As a publisher of two publications and book reviewer, I often run into the great barrier reef: Chicano(a) authors.
Sometimes I think they are their worst enemy.
Let's just say this: a published book is not going to sell itself.
For many authors, the goal of publishing a book is their lifelong dream as it should be.
But then, that's where they stop.
I know Rich Yanez told me when he was at ASU, Alberto Rios would give a little talk about copyright, promoting your book, and so on.
We need more of this. And don't get me started about copyright and wills. We're going to dedicate several issues to teaching Chicano(a) writer about copyright and we're going to give them a good tell off to them.
But let's talk about your book. Why won't it sell. Good reviews, ni madre. Another disappointing book for a publisher you have a somewhat good relationship with. How about publishing my next book? Why not look elsewhere.
An award for the book will help, but it's not enough.
So when looking at my list below, which is not meant to be comprehensive (I can think of more chingaderas if I had more coffee).
But note. People like novels and so do presses. The short story is a little less popular, but you do get their fans (like me). Poetry, God help you. I've heard horror stories from presses with stockpile of poetry books that won't sell. If they can convert them into fuel for our cars the better. I'm not dishing the genre's folks, but unless you Rudy Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, or publishing a book about getting laid at prom or "chasing papi," pay attention.
1. Especially if you are on your first book, invest in a road trip. Now, we're talking about those of us that don't receive 6 figures for their first book I've been putting together a list of venues for Chicano writers. Shit, just driving from EPT to Indio, Califas, I can name a few stops to give a platicas. Work with Chicano Studies departments so they can help promote your book. Talk to friends in those towns to give you lodging. Have them give you recommendations on bookstores, galleries, penas, cultural centers,day worker centers, etc.
2. Don't rely on your press to do your pub. Some presses can barely afford to do the first step: publish your book.
3. Invest in a website. Hey, folks, it's the 1990s for those of you who are behind. Everything is digital now. For the rest of you, it's the 21st Century. Paying someone to set up even a modest website will get you some good pub. Luis J. Rodriguez website tells us what's being published, where he will be speaking among other things. Hey, and if you are receiving the kind of money to afford someone to work your website fulltime, go for it. Examples, www.johnrechy.com and www.patmora.com. I don't know if these people are paid, but these webmaster are really good at keeping us up to date on que esta pasando.
4. Start a blog. People want to hear what you have to say without reading your book. Truth hurts. Hey, it's reality. But that blog may plant the seed to grow a book buyer. Talk about your tour. Alicia Gaspar de Alba's blog tells us where she's at and where she is going. Talk and give dibbs to other writers on your blog. People want to see that you are in the circle.
5. If your press doesn't do it, make yourself a media packet, both in print and digital. That way you can quickly send something out to the media or to people hoping to invite you to speak. Include news clips and a small bio. Digital pictures! That's big. People want to see a face with a word. Have a few available, but make sure they are good. Stick to black and white. Let's face it, some of you are good writers, pero son muy feos. Get a professional. We are not talking about a studio or pinche Glamour Shots, but someone who can take a good outdoor black and white. Need an example: Google Cynthia Farah Haines' photos of various Chicano(a) writers. Make sure to come to an agreement about the use of the photo because like books, photos are copyrighted. You may include in the packet a long description of you book and a short description. In short, we are talking about 50 words. Yes, it hurts, but try describing a book in 400 words.
6. Your NOT, AS MY FRIEND RICH SAYS, "PINCHE CORMAC MCCARTHY." Make yourself available to the press especially when doing a visit to a city. Not responding to calls. That's called "dissing your fans." The press can be your greatest ally, but in my promotion of Chicano(a) writers, I've found some so hard to get a hold of and some impossible to get an interview with. And I'm not alone. If you can't talk, ask if they can interview after work hours. Come one, reporters interview people after 5pm all the time. I've even done post-10 o'clock interviews. IF you can't talk to the press because you are busy, ask them when their deadline is, so you can fit an interview in before its too late.
7. If you rich and powerful and getting the 6-figures, still, don't diss the press and the fans. Ego, vatos and vatonas, watch them. You'll be dead soon anyway.
8. Consider posting some of your poems or short stories on the web. Your publisher might not like this, but hey, print is dying vatos and vatonas, you need to catch the younger generations. Plus, not everybody may be able to afford your book.
9. Keep a list of who is reviewing books (especially the kind of book you write), and if your press doesn't do it, send those book reviewers a review copy. Again, if your press does not do it, HAVE A DIGITAL COVER IMAGE OF YOUR BOOK AVAILABLE to email out. Post one on your website to be downloaded. JPEGS are better. Make sure its big. You get better quality and it is easier to shrink an image down than to enlarge it.
10. Pre-pub copies. This is reality folks. I've found the higher I go into the more "distinguished" newspapers, reviews on books that are already published don't fly. A month ago is an old book to them. Two week ago is old to them. Many of these newspapers want to publish a review on a book the week it comes out or the week before. That's why prepublication copies are important.
11. Don't limit yourself to the US. Our publication is subscribed to by people worldwide. Seek them out.
12. If you are not associated with a university or institution, get some business cards. You can even put the name of you new book on it. You can even create an email with the title of you new book that serves as an alias email and goes directly to your professional email address.
13. Make sure you understand your contract with your press. Make sure you understand the agreement about how many copies you are going to get.
14. Many presses do this, but if you are going at it solo, send a press release with you review copy.
15. In the press release, talk about how your book would serve a good book to use in the classroom.
16. I haven't seen anyone do this yet, but especially if you've hit it big time, you should enter a chat room. Announce it beforehand, so you can have some chatters.
17. If you are self-publishing, make sure to let people know how to order your book. Put an address, email, and website in or on the book. If self-publishing, the web it your greatest book seller.
18. Hit up, (it pains me to say it) "Hispanic" Heritage activities and 5 de Mayo crap. Hit up universities. Hit up high school conferences and college conferences.
19. If you have not, consider hiring a coach to give you a couple of sessions on public reading. We are not taking about slamming. We just pointing out that some of you out there can cure people's insomnia.
20. Visit the hometown. Hey, EPT use to dislike it's hometown Chicano(a) authors. Now when any of them have a new book: Time to visit the parents and fam! But while I'm there, do several readings.
Well vatos, that's my romp. Hope it helps. Remember, like rock n' roll, it usually your second book that's the big test, not your first. And just like rock n' roll, we see 5-year bands. We hear of Chicano(a) and Latino(a) writers getting a 6-figure contract and then disappearing into oblivion. Your window is only open for a short period of time after your first success. Take advantage of it.