Marketing Your Book – Think Outside the Box

June 11, 2017

Recently, I had the honor of talking to a talented friend who is self-pubbing his book and wanted to send me a copy. I was so pleased that he’d think of me! I asked him if he planned on doing any signings, and he indicated he didn’t think there would be enough interest. Considering his topic, I took one look at the Rescue Beagles and uttered, “Poppycock!” Okay, I didn’t really say that. More like “Bullsh*t!”

See, I get cranky when an author spends countless hours writing their tomes only to admit defeat when it comes to doing the really important stuff; getting readers’ noses into the pages. In the time it takes to offer the Rescues a designer doggeh chewie, I’d thought of several out-of-the-box things he could do that would put him front and center with his core readership. I immediately disabused him of his self-defeating mindset with these ideas, and he admitted that he’d never even considered those venues.

It’s what I do on a daily basis…think outside the box.

Yes, our books are blessed to be distributed on a national basis, but that alone doesn’t guarantee sales. Readers gotta wanna read it, and this is where author participation comes in handy.

Before our authors’ books hit the shelves, we discuss the regional and not-so-regional ideas that go beyond the traditional author venues – bookstores. Signings in bookstores can be iffy propositions because you are depending on customers, whose reading tastes are varied, to be interested in your book. Obviously, the larger your author platform, the better received a bookstore signing could be. Most authors’ author platforms aren’t where they could be, so attracting a readership is tough. Even tougher if you’re doing it on your own.

Thar be considerations.

Consider Your Research

Writing professionaly isn’t for the faint of heart. You have to be tough, tough, tough, and be willing to entertain the impossible, which means your book has to have good red meat. Apologies to all vegans. How well researched is your book? Does it stand up to scrutiny? For example, I had doctors and other medical professionals writing to ask me what kind of medicine I practice. I nearly fainted with pleasure. I researched my topics for a year. A. Year. I consulted many docs. I was/am a Reiki Master. It was safe to say I knew what I was writing about.

Consider Your Readership

First step is to isolate your intended readers. For example, if your story/memoir is about ballet, then your intended readers are lovers of the ballet, or are involved directly with ballet.

Consider Your Platform

Many authors lack a large author platform, so you gotta work with what you have to get your book in front of readers. What is the golden thread that ties you to your story? It’s much easier to determine if you’ve written a memoir. But fiction writers also have a personal link to what they write. Figure out what that is. If you’re the ballet author, consider your background and life experiences and see how that will establish a core readership. The most important element is to define that golden thread that connects you to your readers, so that they say, “Yes! I’ve lived this, too!”

Consider Your Venues

Now that you’ve determined your your book has that needed red meat, defined your audience, and measured the size and legitmacy of your author platform, it’s time to figure out where to find these lovely readers. Let’s continue with the ballet author. First places I’d think of are ballet studios and ballet/shoe apparel stores. These are places that are filled to the brim with a core readership.

Many authors discover that their books don’t have a readily-definable readership. What to do? Answer: dig deeper. Let’s say your story focuses on a woman’s journey through life, and her profession is a baker. First place I’d think of for an author event is a bakery. Thar be lotsa bakeries around…even in my wee Iowa town.

What Do You Have to Offer?

Okay, you’ve done all your homework and you’re ready to approach those ballet studios or bakeries. How do that? Do you go in and beg for them to host your event? NO.

No one appreciates being asked to perform a favor. You gotta bring something to the table. You gotta take the approach of “What can I do for you?” The venue has to gain something by hosting you. Define what that is.

Using the ballet theme again, a perfect way to approach a ballet studio could be to offer a special workshop. A flat fee would buy the workshop and signed copy of the book. The studio wins. The author wins.

