Showing posts with label Dora Levy Mossanen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dora Levy Mossanen. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A follow-up, and a check-up

A few weeks ago, reader Lisa Albers posed this question in the comments section of the interview with author Dora Levy Mossanen:

Any chance of a follow-up with this author? I'm very interested in knowing how she went about forming connections with booksellers/freelance publicists before the book sold. I can't quite imagine how to go about that: Walk into bookstores and say, “I'm an aspiring novelist and I'd like to tell you about my novel...?”

I’m happy to say Ms. Levy Mossanen was kind enough to expand on the topic and returned this answer:

As we all know, forming connections takes a lot of perseverance, patience, and a very thick skin. As far as I am concerned, this last quality is the most difficult to acquire since either one has it or does not. But it can be developed. So, visit bookstores, show your face around, buy a book or two, and make it clear that you are in the process of writing a book and need help in your research. Once you become a familiar face, ask to meet the manager, even offer to take her/him out for a coffee at the nearby Starbucks, tell him/her that you need help finding a book about such and such a subject. Book people like to feel needed, like to help, and love to discuss books and the process of writing. Once you've established a certain rapport, you'll find booksellers to be an invaluable source of information. Once you are ready to send your manuscript out, go to your booksellers and share the subject of your novel, ask them for advice regarding literary agents, editors, freelance publicists, publishing houses, etc. that might share similar sensibilities with your subject matter. You won't be disappointed, I promise.

That completes the follow-up portion of this post. Now for the check-up. After eleven author interviews, I’m taking the week off to consider ways to improve the author interview series. Some of the things I’ll be mulling over is whether the questions should change according to the author, or is it more helpful to see the differences in the responses? Is the variety of authors broad enough? Is there enough background on each author? And finally, should questions veer from the topic of book promotion to include a more encompassing look at the writing life, the craft of writing and the publishing world in general?

If you have any thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How'd You Find Your Audience, Dora Levy Mossanen?

Dora Levy Mossanen is the award-winning author of HAREM and COURTESAN. Born in Israel and raised in Iran, she drew inspiration for both novels from her culturally rich heritage. Romantic Times, which honored COURTESAN as the best historical saga of the year in 2005, praised its "exquisite description, exotic details and vivid language."

Ms. Levy Mossanen lives in Beverly Hills, California, and is working on her third novel.

What single marketing strategy best helped you spread the word about your book to people who would be interested in buying/reading it?

It’s hard to pinpoint a single strategy that ended up working best to spread the word about my first novel, Harem, since I had started forming connections with booksellers and freelance literary publicists, and spreading the word years before Simon and Schuster bought the book. But if I had to choose, I’d say that convincing my publisher to invite booksellers to a dinner party to introduce Harem and then, three years later, my second novel, Courtesan, proved one of the most rewarding ways to spread the word about my books. We all had fun, great food, listened to Persian music, and discussed Harem and Courtesan. Many of these wonderful booksellers hand-sold my books, brought them to the attention of readers by prominently displaying them for long periods of time. Both Harem and Courtesan were chosen by Barnes & Noble and Border’s staff members as book of the month. Entire windows were dedicated to my books during book signings. Both Harem and Courtesan became bestsellers. What else did I want? Well, a lot more really, but I have no complaints!

What surprised you or was most unexpected when you first set out to help promote your book?

Let me backtrack a bit and tell you what surprised me most, even before Simon and Schuster agreed to publish Harem. I had traveled to New York in order to meet with Marcela Landres, an editor at Simon and Schuster at the time, and a freelance editor now. She had fallen in love with Harem but was not certain how to convince the in-house moguls to buy the book. She needed my help, she told me, needed ammunition to prove that I had a strong platform and that I would be instrumental in promoting Harem. I was surprised, yes, quite surprised. I had written the book, hadn’t I? Since when was it required of writers to promote their own books? Still, I took her suggestion to heart, flew back home, got in touch with all my connections, begged, coaxed, even threatened to get my hands on letters of recommendation, of praise, of promises of future book parties and signings and invitations to book clubs. I promptly flew back to New York with a fat portfolio, proof that I can and will do anything to promote my book. Marcela Landres smiled at me and suggested that I go out and reward myself, buy a pair of shoes, perhaps. I gorged on chocolate. And the rest is history.

