Monday, September 20, 2010

If I Tell You a Hen Dips Snuff . . . by Sylvia Dickey Smith, Guest Blogger

I am so pleased to introduce Sylvia Dickey Smith as my guest blogger today. She has written her way through life as a student, a pastor’s wife, a psychotherapist, an adjunct professor, regional director of long term care facilities—and now as an author of mystery and historical fiction, along with self-help non-fiction essays.

Many of you already know her as a columnist for the online Austin Writing Examiner, but she's a lot more than that. From her Sassy Southern - Classy Cajun cookbook to the Sidra Smart mystery series to her new release, A War of Her Own, Sylvia has demonstrated her varied interests and her talent. And here she is:


If I Tell You a Hen Dips Snuff... by Sylvia Dickey Smith

If I tell you a hen dips snuff, you better look under her tongue!

The same holds true when I tell you marketing historical fiction can be fun.

Truthfully, marketing any genre is difficult, time-consuming work. So my philosophy is we might as well have fun while we’re doing it.

Both published and unpublished authors often obsess and stress about marketing. Likely that’s because selling or not selling books may well impact whether or not we get another book contract. Even so, don’t let that scare you away from a new way of approaching the activity.

One day, while stressing over the whole job of marketing my work, I decided life is way too short and writing is way too much fun for me to allow marketing to leave me feeling negative about it. So, by an act of my will, I reframed the process and ran smack into the law of attraction. Which is:

When we have fun we attract people to us.

Now, I create enjoyable ways to market my books and set up activities that make me laugh. For example: I spent four days in Orange, a southeast Texas town with a population of 18,000, launching the third book in my Sidra Smart mystery series, Dead Wreckoning. I had tons of fun and sold 150 books.

As my final draft of that work neared completion my protagonist started making pickles. So, I made a few dozen jars, affixed a cute label and took them there to sell along with my books. The pickles led folks over to my table. One man bought a jar of them just because he loved the label. Folks who bought the whole mystery series received a free jar wrapped in colorful tissue paper and stuffed into a bag. Customers walked off with smiles on their faces.

It’s only fair to mention my sister lived in Orange then, and knew everyone in town—not literally, but almost! She handles my cash box. Plus, she draws people to her like my fair skin draws mosquitoes. People come over to chat with her, she introduces me and tells them about my wonderful book! I almost had to tie her to the chair to keep her from dashing back to a nice warm car when the wind gusts got up to 35-45 miles per hour and the chill factor froze our bones, but folks came despite the weather and bought a record number of books. So, if you want to rent my sister…

Also, there is something to be said about regional stories, and that something is excitement. People love reading a book that features locations and sites they recognize. Three different papers ran articles and photos of upcoming events. Many folks came by and said, “Oh yes, this is the book I read about in the paper.”

I sign books in coffee shops, antique stores, and boutique wine shops while an Elvis impersonator sings, at art events, a Chamber of Commerce, an antique store, libraries, a pharmacy, a Mardi Gras celebration, a Crawfish Boil, anywhere I can set up a table. I often offer something for the customer, such as a live band playing great music, wine and cheese, cookies, sandwiches, and coffee. Following the theme of Dead Wreckoning, which features the ghost of Jean Lafitte and fictional female pirate Mary Anne Radcliff, I dress in pirate costume, offer a treasure chest overflowing with gold-wrapped candy, have a couple of alligators (not live) sitting on the table plus a pirate hat and knife, and a skull and crossbones banner.

With A War Of Her Own, my first historical fiction, I’ve planned a series of events in Orange that will hopefully attract a crowd.

I bought a hot pink Bergdorf Goodman hat from the 40s to wear. Now, I seek an outfit to match!

I will stay at the E-House Inn, a B&B at night, and Mannix Media Advertising Agency during the day. My room has a little conference table, so one day, I am inviting people to come by for coffee and doughnuts and a chat. That evening, I will hold an Invitation Only wine and cheese event in the larger conference room. I will read from the book, invite attendees to talk about the era and how we might memorialize that time in the town’s history. I’ve invited the mayor, the police chief, commissioners, local historians, librarians, foundation leaders, historical museum staff, radio personnel, journalists, etc. I’ve not done anything like this before, so I’m hoping people come and I don’t make a fool of myself.

Now, I don’t mean to mislead you. There have been events where I sold zero books, but if I find myself in such a situation, I’ve learned to turn the event into fun. I challenge myself to see how many people I can engage in conversation and then delight in the experience of making a new friend even if we never see each other again. It’s sort of like paying joy forward. Sometimes the person may end up buying my book and sometimes they don’t. But I’m a winner either way.

So remember this. If I tell you a hen dips snuff, you better look under her tongue, because its there.