Let’s say your book is tougher to define in terms of a venue or audience. Don’t let that stop you! An author I know found this adorable, intimate little bar in her area. She approached the owner/manager and asked which day was his slowest. He said Tuesday. So she asked about a deal; Tuesday night, she’d do a book event. She suggested that a flat fee would buy her book and a glass of wine/beer/appetizer. Or he could simply offer discounts on Tuesday night. He was intrigued because she offered options and solutions. What did he have to lose? She made up posters and put them up on his bar windows and walls. The manager took out an ad in the paper and neighborhood flyer.

Tuesday night came, and the place filled up. She has a lively sense of humor, and received a lot of enthusiasm. Not only did the bar sell a LOT of booz and food, but she sold out of all the books she brought (50). Not a bad night.

The bar owner was so pleased that he decided to offer Tuesday nights as “Author Night,” and authors could come and give a talk. It ended up being a lucrative event for him.

I love it when a plan comes together.

But this all takes a lot of thought. And this isn’t just for self-pubbed authors. It’s for all authors. Many publishers don’t/won’t make the time or budget to extend themselves on a local level, and I think it’s a mistake. Local/regional promotion has a way of spreading out on a wider basis, because you never know who is in the audience.

If you’re talented enough to write, you’re talented enough to take your promotion into your own hands and make it work. The only time you fail to succeed is when you don’t listen to advice from experienced professionals, rely on others to maximize your success, and sit on your hands.

Go. Be daring. Be successful. Think outside the box.

 

 


Online Presence: Now Is Too-Late Thirty

November 22, 2013

late clockI hate being late. I think it’s a leftover from my childhood when Mom kept insisting I had plenty of time before school. The clocks were wrong, and I was late for school one morning, which nearly made my intestines invert because my first grade teacher was a beast who loved to scream. It didn’t stop there. My brothers were slaggers when it came time for going to church, so I’d always arrive late to Sunday school. There I was, tromping through the door, all eyes scooped up and staried at me as the teacher brought out paper and crayons so I could catch up and draw my own version of Baby Jesus – which always looked more like Elvis riding bareback on a camel.

Every Sunday, as Dad broke all the laws of physics by getting us to church in 5.5 seconds on what in the real world would take 15 minutes, I would sit back in the car plotting my brothers’ painful demise while thinking, “Here we go again, it’s Too-Late Thirty.”

So I’ll readily admit that I have some issues with being late, which means that I recognize it as easily as the Rescue Beagles recognize a fresh margarita at 50 paces.

I see Too-Late Thirty in a lot of query letters and book proposals when they discuss promotion plans, and it sends chills up my spine – and not in a good way. It usually starts like this:

“Once my book is published, I’ll start a blog/Twitter/Facebook page to promote my book.”

No, no, no, no, a gabajillion times no. It’s too late. The prevailing thought is, “If I put up a FB page, Tweet, blog, they will come.” No. They. Won’t. You have to work your Times New Roman off to attract a readership, and it takes a lot of time. The time to be thinking about your online presence as a promotional tool is before your book even sells to a publisher. Preferably while you’re still writing your book. Yah, it takes that long.

And let’s face it, the internet is a huge behemoth that contains gynormous amounts of information, so not only do you need to establish your online presence in plenty of time, but you have to figure out “Who Am I?”

Intent/Message/Tone

You wrote your book with a particular intent, and your online presence is no different. The most popular blogs have a message/tone/intent. They’re consistent in the kind of content they put out.

Humor: Humor is always a great way to capture an audience. Don’t be afraid to use it. The more you make people chuckle over their morning cuppa, the more they’ll look forward to reading your posts. And when your book does come out, your readers will rush to support you. Cha-ching!

Don’t Clash: When I was 10, Mom told me I couldn’t wear my plaid skirt with a polka dot blouse because they didn’t go together. I thought she was daft. As I’ve grown up (ostensibly), Mom can still run circles around me when it comes to knowing fashion. It’s the same with your blog/FB/Tweets. If your writing style of your book is vastly different to your blog/Tweets/FB page, then you’re creating a disconnect. Of course, I’m talking in generalities.

