How do you promote your book? Part 2 of an interview with Andee Jones

Andee Jones' book, Kissing Frogs

Andee's book, Kissing Frogs

Today, non-fiction author Andee Jones explains how she promotes her work. She also talks about life as a writer.

What’s happened in the past with publicity and promotions for your book? Have you had assistance from your publishers or have you organised everything?
I’ve done the lion’s share of publicity work. Publishers are up to their necks getting new books out, and they don’t have the time required to properly market a book by lesser known authors.

I’ve had the luxury of being able to spend eight months pitching for gigs, and it’s paid off — 25 to date.

Tell me about your online strategy. Why did you choose to do a blog on MySpace?
The MySpace page is essentially a free webpage to which I can refer media and other interested bods.

What’s worked well and what’s not worked with your book promotions?
What’s worked best for me is to list all possible gigs — radio and TV interviews, print media mentions and reviews, live talks, festival appearances and live readings.

I write a targeted letter to each media person, get their name right, thank them for their entertaining program, include a hook/idea that fits their program focus, and do a follow-up call after a week or so.

The scattergun approach of generic media release mail-outs resulted in fewer than 1 in 100 successes.

Do you plan on trying any other promotions?
I’ll try anything that’s promising. Unfortunately, like it or not, promoting one’s book is media-tart-land. I try to keep a watch on any media stuff that’s connected to the ideas in my book — tenuous or otherwise.

How do you structure the days that you write? Do you have any methods to keep you motivated?
As an older writer, I have the luxury of not having to do anything full-time, and I have no structure to speak of. Perhaps it’s an infantile reaction against my academic training.

I go by the principle ‘start and continue’. I start anywhere that has energy, and the writing grows organically. I keep soliciting reader feedback, just so I don’t go off into la-la land, as happened with my first book, which never was and never will be published.

If I’m stuck, I do something else for a while. For example, the book I’m currently writing is half-way there, but I needed a break. So I started thinking about cover designs, blurbs, etc. That interval has given me the motivation to press on.

How has your background shaped your writing?
For 50 years (school+ academia), it mostly got in the way. However, once I found my voice, my background has become the biggest shaping factor.

As a working class girl, I soaked up the double-whammy socio-political message that I had nothing worth saying. Now at least (as the saying goes) ‘I’ve got nothing to say, and I’m saying it!’

What is it that differentiates you from other writers? What is your ‘author brand’?
As a psychologist and writer, I like looking at things from both sides of the couch. This is my niche.

I’m also a seasoned client of therapy, and the book I’m working on now is called Barking Mad: Too much therapy is never enough. It’s a memoir about trying to get a grip, losing it, trying, losing … and so on throughout forty years of therapy, a dozen therapists, and a ton of trouble.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?
Feel the fear and do it anyway, that is, before you send the m/s to publishers, ask a bunch of articulate readers what they think of it. Would they want to read it? If not, why not?

Nothing more useful than constructively critical feedback from people who know what they’re talking about … as long as you retain the casting vote.

Kissing Frogs — the back cover in brief

Kissing Frogs is a tragi-comic memoir of four years of dating and relating by a psychologist who at fifty-something went looking for love.

AMI4U? Contemplating internet dating? Fantasising about what you’d find? Fretting about kissing frogs?

Entertaining and earthy, Kissing Frogs brings a light touch to some pressing questions about love.

What the critics say about Kissing Frogs

AMUSING, WRY, BEAUTIFULLY written, and thoroughly engaging from the get-go, Kissing Frogs is frank, disarming and heartfelt, dizzying at times, with elements of a good thriller … Oh and a lot of fun — Psychotherapy in Australia, May 2010

A GREAT READ — lively combination of entertaining descriptions and thoughtful insights ― Social Commentator, Hugh Mackay

FASCINATING, AWESOMELY HONEST account ― Richard Stubbs, ABC Radio 774

I LOVE IT! intensely personal style, dry and self deprecatory, earthy and immediate, very beguiling ― Psychiatrist & bestselling author, Julian Short

Andee’s bio
Andee Jones is a Melbourne-based psychologist, author and former academic. Kissing Frogs is her first memoir.

AFI-award winner Annie Byron’s one-woman show based on the book will premiere in 2011. Andee is currently working on a second memoir, Barking Mad: Too much therapy is never enough.

Weblinks:
Click here to visit Andee’s blog.

Kissing Frogs on the Finch Publishing catalogue.

About Finch Publishing.

How did you get published? Interview with Kissing Frogs author, Andee Jones

Author Andee Jones

Author, Andee Jones

Today, I’m talking to Andee Jones. Andee is a psychologist, author and former academic based in Melbourne. Andee’s first memoir, Kissing Frogs, is published by Finch Publishing.