What challenges did you face during the first months of your book’s release?

I was forced to learn, real fast, that ego and pride had no place in the life of a writer during a book tour, a time when you are promoting your book. I suddenly had to teach myself to step out of the cozy environment of my writing cave and speak to small or large audiences. I had to learn to walk into bookstores and ask to sign stock, do it with a smile when a bookstore carried none, or only one book on some godforsaken shelf at a dusty corner of the store, take a deep breath, visit another bookstore, then another. I had to learn to be gracious and thankful, which I certainly was, even to one person who had attended my signing, only because it was raining so hard outside she sought shelter in the bookstore. I spoke about my book for twenty minutes with the same verve and excitement I would have shown to a room full of appreciative readers. She did not buy a book.

If you knew then (when your book first published) what you know now, what might you have done differently?

I would have developed a stronger bond with the Internet, Web sites, blogs, any or all sites that have to do with books. I still approach these sites with some cautious trepidation because I can navigate through them for hours, losing precious writing time. But, these sites have become powerful promoting tools and as we all know by now, writers have to promote their own books or else!

Any other advice for newly published authors?

Write and rewrite and polish your every book until it’s at its best. Know that every new book is a new challenge. Once you have been published, it becomes easier but never easy. Start the promotional machine months and months before your book is out, and promote it relentlessly the first months after it hits the bookstores because, to our great horror, these days a book’s shelf life is not much longer than a carton of milk. Having said that, enjoy every new book as if it were your first. Nothing is more miraculous than holding your creation in your hands, at last, the scent of crisp pages and not-yet-dried ink, the beauty of your name on the cover.

If youd like to know more about Dora Levy Mossanen and her books, visit her Web site at

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Building a better Web site...

Boy, do I have a new appreciation for good-looking Web sites. Three weeks ago, I waded into the shallow waters of Web design thinking I could quickly get something up that would be a better reflection of me and my book than the Web host's starter page. I envisioned something like Alice Hoffman's or Elizabeth Berg's, or, ooh, Kim Lenox's or Dora Levy Mossanen's.

How naive, right?

At first I was lured in by the promise of free Web templates. There are so many beautiful ones to choose from on the Net, and they're free (free!). I scoured page after page after page looking for just the right one. When I found one that was *thisclose* to what I wanted, I figured I could tweak it to make it perfect. I downloaded, I replaced dummy type, I jiggered things around, and ... I created a mess. I jiggered some more and tweaked some more, and .... a bigger mess. I think it had to do with the cascading style sheets, and, well, the fact that I don't know what they are, which seemed to be a fatal flaw in this campaign.

So, I moved on to FrontPage, and during a weekend that is now only a blur of keyboard strokes, failed uploads, and html code tinkering, I cobbled together something that reflected the book's 1893 Chicago World's Fair setting a bit better and offered more than a single typeface choice.

Like I said, it's been three weeks now, and while I'm happier with this Web site than that starter page, I know I have a lot of work ahead of me.

I figure it’s like any new home. When you move in, there are fixes to make so it's livable: functional plumbing and electricity, maybe new carpet and paint.

But there is always more to do. Planting flowers out front, sewing new curtains for the living room, maybe a new vanity and tub for the bathroom. I want to add some of my favorite travel stories I've written for Orange Coast, and some fun things about the art and history of belly dancing, which has been my passion almost as long as writing has.

But, honestly, I’m tired of opening the document to make one little fix that leads to another little fix, and then just one more… until I look up and the whole day is gone.

So those things will come, in time. For now, I’m going to make some tea, put out the welcome mat, and enjoy my new – and I suspect perpetually unfinished – Internet home: