Have You No Shame?

by Pari Noskin Taichert

Over on Murder Must Advertise, there’s been a lively discussion about marketing etiquette. It began when author Sunny Frazier mentioned that she’d recently found herself selling her books — quite by accident — at a funeral.

It reminded me of my trip last month to Boulder, CO for the memorial service for my husband’s uncle. I didn’t know many of the people gathered to celebrate Frank Abbott’s life. At meals, when people asked me what I did for a living, I told them. When they wanted more info, I gave them a flier. (Yep, I always carry marketing materials with me.)

Later, I had this uncomfortable feeling — as if I’d done something uncouth — perhaps it was the juxtaposition of spiritual solemnity of eternity with the crass present-tense of self-promotion.

Who knows?

But the experience made me wonder about that wiggly line between effective marketing and obnoxiousness. What one person enjoys, another finds repugnant. It’s tough to gauge what reaction you’ll get.

I err on the side of intuition, of sussing out a person’s vibe and interest before mentioning my work.

Still, in the nearly three years since THE CLOVIS INCIDENT entered the world, I’ve sold books to my dentist, my kids’ doctors, teachers, occupational therapists, summer camp workers, PTA members, massage therapists, cashiers at the local Whole Foods and Smiths. I’ve sold my work while waiting to check out of a store. I’ve walked up to a guy in the mystery section at one of the Borders in town and told him, "Buy my book." And, he did. I’ve sold books at the Roswell UFO Festival, the Belen Harvey House, at campgrounds, coffee houses, on airplanes, in bars, luncheon meetings, at festivals, in a bathroom . . .

Sound desperate?

It’s not. It’s fun.

Damn fun.

I love the marketing aspect of my job. The only downside to it is that it takes me away from my writing.

Speaking of which . . .

Today, while you read this, I’ll probably be in transit to Nashville, TN for a presentation to the Sisters in Crime chapter there. I don’t know if five or fifty people will show up. For me, it’ll be a chance to plant seeds in new soil AND to see J.T. (and Mary Saums and J.B. Thompson)!

Even if I can’t check in much to read your comments, I’d still love to hear about the crazy places you’ve either bought a book — or sold one.

Come on. Make us all laugh.

Nov_2005_017_2_1**************************************************************

Don Strel, a wonderful photographer and renaissance man in Santa Fe, took this picture last year. I saw it for the first time in the program at the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference in Albuquerque last week and liked it so much I asked if I could use it.

I’ve never thought of myself as particularly vain but, with middle age, a lack of confidence has wormed its way into my self-image. From my perspective, pix of me often emphasize my double chin, making it look like a terraced rice paddy. And, I seem kind of, well, dumpy and ill-defined, a melted beeswax candle.

Don managed to capture how I see myself.

cheers,
Pari

15 thoughts on “Have You No Shame?

  1. Sandra Ruttan

    Pari,

    You might have guessed I had some…issues…with the idea of selling books out of the trunk of a car at a funeral. Giving out business cards to those who ask (or a flyer) is one thing – setting up shop in the parking lot is, to me, quite another.

    This is one of those highly personal things. You might be at a funeral for a close family member and know nobody would mind. That’s the individual’s call to make. Then again, I think of watching a friend of mine bury her child and I know what people would have thought if someone had starting selling stuff.

    That was really the problem (for me) with the whole discussion. It isn’t a “let’s vote and the majority are right” situation. It’s personal. People will have strong feelings about this, and the same author may not even choose to handle it the same way twice. To suggest people sell at all funerals or sell at all weddings (I’ve seen that happen) is, to me, a bad idea. When people expressed disapproval, it was as though battle lines were drawn – defend the idea of selling at funerals at all costs.

    There are some who are so hell-bent on sales that they sell-sell-sell with no awareness of how they might be turning people off, and that’s the key. They see the 20 who bought books – did they see the hundred inside glaring at them?

    It’s the fact that you were even willing to question yourself about how you handled the situation that tells me you’ll get it right far more often than you’ll get it wrong. You’re sensitive to your environment, and that’s important.

    But I’m one of those people that will deliberately not buy a product if someone gets in my face about it, so I’m a tad extreme. I hate heavy-pressured sales people, and that’s why my husband likes shopping more than I do. I don’t even like going in most stores unless I’m looking for something because I hate it if people won’t leave me alone.

    Sandra,aka Grumpy Bear around here

    Reply
  2. B.G. Ritts

    While standing in a hallway at the Riveria in Oct 2003, I was sold on a book and had to wait for it to be available on the publisher’s web site the following January (which was a month before the listed release date) before actually buying it!

