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J.L. Powers
Bay Area, California
J.L. Powers is a writer, small press publisher, and African historian.
Interests: Books: thrillers, mysteries, young adult fiction. Topics: Africa, alternative healing, health, religion, the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration.
Recent Activity
This was helpful. My first novel (a y.a. mystery novel) was published in 2007 and I've often wondered whether I should have hired a publicist. I tried to do the best I could on my own with my limited time (I was, at the time, in a Ph.D. program) and limited knowledge (although I had done book publicity for a small press in the past, I felt like I didn't know the first thing to really do for my OWN book). It was helpful to get your sense of what publicists can do and what they can't.
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And by rolling their eyes, I mean all the time. On every other page. How often do you see real-life people (besides teenagers) rolling their eyes? And frankly, I've never seen a teenager do it either!
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Sometimes when I'm reading books, I get annoyed by the stock phrases they use. I stopped reading Harry Potter after Book 5 because I was so sick of how everybody said something "bracingly," as in, "'Let's go have breakfast,' Hermoine said bracingly." I especially got annoyed because usually the person wasn't really saying something BRACINGLY, they were just saying it. AARGH. And while I liked all the Twilight novels (slap me, okay, but I did!), I got sick of how every single character rolled their eyes.
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I think an understanding of audience is key. As a side comment: I've known writers to wear outrageous clown masks or enormous wigs just to get people IN to the bookstore. Did it work? Yes. Did it gain them a loyal audience? I have no idea.
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That's what people say! And I suppose it's true...But I guess I'm shy anyway. :-)
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I grew up in a very religious home and so it took me a long time to see it that way...but glad now that I do.
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The Bible. I'm not religious, but it's full of human drama, spiritual wisdom, and great poetry.
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I'm not in Ann Arbor but I am a writer and I do write mysteries (The Confessional, Knopf, 2007) and, though I *love* bookstores, especially independent ones, I'll admit that I don't go very often. Why? Two reasons: Lack of time and fear. Your argument that local writers should spend more time marketing themselves to the local community is spot on. It's just not as easy as it might seem. Between my daily writing, the small literary press I run, and teaching 4-5 writing classes each semester to pay the bills, I easily put in a 70 hour work week. I am constantly frustrated with how little time I have to market myself (which includes relatively little things, like going to a bookstore and introducing myself...) To explain the fear factor: I'll admit that going into a bookstore to promote my work *terrifies* me. When I call up bookstores or walk inside, sometimes people there are nice and sometimes they're not. When they're not nice, it sets me back for weeks. I remember trying to set up a reading at a Boston bookstore this past February and the events person was so tremendously rude, my hand was literally shaking when I got off the phone. I haven't called a bookstore since....The thought of it makes my stomach tighten with fear. I don't come across as shy but I guess I am, at least, when it comes to promoting my work. I always feel bad about trying to sell myself, imagining that the bookseller is thinking, 'Yeah, yeah, okay, you're no Robert Parker,' which is absolutely true but also not the point! Most booksellers are very nice, of course, but the rude ones make it all the harder to approach other booksellers, despite the fact that the large majority have been very welcoming. The other reaction that terrifies me is what I'll call the "lukewarm reception." That can be just as damaging to my fragile writerly ego as rudeness. What's interesting is that I'm essentially saying that I, as a writer, feel slighted in much the same way that you, as a bookseller, feel slighted. In most cases, it's probably not intentional or even true--but it doesn't make the emotion any less a problem. :-) Thanks for sharing your frustrations with the world... http://www.jlpowers.net
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