and stress about marketing. Likely that’s because selling or not selling books may well impact whether or not we get another book contract. Even so, don’t let that scare you away from a new way of approaching the activity.
One day, while stressing over the whole job of marketing my work, I decided life is way too short and writing is way too much fun for me to allow marketing to leave me feeling negative about it. So, by an act of my will, I reframed the process and ran smack into the law of attraction. Which is:
When we have fun we attract people to us.
Now, I create enjoyable ways to market my books and set up activities that make me laugh. For example: I spent four days in Orange, a southeast Texas town with a population of 18,000, launching the third book in my Sidra Smart mystery series, Dead Wreckoning. I had tons of fun and sold 150 books.
As my final draft of that work neared completion my protagonist started making pickles. So, I made a few dozen jars, affixed a cute label and took them there to sell along with my books. The pickles led folks over to my table. One man bought a jar of them just because he loved the label. Folks who bought the whole mystery series received a free jar wrapped in colorful tissue paper and stuffed into a bag. Customers walked off with smiles on their faces.
It’s only fair to mention my sister lived in Orange then, and knew everyone in town—not literally, but almost! She handles my cash box. Plus, she draws people to her like my fair skin draws mosquitoes. People come over to chat with her, she introduces me and tells them about my wonderful book! I almost had to tie her to the chair to keep her from dashing back to a nice warm car when the wind gusts got up to 35-45 miles per hour and the chill factor froze our bones, but folks came despite the weather and bought a record number of books. So, if you want to rent my sister…
Also, there is something to be said about regional stories, and that something is excitement. People love reading a book that features locations and sites they recognize. Three different papers ran articles and photos of upcoming events. Many folks came by and said, “Oh yes, this is the book I read about in the paper.”
I sign books in coffee shops, antique stores, and boutique wine shops while an Elvis impersonator sings, at art events, a Chamber of Commerce, an antique store, libraries, a pharmacy, a Mardi Gras celebration, a Crawfish Boil, anywhere I can set up a table. I often offer something for the customer, such as a live band playing great music, wine and cheese, cookies, sandwiches, and coffee. Following the theme of Dead Wreckoning, which features the ghost of Jean Lafitte and fictional female pirate Mary Anne Radcliff, I dress in pirate costume, offer a treasure chest overflowing with gold-wrapped candy, have a couple of alligators (not live) sitting on the table plus a pirate hat and knife, and a skull and crossbones banner.
I bought a hot pink Bergdorf Goodman hat from the 40s to wear. Now, I seek an outfit to match!
I will stay at the E-House Inn, a B&B at night, and Mannix Media Advertising Agency during the day. My room has a little conference table, so one day, I am inviting people to come by for coffee and doughnuts and a chat. That evening, I will hold an Invitation Only wine and cheese event in the larger conference room. I will read from the book, invite attendees to talk about the era and how we might memorialize that time in the town’s history. I’ve invited the mayor, the police chief, commissioners, local historians, librarians, foundation leaders, historical museum staff, radio personnel, journalists, etc. I’ve not done anything like this before, so I’m hoping people come and I don’t make a fool of myself.
Now, I don’t mean to mislead you. There have been events where I sold zero books, but if I find myself in such a situation, I’ve learned to turn the event into fun. I challenge myself to see how many people I can engage in conversation and then delight in the experience of making a new friend even if we never see each other again. It’s sort of like paying joy forward. Sometimes the person may end up buying my book and sometimes they don’t. But I’m a winner either way.
So remember this. If I tell you a hen dips snuff, you better look under her tongue, because its there.
A little more about Sylvia: She was born in Orange, Texas, and grew up in a colorful Scots-Irish family living in the midst of a Cajun culture. Her curiosity about the world took on a whole new dimension when at mid-life she lived on the Caribbean island of Trinidad & Tobago. Awed by the differences in customs and cultures, particularly as they related to the lives of Trinidadian women, set her on a journey of self-discovery. At 40, she started college and didn’t stop until she achieved a degree in sociology with a concentration in women’s studies and a master’s in counseling. A strong advocate for women, her writing features women who recreate themselves into the persons they want to be.
Thanks, Sylvia, for being here today. I enjoyed your post, and I wish you all kinds of good success with A War of Her Own.