Walking The Line Between Promotion & Serious Stuff

By now, anyone who has read any of my tweets this year or somehow made her way to my blog knows that I published a book about teen suicide in January.  This 2nd edition was an update—albeit 30 years later—of a book I wrote several years after the suicide of my brother.  So much has changed since the 1st edition made its way onto the self-help shelves at local libraries and bookstores.

I’ve written three sentences without mentioning the title of the book.  Why?  Because I don’t want to turn a serious book about a troubling topic into a marketing strategy.  And that’s the trick:  How does an author get people to read her book, if they don’t know about it?  Not easily.  In fact, aside from sales to family and friends, the book will likely gather dust with the other almost 1 million books published every year.  My books will line the shelves of my home office.  I’ll probably give them away and know that many of those copies will end up on the floors in second hand bookstores.

This week two celebrities died by suicide.  The deaths of designer Kate Spade and author, foodie and CNN host Tony Bourdain shocked millions of people who couldn’t fathom why two supposedly happy, successful people could be so distraught that they saw suicide as the only solution to their pain.

I’ve been at this for a while now.  I’m not a therapist or educator (well, I did teach English for five years in another lifetime, but that doesn’t seem to count) and would never pretend to give professional advice.  However, I feel confident that, after interviewing hundreds of teens and experts and exploring my own experience as a suicide survivor, I am in a position to offer some answers to all the questions swirling out there right now.

Still, I don’t want to thrive on others’ tragedies.  I don’t want to be seen as self-serving.  But I do want people to read my book.

One way, is to hire a publicist who can promote the book for me.  That one degree of separation feels like protection.  Someone else can sing my praises.  She can write the media pitches, talk to TV and radio producers—pull out all the stops to market the book.

Well, I did that.  I spent a wad (I’ll never break even) and, if you’ve read other of my posts, you’ll remember that the experience was not what I would call successful.  Hardly.  It all sounds so promising at first.  The staff love my book, think the topic is so timely and so important and will go to the ends of the earth and back to get the coverage it deserves.

And then reality hits: Suicide is a tough sell.  It’s scary.  It can be contagious.  It’s not a subject that one wants to read about before she goes to bed.  People feel uncomfortable standing in line at a local bookstore with a copy in their hands.  And it sure isn’t going on any summer reading list.

Yeah, but the book might save a life or two.  It may help someone get help.  It could improve the way we talk to one another.  You know, to put down the damn cell phone or turn off the computer and have a face-to-face conversation.  The book might encourage someone to step in and tell a bully that he needs to back off.  Oh, please . . . I could go on.  I’ll let you fill in the blanks.

So, I guess Dead Serious is a book for our time.  I’ll write up a media pitch and email it off first thing tomorrow morning.


Call 1-800-273-8255


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