Over the past couple of years, when one of my books was released, I tried to get out there and do what I’ve seen other authors do. Lately, however, I’ve been doing even more of it: posts on my personal blog, guest posts, and even author interviews. By emulating the writers I’ve befriended in the various Facebook groups I belong to, I quickly came to realize that writing a book is hard. Promoting it is even harder.
Promo makes me feel like I’m a little kid again, hand up in the air jumping up and down in my seat after the teacher asked a question. Except in this case -- instead of saying, “Ooo, ooo! I know, I know! Pick me, pick meeeeeeeee!” -- it’s like I’m telling the world, “Hey! Look at me, damnit! I’m here!”
And that’s a bit tough to swallow believe it or not.
For someone who came from a generation of “children should be seen and not heard,” this promo thing sometimes feels like I’m calling too much attention to myself. Frankly, it also sucks the energy out of me and makes me feel…well, frankly…cheap.
But I’ve been called cheap before. I’ll leave you to ponder on the where, when, and why.
As a writer, promo is part of the package. The just-released work might stand alone just fine but it doesn’t hit the bestseller list or sell millions of copies by magic and hoping alone. Though one can certainly dream.
Publishers certainly do their share. After all, it’s in their best interest. They’ve invested in you. They certainly don’t want to waste their time. We as authors, however, must talk the talk and walk the walk. We need to get out there, meet readers, and share our passion because these are our stories, our words, our babies. No matter how much work and advertising a publisher is willing to do, in the end, it’s the author who must continue to help sell the book by spreading the word. Singers and actors do it so why not us? Besides, to keep getting royalties we gotta hustle. We don’t get paid until those books start moving.
Sadly, none of this is learned -- or realized -- until that proverbial lightbulb goes off over our heads. People can tell you anything they want about their growth, the things they’ve learned regarding promo; you’ll either digest it or you won’t. In most cases, none of us retain life lessons or experiences the first time around. It’s almost like we have to fuck up then keep fucking up in order to get it right.
And so, with -- hopefully! -- a bit more experience under my belt, I continue to pimp “The Rosas of Spanish Harlem.”
Since it was released this past January, I’ve been doing what I think is my fair amount of promo. Once again I’m writing blog posts and doing author interviews. This time, the difference is that I don’t feel nearly as self-conscious. Maybe I’m just getting used to it, though I must confess I’ve been feeling a bit drained mentally and physically. After all, there’s but so many spins I can put on a post to make each one read in a unique and fresh way. I guess it’s like an actor on stage who’s got the same part performance after performance.
And it makes me wonder. How do they keep it fresh? How do they keep from phoning it in, as it were? How do they, who know how the story will end, keep that element of surprise?
I’d been wondering what else I might do, how else might I be able to spread the word about “Rosas” when I was asked to join BearTalk, a private group created to help represent a faction of gay culture that doesn’t usually appear in the m/m genre. Even in the gay community -- at least here in Fort Lauderdale -- bears are sometimes looked down upon or joked about. I guess it’s not acceptable amongst certain circles to be hairy, to be a little chunky, or to be a bit rough and tumble.
When I was first asked to join BearTalk, I thought, well, aside from me being a bear (or maybe I’m a bearcub?) I can’t exactly talk about my work from that angle. I have age differences and multicultural characters but never a bear hath crossed the picture. And then I remembered. William, the man who falls in love with Tracy in “Rosas,” is a muscle bear!
Then it hit me. One of the reasons I’ve been having a hard time putting a new spin on the posts is because I’ve been approaching them from the same angle. Can you say duuuuuuuh?
Perhaps it’s because the story is told in first-person or maybe it’s because of some other reason. Whatever the case, and I’m not sure why -- or if other authors do the same -- I always seem to get stuck looking at promo from the perspective of the character I either identify with, or most see as the lead. Not exactly a good way to promo considering I’m supposed to be writing a romance. After all, it takes two to go down that path whether they want to or not.
And there are other characters in the story.
Now, thanks to Kayla Jameth and Deanna Wadsworth, I think I’ll be able to remember I can approach a promo post from the perspective of almost any character. And if I don’t, I hope they’ll give me a swift mental kick in the ass as a reminder.
Yes, “The Rosas of Spanish Harlem,” is about an 18-year-old crossdresser hellbent on losing his virginity. Yes, Tracy experiences some extremely gritty sexual encounters. Yes, this petite blond twink gets in way over his head. However, the story is about more than that. It’s about finding, believing, and standing up for yourself. It’s also about living your life the way you want, as opposed to living it for someone else or the way they think you should live it. It’s also about being comfortable in your own skin and being okay with the decisions you make.
For William Rosa -- the beefy, muscular man Tracy couldn’t have anticipated -- it’s about all of the above and more. It’s about living your life so the only person from whom you need to seek approval is yourself because, hopefully, the person you fall in love with will accept you as you are; flaws included.
Here’s Tracy’s first impression upon meeting William.
The gruff, simian-looking man who stood before me was in his late twenties. He looked oddly familiar in a plain white T-shirt untucked from gray work pants. If this was Angel’s brother, he looked nothing like him. This one had deep-set eyes, wide lips, and a five-o’clock shadow though it was barely noon. His hairy forearms were thick, his pants stretched by muscled legs, and tufts of hair curled and peeked through the neck of his T-shirt.
I know the story was labeled as porn noir by my publisher, which might make some people uncomfortable. It’s certainly not for the squeamish! However, if you’d like to try something off the beaten path, why not give “The Rosas of Spanish Harlem” a go? If nothing else, it’ll whet your appetite.
It's the summer of 1977 and sex is on Tracy McCarthy's mind. He's now 18 and hell-bent on losing his virginity when he spots Angel on the beach. After discovering restroom sex -- and meeting the handsome Latino Angel Rosa again -- Angel invites Tracy up to Spanish Harlem for more.
When Tracy makes the long trek by subway up to Spanish Harlem, he's exposed to a vibrantly different way of living; one filled with spicy foods, rhythmic music, and sexually-charged men. Along the way, however, the waif-like, cross-dressing young man also discovers that on the path to finding what he seeks, dark and disturbing dangers lurk -- in the minds of men, walking the streets, and in the hallways of Spanish Harlem tenements.
Growing up always contains surprises but will Tracy like the ones he finds on the way?