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Cross-Self Promoting Thoughtfully

What are your passions? Writing has been one of mine since my 2nd grade teacher published my Christmas story in the local paper. Eventually I became a mom and my priorities shifted to include my growing family. I became supermom, ready to turn frowns upside down with my arsenal of homemade puppy-dog-face cookies and castle cakes. Other interests crowded in, but for the most part, family and writing remained my top passions in life.

Castle Birthday Cake

Castle Birthday Cake

Two and a half years ago I was given a third. I woke up in a hospital room to the words “it’s cancer” and life thrust me onto the most brutal topsy-turvy rollercoaster ever imagined. Teal ribbons, weekly chemo infusions, pills, doctor’s appointments, mouth ulcers, CT scans, shedding of ALL hair, a mailbox filled with get well cards, casseroles, flowers left on my doorstep, pain, panic, “who will you play with in heaven, Mommy, if I’m not with you” became my life.

When I first saw the chemo ward at the hospital, and all the bald, tired people hooked up to beeping machines with bags of drugs snaking into their bodies through various tubes, I cried on my husband’s arm. “They look dead, and I’m going to be one of them.”

Hooking Up

Hooking Up

What I didn’t realize at the time, but discovered quickly, was that those people are warriors, battling with everything they’ve got. I was proud to get to know them and to become an Ovarian Cancer Warrior, fighting for my right to live and be a mom, daughter, friend, and wife, fighting a beast that stalks women silently.

OC is the deadliest of the GYN cancers as it is the hardest to detect. I was diagnosed because I happened to mention some pelvic pain and mild bloating to my general practitioner when I went in for a possible broken hand. So I was diagnosed at stage IIc with a 70% chance of living 5 years. If I’d waited a couple more weeks, it could have easily moved to stage III with only a 20% chance to survive 5 years. So early detection of these whispered symptoms is crucial to survival.

Suddenly I had a new passion. My husband and I started the SHOUT Against the Whisper campaign with a mission to educate women about the whispered symptoms of this terrible beast. So…I have three passions in my life: writing, my family (although I’ve retired my supermom cape), and OC Awareness/Cancer support.

Me & my Highland Hero

Me & my Highland Hero

One thing we can do, as passionate people, is to blend our passions together in a way to enhance each one. But doing so must be done thoughtfully.

My third book was about to release when I started chemo. Part of me wanted to scream “I have cancer; buy my book!” But the sane part of me knew that wasn’t appropriate (unless perhaps I was writing cancer books, which I plan to do BTW).

I swore to God, the universe, and to my friendly kale juicer that I would use all my talents to educate and help save women if they would keep me alive to do so. I am a public speaker and I write, and I plan to use my skills in any way I can to spread the warning, not just because I swore back in those grim days, but because I’m genuinely passionate about not letting cancer win.

So in the back of my books, I list the whispered symptoms. When I do book signings or workshops or interviews, I give out symptom cards and ask for articles to list them. This type of cross-promoting is very appropriate.

However, this doesn’t always work in the reverse. When on the chemo ward, if someone was reading a romance, I would tell them about my books, quietly and in conversation. I donated some to the ward. At my OC Awareness events I might give away books for collected donations to OC Research or Education, but it is a minor part of the big push of alerting women on how to save their lives. Every time I try to cross these two passions in my life, I must be thoughtful, because promoting my writing in the face of suffering can come across as crass and just plain wrong. Which can completely turn people off to your work, something that should be avoided, obviously, at all costs.

Some passions hit around the same level on the emotional/life importance barometer and can be intertwined easily. If you are passionate about wine and wine features in one of your books, touting your book to wine lovers, on Twitter or FB or in person, can be appropriate after you’ve set up a friendly relationship with them. You still must remain thoughtful so as not to come across as only being an advertisement, but the promo is less tricky than trying to sell romance books to someone who is fighting to stay alive.

Healthy Mom Again!

Healthy Mom Again!

