As part of Cole Marr Coffeehouse's First Thursday offerings, Artist in Residence Amanda Turner hosted an evening with Graywolf Press author Alan Heathcock. The award-winning creator of VOLT, Heathcock maintains his career as a writer on Twitter and Facebook, preferring the latter.
Over Americanos and espressos, the local author rapped on how aspiring authors can cross-promote their work on television, radio and social media. While it wasn't easy—Heathcock recalled a specific 1,500-mile trip for a book-signing with 12 people—it's clearly paid off.
"I had caught myself on a couple of occasions being like a used car salesman for my work," said Heathcock. "Eventually, I got into: I need to say exactly what the book is in a way that doesn't cheapen what I'm doing."
He stressed the importance of finding a quick way to describe your book, how to answer interview questions with pizzazz, and how you can't expect everyone to connect with your work.
"I would be at book clubs where they're dancing around the very dark themes in the book, and think, 'This is not fun; this is not the right book for your book club,'" said Heathcock.
Heathcock also revealed a personal side, and the audience of local writers genuinely enjoyed getting to know the author.
"As a kid, we had an ice cream parlor out of our house," said Heathcock, who grew up in Chicago, where his mother would run odd jobs out of their home. "My mom would dress me up as the Incredible Hulk, this little white kid on the South Side of Chicago, walking around covered in green paint."
His mother told him to go to every house on the block to get people to buy their ice cream. He then compared that style of business promotion to how you brand yourself as an author.
Even as a kid, Heathcock was a salesman.