Friday, September 11, 2009


You may remember that Laurie, Sharon Lynn Fisher and I met at the RWA National Conference because Laurie took an interest in my tote bag. I’d actually cobbled the bag together out of a tee-shirt I’d had made advertising my manuscript UNCHAINED MEMORY (an excerpt of which will appear here in the Lounge soon). And therein lies a tale.

This was my first RWA conference and I really had no idea what to expect. I only knew I had to find a way to stand out in the crowd without looking totally ridiculous. First, you have to understand, I’m, uh, well, reserved. An introvert. And that’s putting it mildly. I’ve worked long and hard to be able to go out in public without a handler. Calling attention to myself is the LAST thing I feel like doing.

However, I have a personal demon/friend/critique partner, Linda Thomas, who has taken it upon herself to give me a swift kick in the pants whenever I appear to hesitate in matters of my career. When I thought of a tee-shirt with a novel cover for UNCHAINED MEMORY on the front and the “hook” on the back (“Three hours had ripped away her past. His love promised her the future.”), I mentioned it to Linda. She said, “Oh, no, you MUST make up a bunch of them and get people to wear them at the conference! Give them some kind of reward when you see them with the tee-shirt on! Think of all the notice you’ll get!”

I was horrified. The thought of asking people to do this made me weak in the knees.

As it turned out, I couldn’t get just one tee-shirt made. I was stuck with two dozen. I used one to make the tote bag, figuring it would be instantly visible, even if I was nicely dressed. The rest I took to the incredible Goody Room at the conference, where authors and publishers leave things for attendees FOR FREE! I got one person to don a shirt on the spot (for a $5 gift card from Borders). I’m sure none of the shirts remained at the end of the weekend. And when my book is published, those folks are built-in publicity for UNCHAINED MEMORY. Let’s just hope the editor keeps the dang title!

So what is the point of this story? Just that even if it hurts you have to go out of your way to promote yourself. And don’t be afraid to be creative about it. I also made up business cards with my book title and graphic on one side, the hook and a brief synopsis on the other to give out to agents, etc. at the conference. I figured it beat stuttering over the plot of the book in an elevator if I got asked. Didn’t happen, but who knew?

Christie Craig, one of the presenters at the conference, told the story of her first RWA national experience. She said she told herself to act as if she was the host of the event and literally went around asking everyone she met if they were having a good conference. Finally someone said, “Well, yes, Christie, but the mike in this room isn’t working. Can you do something about it?” So she went out and got someone to fix it. Pretty soon it happened again. “Christie, can you get some water for the speaker?” By the second day, the organizers were wondering who this Christie Craig person was.

Volunteering is a great way to get in on the ground floor. I worked the Literacy Signing event at the conference and met some great people, AND I got to get my FREE books signed before everyone else got in. I got a few minutes ALONE with J.R. Ward, Angela Knight and Linda Howard, and that was worth gold. They are some fantastic women, believe me. Very down-to-earth, very encouraging, can’t wait to see them again. What I learned from going to Shore Leave year after year is that even small positive interactions over time can leave an impression. People do remember you. (Of course, impressions go both ways. Be polite. Be nice. Remember they have limited time and energy to spare.)

I often joke that my marketing skills are so bad I couldn’t sell Girl Scout cookies. But I’m determined to change that, at least as far as my writing is concerned. That’s one product I truly believe in. And passion sells.
Cheers, Donna


  1. I went in search of one of your T-shirts in the goodie room, but alas, I was not quick enough. They were hot items. The graphics are GORGEOUS!

    I think most writers are introverts by nature, and self-promotion is an acquired talent. Thanks for offering some great tips for getting ourselves "out there." :)

  2. Great title, BTW. I can't imagine them wanting to change it.

    The networking and promoting is as important as the writing. Too few authors realize how much self-promoting they really need to do to get their stories out there and build their names.
    Thanks for sharing,

  3. Don't worry, Laurie, I still have a few at home. I'll send you one!

    And, thanks, Dawn. Congrats, too, on your first sale. You give us all hope!


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