I attended a CLN (in the picture, I’ve got my legs crossed and back to the camera) Nikki Grimes event a couple of weeks ago. Shoot. I’m having major computer issues this morning and am not even sure this post will be able to go live. I can’t add any more links, either!
Anyway, Nikki Grimes is a fabulous poet, writer, and marketer! Hearing her speak at the L.A. SCBWI event several years ago helped me shape the poetry collection that is now coming out next year from Clarion (STAMPEDE: POEMS ABOUT THE WILD SIDE OF SCHOOL). She spoke about promotion and her attitude toward it. Here are a few of my notes. Geez, even cutting and pasting is not working properly. Trying this again. And again. And again.
To be truly successful, you have to be willing to step back and view your own work the same way that publishers do. Think about situating it in the marketplace.
For instance, she wrote 100 urban haiku and organized them by season. She kept hearing from editors, ?Why are you writing haiku?? So she looked at it again. ?What have I been selling? What are people responding to?? Narrative. So she redid it. She added narrative. It became A Pocketful of Poems. The rest of the poems weren’t lost, either. They’ve shown up in lots of her other works, including Praying with Daddy, and in anthologies.
Try to be flexible and objective. Ask “What has been working for me?”
?Don’t alter your vision. But let it be informed by marketplace realities.?
She thinks of promotion as theater.
Rehearse it until it sounds natural.
“I psych myself up for it. I was not gonna not write. So the question became, How do I make a living at it?”
“Great. I have to walk up to total strangers.” [Which you’d never know if you watched her in action.] It’s not natural for her. It’s not her druther. ?If it were my choice, I’d hang out in the corner with my writing friends and talk art?But that’s not gonna get books sold.?
“If you’re going to go to the trouble of writing a book for kids, you need to take it to the next level. Make it work.”
“Or make it a hobby, which is fine and can be very fulfilling.”
She works with an agent, most especially because of new media issues.
Every profession has that aspect?that part of it that isn’t what you love. Librarians become librarians because they love books and reading to kids, etc.?not because they love meetings and acquisition forms, etc. For most writers, that aspect is promotion, but it’s necessary in order to get to the parts you do love.