    Aside from that, I get my books from the usual places: booksellers (brick and mortar, and online), and library and yard sales. However, this does not include purchased ‘best of’ cookbooks and local authors’ books that can be found in many nontraditional places.

    Reply
  3. Elaine

    First of all – you ALWAYS look great, Pari.Second of all – I followed the ‘discussion’ over at MMA and felt sorry that Sunny had to take so much heat for what obviously wasn’t a calculated move to sieze an opportunity to ‘sell books out of her trunk’. Many authors have books in their trunks and I’m sure it was done with discretion and certainly not in view of the bereaved family members. It was just one of those things…and you shouldn’t feel guilt about handing out a flyer. You were asked what you do – and just like any other business – you offered your ‘card’ – something done frequently even at funerals, memorials and yes – even wakes. So, enough with the guilt, okay?

    Reply
  4. Eric Mayer

    I’m with Sandra on this. There is no way I would ever sell a book at a funeral, even by accident. I found the idea repulsive and disrespectful. A human being’s life, which is being remembered, is a heck of a lot more important than my book, let alone selling a copy of my book.

    Reply
  5. Deni Dietz

    Great photo, Pari!

    I’ve never sold a book at a funeral, but then I haven’t been to many funerals, knock on wood. Knock on wood again.

    I did, however, sell many, many books when I waited tables. And turned the tables, so to speak, at a VERY expensive restaurant. I was returning from a conference. Gordon and I decided to celebrate … something … probably us [we celebrate “us” a lot]. I had my latest book with me and was talking to Gordon about it. The server noticed and commented, then said she wanted to read it and would be sure to buy it. Impulsively, I asked if she’d like the book as her tip. Without hesitation, she said yes, autographed please. The tip would have been around $20 (I tip more than the standard 18%)so it was a fair exchange. Of course, knowing she had to tip-out her bartender and busboy, I left her some cash too 🙂

    Reply
  6. Elaine

    By the way – I’m not advocating ‘selling books’ at a funeral! I was merely trying to consider that none of us were there and don’t really know the circumstances.

    But mostly, I’d meant to say that Pari shouldn’t feel guilty about giving out a flyer. Knowing Pari, I know it was done with utmost discretion and respect for her surroundings.

    Reply
  7. circuitmouse

    As a former reviewer and bookseller, I’m constantly looking over people’s shoulders to catch the title of what they’re reading. If I’m caught, I compliment them on what looks like an interesting read and ask how they like it …it nearly almost always segues into an enthusiastic discussion by the reader about the title in hand, which leads to mentions of similar titles… it’s like vocally admiring someone’s outfit or haircut in public. If someone is in a place of business, then they’re fair game. As long as it’s polite: There was the famous story about Henry Miller in Paris asking Hemingway to sign some books –and then handing him Mark Twain!

    Reply
  8. Deb Baker

    My grandmother died in August at 98 years old. Right up until the end she was an avid reader and one of my most excited supporters. Her funeral was a celebration of her long and loving life as well as a time of renewal and reacquaintance for the surviving members of her family. Some hadn’t seen each other for many years. After the funeral, I knew grandma would be tickled pink to find us all out at my car paging through my just released first novel. I didn’t bring it up, they did. My mother and aunt (her daughters)led the way. Embrace life, honor those who have passed, and do what feels right.

    Reply
  9. robert eggleton

    How about right here?

    *********

    I Owe One to Robert EggletonBy Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

    Earlier this year I was contacted by a first-time novelist asking if I would review his forthcoming e-book. If people knew how many requests of this kind editors get, they would understand that out of self-preservation we sometimes . . . well, I ignored it.

    Robert tried again. There was something in the tone of his e-mail. Clearly this mattered to him. So I said yes, I’d take a look, though I didn’t think we could review Rarity From the Hollow. This is all fogged somewhat in memory: in the months since then our magazine moved its office, I was hospitalized for a cat bite (yes, they’re dangerous!), we’ve published several issues, read hundreds of manuscripts, I went to Africa, etc., etc. But as I recall, Robert sent me the first chapter, which begins with two impoverished schoolgirls (from the Hollow of the title) studying together and spelling the word for an adult sex toy. It was quirky, profane, disturbing. I said I’d look at the book, not entirely sure what I could do to help.