I am now finished with 15 months of chemo and am getting my life back in order, though I will never be the same. I’ve learned too much, felt too much, to be the same. Actually I think I’m better for the experience. In some ways cancer has connected me to readers. One woman wrote to me after reading the acknowledgments at the end of CAPTURED HEART where I detail out the symptoms. She was an OC survivor herself and thanked me for putting the symptoms out there in the world. I think she will be a reader of mine for life now. Sometimes there is cross-promo between very different passions, even passions that fall on very different levels. But it is something that cannot be forced.

So when you take stock of your life and your own passions and interests, do think of ways to use them to help promote your writing, but please remember to do so thoughtfully. What ways have you been able to cross-promote your passions?

Since it is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and because I think it is appropriate, below is a list of symptoms. They are mere whispers in a busy woman’s life, but you must slow down long enough to notice when something doesn’t seem right. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at Heather@HeatherMcCollum.com or on my Ovarian Cancer Awareness FB page: https://www.facebook.com/SHOUTagainsttheWhisper or through my web site www.HeatherMcCollum.com .

Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:

Bloating, Pelvic Pain, Feeling Full quickly while Eating Less, Urinary issues.BEATsymptoms

Other symptoms may include fatigue, constipation, pain during intercourse, menstrual issues, indigestion, and back pain. If you have a symptom for 3 weeks or more, see your GYN for a pelvic exam.

If something feels abnormal, a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a CA125 blood test should be ordered. If you have a mass to be removed, your #1 way to survive if it is cancer, is to have a GYN Oncology Surgeon remove it.

26 responses to “Cross-Self Promoting Thoughtfully”

  1. A wonderful post, Heather. Thank you. It makes me so happy to see you doing well after a harrowing time. What a great idea to donate romance novels to the ward. I bet that provides a lot of comfort to others. If cross-promoting your books helps boost awareness of ovarian cancer and save lives, I have no problem at all with it!

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  2. Jenn! says:

    You are certainly a warrior. And not just by fighting and beating your own cancer. A strong warrior also strategically and intellectually fights the offensive battles too. I love your idea of adding awareness at the ends of your books and that you have given copies to the cancer ward. Cross-promoting is not new, but your twist on it is. Kudos to you for that and thanks for the wonderful post. You are truly an inspiration.

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    • Thanks, Jenn!

      Yes, I’d say I’m definitely in offensive mode right now. I’m doing EVERYTHING I can to prevent it from coming back. I’m hitting it with everything from kale juice to an hour of exercise everyday. I don’t want it to attack me again.

      : ) Heather

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  3. Heather,

    Holy cow! You are a warrior. Amazing post. Thank you for sharing.

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    • Thanks Katie!

      I’m sure you are a warrior too when it comes to what you are passionate about. I’ve seen many a mom strike a ninja pose when dealing with bullies at the bus stop – LOL! But yes, I do own a pair of boxing gloves now, oh, and a sword!
      Heather

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  4. Liz Talley says:

    I’m thankful for your passions, Hearher, And so appreciate your whispering these symptoms to your readers and all of us at the RSS. Cross-promoting is definitely tricky and I have really stopped trying it. Every now and then, I’ll post a link to my books if something hogs my memory. Like since college football started up, I posted a link to my college football romance. But beyond an occasional “by the way I wrote a book about that” I don’t bother.

    Thanks for this appropriate post 🙂

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  5. Amanda Brice says:

    Amazing post, Heather. You inspire me every day.

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    • Thanks, Amanda : )
      I don’t feel very inspiring everyday, but sometimes it is easier to don the warrior wear (think Xena Warrior Princess in teal leather – figuratively of course!).

      : ) Heather

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  6. June Love says:

    Heather, I am always inspired by your posts. Your courage is amazing enough, but I love that you give of yourself to help spread the awareness. You are indeed passionate. There are always lines to cross when promoting, and I think being sensitive to these lines is key. Often, it takes someone who’s been there to understand that. Thank you for sharing with us.

