So there I am writing a big story at my tiny desk, when I hear the squeak of excited voices outside the caravan door. I pop my head out and see two women in a huddle. They’re pointing.
‘Hi,’ I say, slipping into my shoes. ‘I’m Jenn. Nice day!’
What transpires makes my day very nice indeed.
The women have seen my lawn sign shoved in the ground and guess what?They love my books. So there I am, in my uncoordinated Crocs, socks, shorts and T-shirt and feeling absolutely fabulously famous. We talk, they buy a book (they didn’t know my fourth one was out) and I sign it. Word spreads and soon I’m selling more books. (Let me tell you, there’s no greater feeling than taking an afternoon walk around the van park and hearing multiple new readers call out, “Just up to where blah does blah.”) There are definite positives to being Jenn, #rovingwriter. (There are also negatives. I’ll get to that).
The important message is, the only reason those ladies knew who was inside the caravan is because I told them. I have my name EVERYWHERE—and it works. (All I need now is the T-shirt!)
I’ve probably worked harder on marketing since hitting the road. And it’s the nicest kind of promo because I’m away from the computer and face-to-face with people. My response is also less awkward when someone asks what I do for a living. (It’s only taken four books!)
Since hitting the road I’m learning to be brave and make a noise (because squeaky wheels get attention. Facebook will tell you that!)
- Every van park office, every small town coffee shop waiter gets a signed bookmark that says ‘thank you’.
- Once set up on site, my first stop is the laundry. Travellers leave books they’ve finished in the laundry and those books need bookmarks!
- Most caravan parks will display my Camp Kitchen Book Chat flyer, inviting fiction lovers to BYO wine for a bookish happy hour.
- When I know where I’ll be well in advance I contact local bookshops and libraries. In Coonabarabran (this year I did a NSW mid-west tour, en route to a Mudgee Readers Festival gig) I visited the library. As I was only in town a couple of nights I hadn’t arranged a formal event, but I asked if they had a book club, and could I leave them some bookmarks? Guess what? The book club was meeting the next day and I was invited to gatecrash.
Apart from the Mudgee event itself, Tamworth was a tour highlight. Not only did my library event garner lots of attention, I scored the promotional trifecta: print, radio and a spot on the local TV news with a film crew visiting the caravan. (And I got to catch up with Len Klump—friend/reader extraordinaire.) See the media my NSW tour achieved HERE or View the TV News footage.
Why to I do all this?
So I can keep my name out there 365 days a year. (The norm in traditional publishing is a six-week (from release) publicity campaign.) While the publisher supports me with posters on my self-designed tours, I arrange the events and secure media exposure. (Cursor over for captions)
As you can see, so far I’ve knocked over the north-west of NSW (catching up with author friends along the way) and as I write this I’m making my way around Victoria in much the same way: bookshop signings, library talks, catch-ups with writing friends. (Friend me on Facebook to know where I’ll be next.)
So, is the #rovingwriter life all positive?
No. There are just as many frustrations, especially when Telstra makes you pay in blood for pathetically slow and mostly intermittent mobile data ($110 / mth for 20 GB!); or running out of laptop battery when the words are flowing and the solar panels don’t have enough charge. (We just bought a generator, because if you think 24 feet of caravan is small, try sharing the space with a cranky writer with a flat battery!) Although, I confess, de-stressing is not too difficult.
While I dreamed of hitting the road, my four-book contract gave me the nudge I needed and it’s fitting that I call myself Jenn, #rovingwriter. I love the roving life and Gypsy is the character from my debut novel, House for all Season, and she once dreamed of running away with the circus.
I appreciate not everyone can sell, or give up, everything to live in a caravan. But that shouldn’t keep you chained to your desk. Get out and find ways to make a noise in your community. If you have caravan parks, drop bookmarks into the laundry regularly. My car signage works a treat, too, with people tooting and waving madly. (I assume they’re adoring fans and not giving me the finger because I’ve inadvertently cut them off in traffic.)
So if you do see Jenn the #rovingwriter in your travels, please wave.
(Republished from RWA Hearst Talk Feb 2017) And if you are a writer and not yet a member of Romance Writers of Australia, I highly recommend you think about joining.