So, here's the thing: if you're a writer associated with an independent publisher you're responsible for promoting your own books. At first it's easy; you just tag your cover art in as many ways as you can think of that means "I'm begging you, please buy my book," and blast it out into the cyber sphere fifteen times a day. At some point, though, you have to find new ways to engage your audience or they will run screaming from your website as if their asses were on fire.
A couple of weeks ago I got the idea to use short, one or two sentence passages from Dear Heart and Sweet Heart as teasers. I had already compiled a nice list of these to write above my signature for those kind souls who asked me to sign their books, so all I had to do was unpack my launch party stuff, stage it on my dining room table, and take photos of it in as many variations as I could think of. By the time I was done, I had 57 teasers and 23 photos and I thought my work was done. But no.
Since the cottage is a key element in both books, I wanted to get some promo photos of the facade that the Crazy-Ass Crew, Pat and Vance and Jill and Jeff, constructed on my front porch for the launch party. The problem was that there was no way to include the book covers in that set-up and actually see them. Believe me, I tried every which way but hanging upside down from the roof, and I could not get a decent shot. So, since I had already disassembled the cottage in a snit, over the Labor Day weekend Arthur and I re-assembled it in our garage and staged it in front of a trash bag backdrop.
I don't mind telling you I thought the trash bag back drop was a brilliant idea because it cost me nothing -- a bargain compared to the $150 price tag for a black tablecloth I'd probably never use again and the $42 it would have cost me for a bolt of cheap black fabric.
So there I was, whistling a happy tune, staging the scene again and again and snapping photos faster than my iPhone could process them. I got 151 shots, and after I spent several hours uploading them to my laptop and cropping the living shit out of them, this is what I was left with.
KILL ME NOW.
Even I'm not delusional enough to think that these could remotely work because I want something that says "buy my book," not "her book probably stinks as much as this photograph does." I tried to dress them up with cover art, since -- SURPRISE, you couldn't read the book titles on the indoor shots any better than you could read them on the outdoor shots. Here's how that worked out.
Yep. Put lipstick on a pig and all you get is a butt-ugly pig.
Next I tried taking close-ups of the cover art on the facade door, which turned out better, but not by much. Plus, you couldn't even see the cottage, which was the point of the whole thing in the first place.
So now I'm nuts and on the verge of ripping my hair out, but instead I went to bed, hoping that a better idea would come to me in a dream. It didn't. But the next morning, as I was sitting at my laptop looking out into the yard, I started thinking about staging the cottage there. With a fresh cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette dangling from the other, I walked around the yard until I came upon the perfect site which, in hindsight, I probably should have thought of in the first place. But like I said last week, nothing has ever come easily to me.
Although I did not want to move that cottage from the garage to the yard and start all over again, and Arthur wanted to even less than I did, I was a woman on a mission and would not be denied. Once we got the cottage standing, I decided to sacrifice the artificial flowers that I had arranged just so in a planter box, and stuck them in amongst the real ones which haven't bloomed in over a month. And then, Friends, I snapped away in a near-orgasmic frenzy. This is the result.
So, here are three things I learned from my foray into promotional photography:
First, not even Annie Liebovitz could have made a silk purse out of that sow's ear of a back drop unless she'd had Burt Reynolds stretched out naked in front of it.
Second, not every great idea turns out to be a great idea, and the sooner you recognize that and let it go, the less likely it'll be that your husband will want to smother you with a pillow as you sleep, and
Third, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, sure. But for Christ's sake, try something different.