Andee’s stories have been published and awarded, and her articles have been published in academic and professional journals in psychology, health, and education.

Andee, can you tell me how you first came to be published?

I was working in the publish-or-perish world of academia, so getting published was part of the corporate-university power game. Submit paper; wait 6-12 months to receive anonymous scathing criticisms including ‘hasn’t cited Smith’; rewrite (citing Smith); resubmit; wait 6-12 months, and so on, ad nauseum.

Fortunately, with the help of some terrific creative writing teachers, I trained myself out of the turgid academic style, started writing more accessible stuff for popular magazines, and then fell into writing memoir.

Did you have a deliberate strategy to develop your writing career?
Not at the start. Fifty years of schooling and academic training told me I couldn’t write creatively. But the more I learnt about creative writing, the more I practiced it and the more I enjoyed it — so liberating compared to the academic straitjacket.

Once published, I started thinking about how to keep going. Unfortunately, it includes promoting and marketing, which isn’t as interesting as writing.

I write in my ordinary speaking voice … I want the writing to sound natural and conversational.


Do you ever encounter obstacles in terms of craft when writing for publication? If so, how do you address them?

I write for the story, and then think about whether anyone else would want to read it. Trouble is, the story usually doesn’t fit neatly into a publishing category. But I have no choice; I could never write for ‘the market.’

How do you find switching between different forms of writing, such as stories and non-fiction? Does working in one form help with working in another?
I’m drawn to life writing, and most of my recent work is in this genre, even my fiction.

Your book
Kissing Frogs is based on your internet-dating experiences. Do you have any anecdotes you could share about this?
I like to think I’m getting braver as I get older … though others might call it something else entirely. Perhaps dating at 50-something is what happens when you stop working full-time and start your second adolescence. I was curious about what I’d find. Not that I necessarily wanted to find ‘BigBoy’, ‘MrCharisma’, ‘Guyloveskissingwomen’ and a personal favourite, ‘Justwarm’.

My first date had received 80 responses and dated 30 women in 30 days.

One guy left a voice message apoplectic with rage: ‘Cor’, he said,‘You’re so far up yourself. I’ve never met anyone so far up herself! Cor!’

The next one said ‘I don’t care if your mind is open, are your legs open?’

Next came a guy I’d dated for two years a while back, but he didn’t recognise me.

Then came the blind-date sex party.

I mean, how much more fun could one have in a week?

Where did the idea for Kissing Frogs come from and how did you get it published?
Kissing Frogs is the story of my four-year experience of looking for love online. The idea for the book came out of a breakup toward the end of this stint. ‘Why don’t we write a book about this stuff?’ I said to my ex-date. ‘Sure,’ he said, and promptly got busy dating. So I got writing.

I sent the m/s to 23 publishers, waited 9-12 months, and received 23 versions of, ‘Sorry, it doesn’t fit our list’. My daughter thought the book was a goer and persuaded me to self-publish. Finch responded to an ad I placed in a trade magazine. I sent Finch a copy, and Bob’s your uncle.

How did you go about structuring and organising your material for Kissing Frogs?
With difficulty. An early false start was to construct the memoir in two distinct voices, one of which I then had to rewrite in order to achieve flow and unity.

Now, I write in my ordinary speaking voice. No matter how complex the ideas, I avoid jargon and long words. I want the writing to sound natural and conversational. This is no mean feat for an over-trained academic.

How did you research potential places to submit your manuscript?
The manual The Australian Writers’ Marketplace is invaluable — everything’s in one place.

Did you have to do much rewriting or reworking of material during the editorial process?
All the hard work was done for the self-published version, so when Finch took it on, little editing was needed.

Perhaps dating at 50-something is what happens when you stop working full-time and start your second adolescence. I was curious about what I’d find.

Did you do a book proposal? Was it helpful?
Yes I did, and yes, it was very useful for me to clarify what the book was on about. Sheila Hollingworth’s short course and book A decent proposal were very useful. Similarly, Euan Mitchell’s course and book Self-publishing made simple were invaluable for my self-publishing project.

Do you have an agent?
No, I don’t have a paid agent, but I do have very good friends in the book trade who offer advice very generously.

How did you go about negotiating your contract with your publishers?
With I can’t tell you how much difficulty. From my very limited experience, it seems publishers have it all their way. Unless they’re fighting over a potentially lucrative author, publishers can get away with saying to a lesser known author, ‘Take it or leave it.’

I’ll put up part two of my interview with Andee on Saturday. In it, Andee explains what she does to promote her book.

In the meantime, you may like to checkout a memoir-writing prize being offered by Andee’s publisher, Finch Publishing. The closing date is the 15th of October, 2010.