Wednesday I told you all that I have been cast in a local theater show. Today I will tell the embarrassing tale of how I got my part (and then correlate it to marketing, because that's what I do). Popcorn, ready? Let's go.
Even though I've lived in Texas for almost three years now, this was my first time auditioning at this really cute little theater downtown. I showed up and was the only person there who didn't already know everyone. This is not an exaggeration. In fact, one of the women auditioning even works there. I was the new kid in the worst kind of way, and it seemed that everyone else was already part of a club that I knew nothing about.
Of course, I shouldn't have been worried. Even though they were all friends, they welcomed me in and even explained the inside jokes so I wouldn't feel left out. So nice and helpful. First we had to sing which was fine. I like to sing and think I'm pretty decent, so this is always the easy part for me. Then it was time for the real audition. This show is a little different so for our "scene read" we had to sing happy birthday while portraying an emotion or situation (for example, giddy or sad). I got itchy. Yep, itchy. My scene partner had to pretend to be dying.
There are lots of normal ways to be itchy, but the director asked us to be over the top. So I scratched my way across the stage, using walls and props against every inch of my skin. Then as the final line was sung and my scene partner was collapsed on the ground...I rubbed my itchy rear end all over her. Yes, I did this. No, I didn't get her name. Yes, I apologized afterward.
At our first rehearsal, everyone went around the room and introduced themselves (basically to me, since I was the only new person). A few folks auditioned at a different time, so when I said hello, the director interrupted to tell everyone about me itching my butt on another actor. I was embarrassed for a second until he said this to me.
"It was perfect. You were an unknown. You sang well, but we had no idea what you would do on stage. When you did that (rubbed your butt all over a person pretending to be dead), I said, that girl has balls and knew I wanted to cast you."
And now for the moral of the story...
Walking into that audition as the new girl was a lot like being a debut author. All the other published authors are part of this club you really want to be in and they have stories from the trenches that mean nothing to you. It can be intimidating to say hi, but they are basically all really nice people who want to see you succeed. So nice and helpful.
You probably have a really nice story, and hopefully a nice cover and pitch to catch some eyes (like a good audition song). But that's not going to be enough. Because to readers you are an unknown.
Your story might sound great, but they don't know what they will get in once they crack open the cover. They have no idea if your book is worth their money, and sometimes more importantly, their time.
If you want to convince them to cast you as their new favorite author, you have to go broke or go home. I don't think rubbing your bum on a dying woman is going to be appropriate here, but this isn't the time for subtlety.
You are going to need to market that book to within an inch of being obnoxious. Now, don't take this as permission to destroy any goodwill you've built up by throwing buy links all over the internet and private messaging everyone you know or wish you knew. You still need to follow the "rules" of appropriate behavior.
But you can't afford to quietly release your book into the wide world and hope for the best. There are too many other debut authors out there with books releasing, probably some of them on the same day as you. As much as they'd like to, readers cannot read all the books. They will have to pick and choose. And it's your job to prove to them they want you.
This is going to look different for every writer. What you do to market your book will depend so much on you, your publisher, your genre, your subject matter, the age you write for, your budget, your comfort with making a total fool of yourself. There are a lot of variables. But here's the universal truth for marketing as a debut: There is no such thing as over the top. You cannot save an idea and say this is too big for a debut, I need to wait for the next book. If this book doesn't do well, there may not be a next book. As long as you aren't spamming, there is no such thing as "too much" when it comes to marketing your debut.
So stop second guessing and holding back. Now is not the time to timidly scratch your head and hope it's enough. Rub your itchy bum all over the stage and show those readers you mean business.