Sunday, March 20, 2011

Meeting Marty Chan

Alberta author Marty Chan has mysteries, plays, radio and television tales to his credit. Since 2004, when Thistledown Press launched his first YA novel, The Mystery of the Frozen Brains, he has learned a lot about the promotional side of the publishing industry. In this interview, he shares his perspective on Selling your Novel, not your Soul (taken from his recent AWCS workshop of the same title):

Welcome, Marty!

The title of your AWCS presentation was 'Sell your book, not your soul'. What of your own experiences and observations inspired it, and what were you hoping attendees would take away from the day?

My experiences as a playwright producing my own work at the Edmonton Fringe Festival inspired the workshop title, Sell Your Book, Not Your Soul. I'm an introvert who despises having to go on the street to hawk flyers. At my first festival, I quickly realized that if I didn't promote my own show I wouldn't be able to cover my expenses, so out of sheer desperation I hit the streets. On site, I noticed other producers getting in people's faces and acting like desperate used cars salesmen. I didn't want to sell myself out to sell my show, so I approached people the way I wanted to be approached. I was low-key, respectful and positive. My style worked!

From then on I approached promotion with the same diplomatic and generous style that I used the first time out.
You can promote without being pushy and you can sell your book without selling your soul. The key is to find a style that is true to who you are. I hoped that's the lesson the participants came away with.

There are a great many options for publicizing one's book nowadays. How can authors figure out where best to focus their time and dollars?

The best way to figure out how to focus your efforts is to take a step back and do some goal setting. If you set realistic goals for yourself, then you can better plan what resources you need. If you want a national bestseller, but you don't have any money or time to make this happen, you're bound to be frustrated with the results. Often times writers have more time than money to put into promotion, so I always advise writers to make the best use of their time by finding people who are willing to help spread the word. The key is figuring out what's in it for those people who help. If they're your friends and family, you know you owe them a favour. If they are strangers, find an offer that gives them an incentive to see you succeed.

For True Story, my picture book about my two cats, I set the launch at the Edmonton Humane Society and promised them 30 percent of my book sales for the day. This gave them incentive to include me in their publicity and marketing plans.

Do you have a personal favourite publicity tactic and why - or why not - should other writers use it?

My favourite publicity tactic is to research the media outlet and figure out what they need, then brainstorm a segment that fills that need. You can't go wrong if you provide a TV producer, a visual segment (ie. actors performing an excerpt from your novel) with a funny and/or engaging talk. Think about what the media outlet needs and how you can plug into their needs, and your chances of getting some air time or ink greatly increase.

Mystery Writers Ink thanks Marty for sharing his expertise with us.

Marty's newest YA novel is

The Mystery of the Cyber Bully
(Thistledown Press Sept 2010).

How do you find a bully who lurks on the internet and lashes out at helpless victims? Intrepid kid detectives Marty, Remi and Trina must answer that question if they're to stop a cyber bully targeting their classmates.

We'll be drawing for this book at Ink's April meeting.

Jayne Barnard