January 5, 2021 § 21 Comments
Mine was a clever ad. The local Jewish paper has around 16,000 weekly subscribers from Denver and the surrounding area, and my story is about growing up in Denver within a Jewish family with mental illness, and how I made my way out, found my way back, and came to understand and forgive (even myself).
With Hanukkah beginning in two days, my part-time-publicist brain planned a 3 x 4 in. color ad for $900.00:
Who Needs Hanukkah Gelt?
How about Judith Sara Gelt’s
It would run on the first day of the eight-day holiday. The woman selling ads for the paper had been as excited as I was.
Ad Person—Mazel Tov on the book! This is great news and I think the readers would love to have the opportunity to purchase it.
Me—I sent over a copy last year hoping the paper would review it but never heard back.
Ad Person—Oh, let me mention that! Maybe a review can run now!
Her rejection email arrived the next day.
Thank you for your interest…
Sexually explicit and not appropriate flashed neon.
I thought, The paper is sacrificing my $900?
(FYI, there is explicit, not offensive or gratuitous, sex. It hadn’t bothered my previous reviewers.)
Then I realized I had entirely missed the mark. Sending this ad to a paper with an “explicit-sex” taboo (most likely set by the paper’s Orthodox owners), cost me time and trouble. Plus, my family had known these owners through decades. My brother still does. This cut deep into my confidence. The back of my hand still stings.
Besides, Ad Person certainly wouldn’t read it now. I actually lost one reader.
When my book was released in 2019, the truth—authors must be willing to promote their own books—worked under my skin, and my hackles rose. Hadn’t I already done enough?
Before publication, every protracted, onerous undertaking toward publication felt doable, even energizing. I had closed out a middle-school teaching career and was fifty-three when I began. It took fifteen years to produce the final manuscript. Writer’s block? No idea what that felt like! Paragraphs took shape eight to ten hours a day. Editing and critique? Loved it. I took a class to refine my work at the sentence level and spent the following year revising the 300-page manuscript page by page. Not hard work—hard fun.
Then I waded through warnings (Your odds of being published are 1 to 2%) and ferried myself around the country to conferences where I could meet agents. I submitted queries. Submitted. And submitted. And submitted. I waited. And waited. And waited for decisions. But excitement whirled in the possibility of a happy outcome. And there was one!
My university press did its job publicizing my book within their resources. I wasn’t completely self-marketing hostile. Here’s where I stand, well, wobble—my webpage is fairly professional. I have an Author Facebook Page. I’m on Twitter (I no longer post there) and Instagram (I’ve never posted there). I’m on LinkedIn and Goodreads. I have an Amazon Author Page. I belong to four Facebook writers groups I don’t actually follow. I began a mailing list and sent three (or four?) MailChimp newsletters. I paid for a Kirkus Review (thank god it was good), and purchased ads in Kirkus publications.
I’m still a failure as an ad agent.
There are zero indicators my book is selling or that many readers have seen its pages. I’m not unaware of where to look for help. I’m overwhelmed by the help out there. I’ve seen a bajillion notions for how to market books successfully.
Brevity’s blog and sources like it offer manageable, contained lists of steps from successful authors. In a Writers’ Bridge video chat, I heard realistic social-networking approaches broken down masterfully. (Still, my visit ended early. The pace of brilliant ideas flying by overwhelmed me.)
So, my stomach will not settle. My chest is tight as I write this, forgodssake.
If I’m ever to get my book into readers’ hands, I must accept my publicity and promotional responsibilities and either:
Hire a genius, million-dollar publicist.
Hire a topnotch, million-dollar therapist.
My genius publicist, who is very expensive because they are a genius, will know what kind and where, and how often to place ads, and will arrange events and have conversations with important, connected people, and send mailings and do whatever else there is to do… Then, because they are the genius, I will do whatever they ask.
My topnotch therapist, who is very expensive because they are topnotch, will unravel underlying issues mentioned in my memoir like depression (mine), and although I’m medicated, thoughts of advertising can nudge me, TV remote in hand, downhill and onto my sofa.
Their combined top-notch know-how will eliminate my emotional weaknesses preventing me from marketing my book.
(My stomach is relaxing!)
Do you know a genius publicist? A topnotch therapist? I’m willing to pay.
Have them get in touch at judithsaragelt.com. (I may need both.)
Judith Sara Gelt is the author of Reckless Steps Toward Sanity—A Memoir, winner of The High Plains Book Award, Debut Book. Her work has been in Nashville Review, Superstition Review, and River Teeth, among others. She lives in Denver. Find her at her webpage and on Facebook. Other social media destinations are…under construction.