Dawn Metcalf is a fellow Elevensie and her debut YA novel, SKIN & BONES is due out in Spring 2011 by Dutton Books. She's also completely insane.
Well, maybe we should back up a little bit. Over the past year or so Dawn has been painstakingly creating a list of readers who would be interested in reading SKIN & BONES. So far she has 7,000 e-mail addresses and she's not stopping until she has 10,000.
As you can imagine, little publicity whores that we are, as soon as we heard about Dawn's insane quest we had about a million (ok, five) questions.
LiLa: We can't believe you've got e-mail addresses for over 7,000 people who would want to read your book. We're green with envy and more than anything else we want to know HOW you've done it.
Dawn: You presume much, young Skywalkers -- I'm *hoping* that I've found 7000 people who will *most likely* want to buy my book. Who knows? But anything's better than nothing, right? ;-)
Let's just say that this was Something To Do instead of biting my fingernails to the quick while waiting for the publishing Godot to ping me back. ((shudder))
LiLa: That publishing Godot is a bitch. So, how did this all start?
Dawn: As a flippant remark. Now there's an auspicious start! The "marketing guru" from a previous agency was explaining to me what I could do as an author to promote myself and prove to the folks at my publishing house's acquisitions meeting that I was willing to do the work and had a book worth backing. Well, I was certainly willing to do that...but how? I was bouncing off ideas when she said with a chuckle, "Well, it's not like you could go in there with 10,000 emails of people willing to buy your book." I said, "Done."
Gauntlet issued. Gauntlet thrown. I wanted to see if I could.
LiLa: Wow. Where did you even begin and how the hell did you find all these e-mail addresses?
Dawn: Well, first I did the obvious thing: listed family and friends. You know, I honestly thought I was a lot more popular than that... Ah, well. So next I thought of places I had personal connections: work, school, my local library, my local bookseller, my religious community, my karate community -- places that knew me and had folks who might buy my book because it was mine. Then I looked to my writing communities: critique partners, organizations, blog groups and author hangouts and thought about the people who I knew best and who might read my book because they'd been with me for the ride.
This still left a long way to go.
Then I got a little more creative and a little more specific. My book is a paranormal fantasy with a latina protagonist whose powers were based loosely on the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos, and prominently featured skulls. I started looking for latina youth readerships, genre readers who liked myths and ethnic cultures, fans of paranormal fantasy books that were similar to mine...there are A LOT of interest groups out there and that's where I found *a ton* of phenomenal people and enthusiastic readers, reviewers, bloggers and artists. Many went on my list, some became new online friends, a lot of research ended up nowhere. It's been a sort of hobby in-between the writing projects and I haven't grown tired of the scavenger hunt yet!
For example, my favorite find was from *years* ago when I stumbled across an art project, Skull-A-Day, [http://skulladay.blogspot.com] which featured a piece of inspired "skull art" every day for a year (then two, then three...). I remembered it, contacted Noah Scalin about my upcoming book, and he agreed to promote it on his site. I was thrilled! I love his stuff and can't wait to be a part of that magic! He has 1000+ fans listed on his site via Google Connect, 100+ on Twitter, 1000+ on Facebook; *someone* who loved Scalin's book, SKULLS, might enjoy my book, too. (BTW, I don't count any of these fans towards my 10,000 goal.)
LiLa: We have the biggest girl crush on you right now, you have no idea. What are you going to do once you've got 10,000?
Dawn: I'm gonna do my Happy Dance and then add the Excel spreadsheet to my promotional bag of tricks.
LiLa: Solid plan. Have you told your editor about all this insanity yet?
Dawn: Well, since she's admitted that she follows me online, I guess she knows about it now! (No, seriously, I told her about this a while ago. She said that I was crazy, but respected it.)
LiLa: What tips would you have for other authors who want to try to do this same thing?
Dawn: First, check with your doctor or Significant Other to see if you're certifiable. Oops! I forgot: you're a writer -- same thing, right? So: remember that query letter way back when? Remember your hook, your pitch, and that line about the "fans of X and Y" who would probably like your book? After writing down your family, friends and co-workers, go there. Think of who your book might appeal to and ferret them out. Ask yourself who are my characters or where is the setting or what is the genre audience that you are trying to reach? What makes your book stand out? What makes it similar to other great books out there? See who is following those authors or who has taken the time to review them on B&N, Borders, Amazon or Goodreads. Who lists these on Shelfari or JacketFlap? Know your book bloggers? There are great folks out there! Do a search for comments on Twitter, Livejournal or Blogger. Has anyone posted a contest? Has anyone created fan art? Written fanfic? Joined a fanlist? These are the people who were moved enough to tell *other* people about a book or be inspired by it. Those are the people I want to know about my book when it comes out.
Let me add that I did not buy any "lists" or hire someone overseas or program a spider bot to do this for me. I hand-picked each and every person on my list as someone who I thought might be open and willing to hear about, purchase and/or recommend my book. I clicked on their website, browsed their blog, read their bio or favorites list or really loved their art. I also did not take any emails from those who posted that they don't want "spam" or hid their emails or used a pseudonom or other obvious privacy settings; these folks don't want to be contacted and I respect that. BUT if a rabid fan wants to share their love of X, Y or Z with the world, then I'm right with them! They might like my stuff, too. When I contact them, I want to be sure that they know that this is from ME. They are my personal favorite 10,000 could-be fans and I want to treat them with the respect and good humor.
Ok, so how cool is that? What do you guys think? Are there 10,000 people out there who would be interested in buying your book? Think you can find 'em? Sound off in the comments and let us know if you have any follow-up questions for Dawn.
P.S. Don't forget to follow Dawn on Twitter and friend her on Facebook!