Boring: An author I met awhile back has a brilliant book – it hits all the emotional highs with a delicious balance of humor and throat-grabby “holy crap” moments. His blog is about the most boring thing I’ve ever seen because all he ever does is talk about statistics and quoting other articles. Predictably, his blog has icicles on its little nose because he’s regurgitating boring stuff. He’s not sharing his own amazing story. I told him if he talked about his personal experiences, he’d have something to work with. Equally predictably, his sales are quite low.

Self-effacing: Is there anything more attractive than someone who’s not afraid to poke fun at their sillier moments? Let’s face it, we all have them, right? What you’re accomplishing by being self-effacing is that you’re showing your human side and allowing your readers to say, “Oh yeah, totally been there, done that.”

Create a Community Feel

There’s nothing more attractive than blogs that say, “Hey, you’re not alone.” Regardless of the tone/theme – be it writing woes, dependence, health issues, slogging through school, or romance – there are a lot of other people who’ve traveled the same road. Include your readers and ask them to share their experiences. For instance, there’s a great Facebook page called “I Love Beagles,” and it’s wildly popular because beagle lovers (not known for being particularly normal) love sharing their stories about this insane breed.

What elements of your book can create a community feel? The idea is to present material that has your readers itching to leave a comment. This means they’re engaged. Engaged = good.

Branching Out/Capturing Attention

Now that you’ve figured out how you want to project your online presence, you’re wondering how to get readers. Easiest way is to google other blogs that compare to yours. Get active on those blogs by giving thoughtful comments. People will link on your name and see your blog – and will mosey on over to see what you have to say. Now you see why this all takes time.

Also, be sure to use tags and do the rss feed thingy. When people google, your blog may show up.

The long and short of this is, if you’re going to go to the trouble of establishing an online presence (and I think it’s a good idea), then it makes sense to do it right, and do it early. Too-Late Thirty puts you constantly behind, and you’re forever playing catch-up…and your book won’t wait. In short, have fun with your online presence. Be you.


The Great Procrastination Escapade: Establishing Yourself

July 11, 2013

procrastination

My last blog post talked about making sure that you present a united front between you and your book – meaning that your platform and promo plan is consistent with the content of your book. It’s hard to make lemonade with a book about the joys of gardening if the author’s platform is that of a blood researcher, and his promo plan is to give talks to his co-workers at the hospital.

If that isn’t hard enough, I run into many cases where authors wait too long to establish their platform in the belief they can work on that after they secure a book deal. So instead of seeing a book proposal that says, “I have done/am doing…”, I see “I’m gonna…”

Après le Book Deal – Coming From Behind

First thing I gotta ask is, what’s holding you back? It takes a long time to establish a platform. If you wait for that book deal to get cracking, your book will be out long before you barely hit your stride. And the terrain is completely different because you’re constantly playing catch up. The book is out and needs to sell, yet you’re not known by many people, so everyone has to work a lot harder to propel your book out there.

The pressure is on, and you’re worried about making sales. It’s forced. What’s worse is that you’re may be facing a lot of rejection from those whom you’d hoped would interview you, book you for a speaking gig, accept your magazine article, or host your book signing. That’s a lot of pressure, and it’s all because you’re coming from behind.

Avant le Book Deal

#1 thing I see in query letters and book proposals: “I’m going to start a blog, get a FB page, start tweeting.”

Why haven’t you started working on establishing yourself before going for the book deal? If you planned on having a blog, then why didn’t you establish it eons ago? I know of a number of authors who got nice book deals based on the fact that their long-standing blogs were wildly popular. Editors knew these folks had a built-in target audience.

One blog that comes to mind is The Underwear Drawer. I’ve been reading Michele Au’s blog for years because I adore all things medical (and I write medical fiction). I used to look forward to her ScutMonkey comics, which were based when she was a resident. I used to scream with laughter at her unique analysis of residency and all the scut jobs doctors and nurses foisted upon her. Michele’s blog became insanely popular, so it was no surprise when she announced her book deal for THIS WON’T HURT A BIT.