    He sent me the whole thing. I read portions of the book, which is subtitled “A Lacy Dawn Adventure,” after the girl protagonist, Lacy Dawn. I liked Lacy, who lives in a world of poverty, classmates with precocious sexual knowledge and/or experience, unemployed men, worn-down women and cruelty so casual that it’s more knee-jerk than intentional. Maybe I was just too bothered by the content, but at a certain point I knew I just couldn’t do anything. Time was nonexistent.

    So I deleted the book.

    Robert contacted me again, and I got soft. You see, there was something about the whole project in general. Robert is a social worker who has spent at least a portion of his career working with child-abuse victims in Appalachia. The book was partly about that, and mostly very strange. In the Hollow, Lacy takes up with an android named DotCom, from “out of state,” which really means out of this world. Under DotCom’s wing, she decides that she will “save” her family. Little does she know she will end up saving the universe. Robert was donating the proceeds from sales to help child-abuse victims.

    Robert is not a kid; he’s maybe my age, maybe older. This wasn’t about youthful ambition, vanity and reputation. It was about some kind of personal calling. I believe in those. I also believe in people who are driven to get their writing out there to an audience, through whatever venue. The e-book idea intrigued me. The earnestness of the appeal got to me. Send the book again, I said. He did. It’s still on my hard drive. (I suppose I should delete it, since I haven’t paid for it.)

    Robert kept after me. If I liked it, could I write a blurb? Yeah, of course. I was fund-raising for my African trip (a Habitat build), teaching, editing, raising three kids. But who isn’t busy? We set our own priorities. I put Robert and his book lower than some other things, which really wasn’t fair because I said I would do something, and I didn’t.

    And it has bothered me. Here’s another thing people don’t know about editors. They sometimes have consciences about books/stories/poems/whatever that they’ve allowed to get lost or neglected in the shuffle of what amounts to thousands of pages.

    So I’m belatedly giving Rarity From the Hollow a plug. Among its strengths are an ultra-convincing depiction of the lives, especially the inner lives, of the Appalachian protagonists. The grim details of their existence are delivered with such flat understatement that at times they almost become comic. And just when you think enough is enough, this world is just too ugly, Lacy’s father (who is being “fixed” with DotCom’s help) gets a job and Lacy, her mother and her dog take off for a trip to the mall “out of state” with Lacy’s android friend, now her “fiancé” (though as Lacy’s mother points out, he doesn’t have any private parts, not even “a bump.”) In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.

    Rarity is published by FatCat Press, which has other e-books for sale as well. You can find it at http://www.fatcatpress.com. The blurb on the website says in part:

    Lacy Dawn is a true daughter of Appalachia, and then some. She lives in a hollow with her mom, her Vietnam Vet dad, and her mutt Brownie, a dog who’s very skilled at laying fiber-optic cable. Lacy Dawn’s android boyfriend, DotCom, has come to the hollow with a mission. His equipment includes infomercial videos of Earth’s earliest proto-humans from millennia ago. DotCom has been sent by the Manager of the Mall on planet Shptiludrp: he must recruit Lacy Dawn to save Earth, and they must get a boatload of shopping done at the mall along the way. Saving Earth is important, but shopping – well, priorities are priorities.

    Yes, priorities are. I should have had mine in order. Robert Eggleton’s book deserves your attention. Check it out.

    Reply
  10. pari noskin taichert

    Robert,It’s an interesting approach, but, I think pitching a book in a comments section — at least so blatantly — is ineffective.

    Mind you, I’m not being critical. My piece had to do with this exact subject.

    But, I bet most people read comments that are short and to the point rather than longer posts.

    The idea of using a full review, while interesting, just doesn’t fly with me.

    I’m curious. If anyone is still looking at this post, I’d love to know what you think.

    Reply
  11. B.G. Ritts

    I scanned the comment/post, but didn’t read it word-for-word. I agree, Pari, not particularly effective here. This is the kind of BSP for online readers’ groups — where I think it would probably be better served.

    Reply
  12. Elaine

    I realize this post is much later than usual, but…well, nevermind.

    However, I think Mr. Eggleton abused his welcome in posting this here. This is blatant BSP and not appropriate or considerate – nor really applicable to what Pari had to say.

    Reply
  13. pari noskin taichert

    B.G.,That’s a good suggestion for Mr. Eggleton.

    Elaine,I’m not too worried about this. We’re all trying to get attention any way we can. Sometimes, as with this post, it’s too over-the-top and becomes ineffective.

    It’s a good bit of instruction for other authors who might consider doing something similar on someone else’s blog.

    Reply
  14. robert eggleton

    As an update, I’ve had mixed results with my self promotion — welcomes with open arms to being called dirty names.

    Reply

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