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    • Thanks, June. I know you are a warrior too : )
      You know, this is a whole other post, but I’ve recently thought about the courage thing. I guess I could have curled up into a ball of pity and not fought. But that just seems crazy when one has three little kids and so very much to live for.
      But when people call me courageous I feel a little like a fraud. I was just doing what had to be done, but I guess I did do it with grace and a fighting spirit. Maybe that is another definition of courage. : ) Heather

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  7. Heather, such a beautiful post. I appreciate the reminder to be vigilant with our bodies. And I love your thoughts on cross-promoting. I try to look at it as making connections with readers. If you have a book that can make a special connection in some way, by all means, explore that (thoughtfully and respectfully). 🙂

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    • Thanks Anne Marie! Yes, making connections with readers – fabulous way to put it. To make a connection you have to be genuine, thoughtful, interesting, and not someone who is just a salesperson. Very good point.

      : ) Heather

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  8. Hope Ramsay says:

    Heather,

    Thanks for this inspiring post. You are, indeed, a warrior.

    I haven’t tried much in the way of cross promotion, although, as you know, I recently had a reader pull me into something that has come close. I write and blog a lot about knitting, and as you all know I ended up doing a knit-along recently to support The Hatbox Foundation, which supplies hats to cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy. Heather, you were a great inspiration for that project which collected twenty-five hand knit hats.

    I had so much fun connecting with readers and authors who knit. And I’ve had a lot of knitters who have told me that they couldn’t participate in August and would like to participate in another knit along. So I’m going to do another one before the holidays, in November, which coincides with the release of my next book, Last Chance Knit and Stitch.

    So I’m going to be a little more conscious of the cross promotion angle, and I’m sure my publisher will be as well since the knitters in the story are charity knitters. But to be honest, I’m terribly uncomfortable with the idea that I’m using a knit-along to promote a book. I just want to knit hats and connect with knitters. If book sales occur as a result, well that’s fine. My goal for the November knit-along is to double the number of hats. And that’s the only goal I have, to be honest.

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    • Hi Hope! I loved your knit-along and I’m a cancer survivor. I didn’t feel at all like you were promoting your book but using your book to benefit others by collecting hats. I think you were very thoughtful in using that angle. You did it wonderfully! I look forward to sending more hats in the fall : )
      Heather

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  9. Your story is an inspiration, Heather. It’s too easy to take our blessings for granted, and you remind us to be vigilant. God bless, Sister.

    (Oh, and that castle cake is just gorgeous!)

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  10. Heather, you are the absolute bomb. I just adore you and have since the first time I met you. So thrilled with your wonderful news of late.

    As for cross-promotion, my sister suggested once that I donate my books to doctors’ offices and hospitals to give people in waiting rooms something to read. I had to remind her that I write about the grim reaper. She thought a moment then said, “Oh, yeah. Never mind.” I feel that would be ever-so-slightly inappropriate, but she meant well.

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    • OMG, Darynda, I’m laughing so hard! You are right, that would not go over too well probably, although Charlie is nothing like the grim reaper that might scare someone. In fact, when I go I hope there’s someone as cool as Charlie to help me cross : )I think I’d follow her around for a while first, living vicariously through her as Reyes gets closer and closer. Dead peeping Tom, that would be me.
      Hugs! Heather
      P.S. I’m reading your YA and loving it!

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  11. Great blog, Heather, and such an important reminder. I was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2009 right after we all became GH finalists together. I was fortunate because I knew what to watch for so my cancer was caught very early and I was spared having to endure chemo. I just had my four-year check up and my doctor told me he’s moving me to his cured list and I only have to see him once a year now. So I’m celebrating and doing the Snoopy dance for you, too!

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  12. Tina Beckett says:

    Heather, thanks so much for the reminder and the information on what to look for. I think I listen a lot more carefully to my body as a result of following your story as it unfolded. So you truly are helping people along the way.

    I adore that last picture of you with your family…all smiles!

    Big hugs!

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    • Thanks, Tina! It feels so good to be able to travel and walk again. Makes me smile all the time : )
      I’m glad you are paying attention to your body. We women are so busy and life is so loud, that we can miss the whispers of disease. It is soooo important to stop and be still and listen.
      Hugs!

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