Laurie Parker is a regional authorpreneur sensation. She has made a living from selling her work with a very focused niche. Please read more about how she does it in this G.C. Denwiddie authorpreneur interview.
1) You are a master at touring. What's your strategy for choosing which gigs to tour?
Most of the venues at which I sell books are events where I have a booth and am also selling my artwork. I'm also an artist (this is what I do for a living), and must do many festivals, bazaars, and holiday markets. When I began publishing books in 1996, I just added those in as part of my merchandise. Additionally, I also speak at libraries, book clubs, and various other club-sponsored events or meetings where can sell my books. I basically am willing to go anywhere where there is an audience or crowd that might be willing to buy my books. My shows where I have a booth are annual events that I simply re-apply for each year, but I spend a great deal of time each year seeking out and booking those library and club appearances.
2) As a southerner, I appreciate that you beat the dumb Southerner stereotype as a successful writer. How did you find an audience that loves your work, especially in the South?
My first books were all children's books that had a regional theme--like Everywhere in Mississippi, All Over Alabama, Mississippi Alphabet, Louisiana Alphabet, etc.-- so they really only sold in my own state and in the South. Those books had built-in local appeal, and I built up a customer base here at home with those titles. Now that I am writing novels, I still sell to that same customer base.
3) If you only had $20 to market, what would you do with it?
I have a very limited marketing budget, but I've always had to spend way more than that! I find that buying ads in local magazines is a very good marketing tool. I'm not sure what one could do with only twenty dollars. Probably the best use of a small amount of cash would be to design a page having two or three "handouts" that promote a book, run off some copies, cut them out, and put them in coffee shops, etc.
4) Do you think independent publishers and traditional publishers will ever be able to get along?
I was with a publisher on my first children's books, and have been SELF-publishing my own books for over ten years now. I'm not aware of any feud between traditional publishers and independent publishers. Now that I self-publish, I don't deal with a publisher, and there is no situation that I can see arising for me where I would be in any argument with a publisher. You may be talking about large publishing companies vs. small companies...but again, I am just an individual using my own funds to put out just my own books, and this is an issue that doesn't affect me, and/or one of which I have no knowledge.
5) What's the trick to having a successful writing career like yours?
I'm not sure how you define success. I have had a certain amount of local success, but I am not "famous," so to speak, and I really struggle to derive an income from my art and writing. Financial success has not exactly been part of my experience, especially in recent years. And sorry, but there is no "trick!" I have worked my tail off to both write, produce, and promote my books! This is something that I see as my calling, and so I am therefore willing to put in the time, money, and effort it takes. I am also willing to have an income that is probably way less than that for which most people would settle. Sometimes people make the wrong assumption about authors. They think if they have produced a book, they have "made it" so to speak. That's just not the case. I am very much like the musician who lives out of his or her van and pays for his own gas to travel around to dive bars. Most people wouldn't look at that as "success." I am basically doing the same thing with art and writing--putting my own time and money into it for small returns. It's more about devotion to a calling. I am willing to take the hard road, because writing is that important to my soul.