A little more about Sylvia: She was born in Orange, Texas, and grew up in a colorful Scots-Irish family living in the midst of a Cajun culture. Her curiosity about the world took on a whole new dimension when at mid-life she lived on the Caribbean island of Trinidad & Tobago. Awed by the differences in customs and cultures, particularly as they related to the lives of Trinidadian women, set her on a journey of self-discovery. At 40, she started college and didn’t stop until she achieved a degree in sociology with a concentration in women’s studies and a master’s in counseling. A strong advocate for women, her writing features women who recreate themselves into the persons they want to be.

Thanks, Sylvia, for being here today. I enjoyed your post, and I wish you all kinds of good success with A War of Her Own.


Anonymous said...

Patricia - Thanks so much for hosting Sylvia!

Sylvia - You've got some wonderful ideas for marketing. You're right, too, that it can be stress-inducing. I think one of the things that really struck me about your post is that people do "catch" enthusiasm from others. So if the author's excited about her or his work, it's likely that other people will be, too. Good to keep in mind.

Natasha said...

Patricia- thank you for hosting Sylvia.

Sylvia - you sure do know how to put the fun back into marketing don't you? Since you approach it like a game, your enthusiasm catches on, and you end up selling lots and lots of books. We need not your sister, but you!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I agree. We can learn a lot from you, Sylvia. I love your enthusiasm and "out of the box" thinking.

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Margot, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Yes, I do believe you are correct. Our attitudes are contagious. I've also found out that the more you engage folks in conversation the more likely it is they will buy your book. And even if they don't, your--and their--day will be brighter! The more people you can attract to your table the more fun you will have. If I see someone wearing a color I like, I'll compliment them. Or hair, or whatever. The fun in marketing is enjoying it yourself, even if they can't buy your book. I remind myself of that when feeling discouraged.
Best of luck, Sylvia Dickey Smith

A War of Her Own

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Rayna and Pat, thanks for commenting. Yeah, I figure if I can't have fun doing it, then I'm wasting my time and the time of other shoppers. I remember the line on some TV program where this guy said, "Lighten up Lady!" And I do.


Sylvia Dickey Smith

A War of Her Own

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

This post sure woke me up! Sylvia certainly knows how to motivate. Thanks for coming, Sylvia.
Pat - Thanks for having Sylvia.

Notes Along the Way with Mary Montague Sikes said...


You can make magic. I can tell that from your pirate's photo. Wonderful promotional plans! Thank you for sharing, and I would love to borrow your sister if I lived nearby!

Happy promoting,

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Hey, my sister can be bought--but likely not cheap!! LOL Thanks for the kind words. First half of my life I lived way too seriously, carrying the weight (and the salvation!) of the world on my shoulders. Then, at midlife, I figured half a lifetime doing that was enough. Thanks to several women in my life, and a neat husband, I was able to tap back into that fun side of me and learned I liked her a whole lot better!Sylvia Dickey Smith

Robin Spano said...

Brilliant words to live by, Sylvia: "When we have fun, we attract other people to ourselves." Thanks!

Ann Best said...

Sylvia, you are amazing! Your story has taught me to Enjoy Life.

Thank you, Pat, for this wonderful guest post.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I like the Sassy Pickles!!

JournoMich said...

I don't know what's more interesting, the post or the woman behind it! What a fantastic way to market! Fun=success. It's how we HOPE to live.

Now I am intrigued by Dickey's book--b/c she had so much fun writing this post!


Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

You folks are making my day with your kind words!! I am humbled by them. Not that I needed any more humility! Life tends to hand it to us on a tarnished silver platter it seems! LOL

Seriously, thanks. And yes, Michele, I had a ball writing the post!
Sylvia Dickey Smith

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Diane, the recipe for the pickles is in my Sassy Southern Classy Cajun cookbook! Easy and simple to make. No peeling and slicing of cucumbers, no cooking, just mix, stir and eat!
Sylvia Dickey Smith

Patricia Stoltey said...

Now that sounds like my kind of recipe!

C.L. Phillips said...

WhooHooo....pickles and marketing! Who would have guessed this combination.

That's what makes Sylvia's marketing so ingenious. I learned something today, Sylvia. THANK YOU!

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

C.L., you always teach me something every time we talk!

Patricia, yes, easy does it for me these days, too! Especially since my hubby LOVES the pickles and eats them every day for lunch!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Well, if you ever get tired of writing,Sylvia, you can always go into party planning!

The pickle label is wonderful and it’s impossible not to smile when looking at it. I can see where they could be a real draw.

I hope you have even more success with a “War of Her Own.” I look forward to seeing a picture of you in the hot pink hat.

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Or my Rosie the Riveter outfit!! LOL

I do a presentation titled Marketing for Fun & Profit! I think any day now I'll go into marketing for writers! What shall I name that branch of my business? Suggestions? The winning nomination wins a free copy of A WAR OF HER OWN!Sylvia Dickey Smith


Thank you Patricia this post by Sylvia, I enjoyed the read very much.


Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Thanks, Pat, for having me. It was a delight. Should anyone have a question, feel free to email me.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Sylvia, it was my pleasure. And I'll see you Monday...