Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is the author of PEN ON FIRE: A BUSY WOMAN'S GUIDE TO IGNITING THE WRITER WITHIN, published in October 2004. Booklist praised the book's "encouraging attitude and inspirational approach," and bestselling author and Washington Post book reviewer Carolyn See says it "soars with inspiration and crackles with joy." DeMarco-Barrett has written for a number of magazines and newspapers, and is a contributor to THE ASJA GUIDE TO FREELANCE WRITING, CONVERSATIONS WITH CLARENCE MAJOR, and, most recently, KNITTING THROUGH IT: INSPIRING STORIES FOR TROUBLED TIMES. She's also the host of "Writers on Writing," a weekly radio show broadcast on KUCI-FM (88.9) and available by podcast.
She lives in Orange County, California, with her family.
What was the best thing you did before publication to prepare?
I researched what my publisher (Harcourt) had in mind so I'd know where to fill in. I also helped them, gave my wonderful publicist Tricia Van Dockum (who founded Ollie PR in San Diego) contacts at bookstores and told her where I wanted to have my book parties-one near where I live in Orange County, and one in Los Angeles. I learned which stores were best because they reported to the bestseller list. My book hit the Los Angeles Times bestseller list not long after.
What were the top 3 things you did to market your book after publication?
I did book tours, which, if they didn't generate a ton of sales (and I really don't know if they did or not), they generated a lot of confidence in me.
I booked speaking engagements and pursued contacts who were in the position to offer me gigs as keynote speaker, panelist and moderator.
I blogged. I showed up on other blogs and forums, based on my intense interest in knitting.
Did you work alone on your book promotion strategy, or in conjunction with a publicist?
Harcourt gave me a publicist who definitely helped. But I had a PR background, so I was geared up. (My marketing plan of my book proposal was three pages long.) Writers can do a ton, but most don't wanna. It's time consuming and not a ton of fun. You'd rather be writing! But you either have to hire someone, or you have to do it yourself. Publishers just can do everything for you. You can learn a lot from books on PR for writers.
How have you kept your book selling?
My book was pubbed October of 2004 and my editor on the project just told me it has gone into the seventh printing. I gather this is no small feat. She has told me she wished all of her authors were like me, in that I put energy-still-into the marketing of this book. I'm still doing speaking engagements, still promoting my book. If you knew then (when your book first published) what you know now, what might you have done differently?I might have been happier and enjoyed it more. I would have blabbed about it more to local papers, local reporters.
How do you balance writing with the business side of being an author?
It's always a difficult balance. I don't know how I balance it. I try to write more than I do the business, but you have to keep the business going, too.
Can you offer any advice on thinking ahead or planning?
Writers tend not to think far ahead and hardly plan. At least most writers don't. My radio show was a result of thinking ahead, and I was alerted to this by a marketing person at a publisher who saw an early draft of my proposal for PEN ON FIRE, then called something else. He said, "The book sounds interesting, but who is she?" Platform is so important especially to nonfiction writers. My platform was small and local. After being depressed for days over this comment, I started thinking of ways to expand and build my platform. One of those ways was starting my radio show, "Writers on Writing." It's been airing for 10 years now, and has helped me in so many ways. The key, though, to building a strong platform is doing what comes naturally to you or focusing on things you'd like to do, if you're not doing them already. I always wanted to do radio, and that comment was a motivating factor in starting my show.
Any other advice for newly published authors?
Enjoy it. You're only a first-time author once.
Favorite item on your writing desk: Little boxes of Waterman pen ink cartridges: rojo, azul mares del sur, nero, viola and blue florida. I also have Virginia Woolf and Shakespeare action figures that I like quite a lot.
Favorite way to procrastinate: E-mail, and spending time at knitting blogs and my favorite knitting Web site: Ravelry.com.
Favorite literary character: Oh, gee.
Favorite CD: Hard one.
Favorite snack: I've been scarfing down Swiss chocolate as I've been answering your questions. Does that count?