Rozsa Gaston approaches her writing with energy and a love for life. She has also invested time in a unique marketing technique involving bookmarks and reverse psychology, and she shares some of her ideas here.
1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?
They’re about self-discovery and self-acceptance. Paris Adieu, my latest book, has two themes: 1) how to be comfortable in your own skin and 2) how to fake it till you make it. Paris Adieu’s heroine, Ava Fodor, is clueless about both at the start of the book. By the end, she’s figured out a thing or two – thanks to the insights living in Paris has given her. Ava studies French women, French food, French attitude – while French men study her. By the end of Paris Adieu, she’s more or less transformed herself into the woman she wants to be. And if she hasn’t entirely, at least she’s learned how to fake it till she makes it. But where to take her act? Back to New York, of course, where Ava grasps that her newfound sense of self will work for her in a way it never will if she stays in Paris. After all, she’s not French. What she is, is fabulous. I’m still working on both themes.
2. How have your sales been?
Slouching toward fabulous, darling. Why do you think I’m doing this interview?
3. Have you sought a traditional publisher?
I have and will continue to seek one. In the meantime, I want to spend my time writing books, and sharing with like-minded people in cyberspace – which means all over the world – instead of sending out query letters that never get a response. No interaction dulls my interest.
An artist in Australia commented on my Fine Wines Fine Quotes blog the other day. What a rush that was! Last week, a man in New Delhi, India, liked my quote on Rabindranath Tagore (Who’s that?, you may ask. Go to my blog, Fine Wines Fine Quotes, and find out.) Within seconds of going live with my very first blog post (on Elizabeth Taylor), a visual artist in Arizona commented in a rich, thought-provoking way. Now that’s interaction! Tiny confession: I’m a bit like Paris Adieu’s heroine, Ava. I love travel, I love adventure, and I love meeting new people and receiving new ideas from them. You can do all that in cyberspace. Do any of us know how truly big the adventure of reaching out in cyberspace is? The world is our oyster, friends.
4. You’re relatively new to self-publishing. How have you liked it so far?
It’s driving me crazy. However, my sister-in-law published with one of the giants of traditional publishing houses a few years ago, and her experience with them drove her crazy. So, what’s the difference? At least I had the final say on Paris Adieu’s cover design (perfect), title (genius) and how it’s being presented to the universe (with flair, I would hope).
5. What sort of marketing techniques have you used to sell your books, and which ones have been most successful?
My number one marketing technique to sell Paris Adieu is to entice then deny. Make a note, ladies.
My number two marketing technique is to hand out my Paris Adieu bookmark with its heroine, the mysterious Ava Fodor on the cover and count how many seconds it takes for male recipients to ask “Who’s the girl on the cover?” I thank my male book cover designer, Rob Mohan, for coming up with a cover that perfectly captures the mystique and charm of Paris Adieu’s main character. After the men ask this question, I say “that’s the main character and by the way, do not read this book. It’s meant for women only. Just gift it to a woman you love or know or would love to know.” This has the effect of making them want to read Paris Adieu themselves since they’re already hooked by the image of the woman on the cover. Believe me, the story of Ava Fodor is even better.
Paris Adieu came out December 16, 2011. On that day I sent a group e-mail to members of my running club, telling them about the book and suggesting they buy it for themselves or a friend for Christmas. However, I mentioned that the book is geared toward women, so men should gift female friends with it, definitely not read it themselves. Turns out quite a few of my running club members received e-readers for Christmas and bought Paris Adieu as their very first e-book. Three reviews of the thirteen posted on Amazon.com are from men and differed sharply from reviews from female readers. I’m fascinated to discover how contrastingly men and women enjoy Paris Adieu’ s message. Can’t wait to hear from more male reviewers!
My female running club friends are all buzzing about the book. Whenever one of them mentions it, I tell them in a somewhat loud stage whisper to absolutely not let any male members of our club read it. In fact, I tell any woman I’m talking to about the book, to absolutely not allow her husband or any male family members to read Paris Adieu. This has had the stimulating effect of piquing the interest of many males within earshot. Last week I went to a party where I was surprised to hear that the husband of my girlfriend was religiously reading Paris Adieu on his e-reader every evening and had told his wife he was gaining an education. This has potential. Any ideas on where to go with this?
6. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I have exhausted my interest in handing the Paris Adieu bookmark to friends and asking them to buy the book. You can only do that once, then it becomes boring. In fact, with the amount of solicitations people receive daily, it’s already too annoying to do even once. However, Paris Adieu is decidedly not a boring story, so I’m planning to change my line to something like “Here’s a trip to Paris,” and hand them the bookmark. To men, I might say “Here’s a trip to Paris with my friend, Ava.” Ask me again in a few months if this is working.
7. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
That it has become, in an extraordinarily short period of time, an acceptable way to publish a book.
We are on the crest of the wave of change. This is a watershed moment in the publishing world. Today’s on-line self-publishers are the front line participants in a historical moment for the publishing industry and for book readers everywhere – the moment when book sales shift predominantly to electronic sales from print sales. Even I can’t quite get my arms around it, but it’s happening!
8. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
The one thing I would do differently is to bring out my next book, Grey Dress, Black Belt in print as well as electronic format.
I would like to see all my books come out in print, because many older people would enjoy reading them, yet they haven’t quite figured out how to use e-readers and frankly, don’t want to.
My grandfather used to tell me about how his mother refused to use the telephone when it was first introduced in their home. She was tired of having to learn to adapt to new technology, so she refused to do it. Who can blame her? Why should older people or non-e-reading type people be left out of the frankly fabulous experience of reading Paris Adieu? Let us hope that it comes out in print sometime soon. When Grey Dress, Black Belt comes out, I want Rob Mohan to design the cover, which will be even more ooh la la than Paris Adieu’s cover.
9. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?
Be diligent. If you reserve four hours a day to write, then use one of them to run around on-line, expanding your cyberspace platform. It’s fun! You can use a stunning gravatar of yourself and make yourself look even more fabulous than you already do. You can present yourself as anyone you want to be. In fact, you can fake it till you make it. Read Paris Adieu to find out more.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
I’m rocking and rolling on the sequel to Paris Adieu. It’s called Grey Dress, Black Belt and it’s about what happens to Ava when she leaves Paris to return to New York and a job at the United Nations. There she befriends a dreamy Romanian, as well as two Serbian brothers who are avoiding the draft back home. The title is a play on Rebecca West’s 1941 book on the Balkans, Black Lamb, Grey Falcon. Ava’s discovery that the U.N. is a great place to work, for entirely unexpected reasons, will make readers laugh, want to cry, then laugh some more.
11. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
Stay playful. It’s my motto, it’s my brand.
12. How can readers learn more about your books?
Please visit my blogs:1) parisadieu.com, where you can find out more about Paris Adieu and read some tantalizing tidbits from its sequel, Grey Dress, Black Belt, about Ava’s continuing adventures back in New York in the company of her new Balkan friends. Grey Dress, Black Belt coming soon in 2012!
2) finewinesfinequotes.com. On this blog, I post a quote by a historical figure each week, then an excerpt from one of my books, along with a wine recommendation. There you will learn what really happened when Ernest Hemingway fell out with Gertrude Stein, why Edouard Manet said black is not a color and what Elizabeth Taylor didn’t pretend to be, among other gourmet reflections. Your comments and wine suggestions, please.
Finally, get a copy of Paris Adieu on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Smashwords. If you’re a man, do not read it. I repeat – don’t read Paris Adieu – it will be way over your head. Just gift it to a woman you’re trying to impress and see what happens….