I can’t help but wonder if Michelle would have been as attractive a target to her publisher had she not had a very well-established, active blog. After all, there are a ton of doctor memoirs already crowding the marketplace.

So you see that I’m gonna means nothing because It. Takes. Time. Lots and lots of time to become established.

Don’t wait for that book deal to begin establishing yourself because you’re already too late.

Thoughtful Planning

Let’s get back to my make-believe knitting friend from my previous blog post. She’s written a manuscript about how knitting is a great stress buster, so let’s consider how can she establish a platform.

Let’s say she works in a bank and decides that her fellow workmates would love to hear her talk about knitting as a great stress reliever because she knows banking is stressful. I went through college working as a teller, and it was long hours, crap pay, angry grumpy patrons…but I digress.

So she’s trying to create a target audience with her fellow workmates – possibly a tough road to hoe. But let’s say her little talk to her workmates is a rousing success because she, surprisingly enough, discovered she’s a hambone and loves talking to audiences. She’s put together a thoughtful and entertaining talk that engages both men and women…who all believed they have ten thumbs.

Let’s say she’s so successful that she ends up traveling to other bank branches after hours and teaches a rousing class that she’s titled Smokin’ Hot Knitting Needles. Let’s say word travels (as it usually does), and other groups begin asking if she’d talk to their groups. Over time, this knitter realizes she’s establishing herself among a larger populace of people. And the more talks she gives, the larger her audiences becomes, and the more groups want her to speak to their members as well, until one day, a corporation asks her to give a talk. Word spreads and other corporations want her to come speak as well. Maybe the local newspaper is intrigued and does an article on her in their Local section. And the speaking offers keep coming in.

Guess what? Now she has a platform. Now she has bragging rights that back up the premise of her book – that knitting is a stress buster. Now she has defined her audience (which is basically anyone who lives with stress) and has the ability to reach them. This is what excites editors, their sales teams, and corporate genre book buyers. This is what results in book deals and nice sales.

Don’t Rush the Process

This the one thought I wish authors would tattoo on their foreheads: You’ve worked so hard on your manuscript, doesn’t it make sense to give it and you the very best chances possible?

I realize that rushing the process normally comes from lack of knowledge about the industry, and this is why it’s so important that authors research the biz before they take their first step. The breathless gasp of “I had no idea it would be this hard,” is something I hear all the time. Believe me, it’s so much easier to book an event or interview with an author who has established their platform.

I have an acquaintance who wrote a wonderful manuscript. It’s very unique and caught my attention immediately because I could see women loving this book. But she has zero platform, so I knew that no matter how lovely her book is, it probably wouldn’t sell well because the subject matter is a bit quirky. Luckily, she’s working with a marketing/branding expert who is helping the author focus on establishing her platform, even though the manuscript is complete and ready to query out. Smart, smart, smart. Because of this specialized focus, she’ll be a much more attractive target for agents and editors, thus giving sales teams a lot more meat to work with.

Publishing isn’t a matter of “if you write it, they will come.” They won’t. You won’t even be a blip on a anyone’s radar screen. A lack of platform and thoughtful promo plan is the #1 complaint I hear from authors who self-publish. They had no idea how hard it would be, and they become defeated within a few months of their books coming out. Avoid this. If you value yourself and your writing, don’t be in a rush to get a book out to market before you’re ready to properly promote it. That is what helps get you a solid book deal and sales.

Now go out and rock the world.


Be Consistent With Your Book and Your Promo Plan

July 9, 2013

Promotion

I’ve come across a number of book proposals that appear to be at odds between the book’s focus and the author’s platform and/or promotion plan, and the result is usually a rejection letter. It’s like in math, and 2 + 2 has gotta equal 4.

What do I mean by that? Let’s say your book is about knitting, and your premise is that knitting is a great therapy tool for easing tension and phobias. However, if you’re not a well-known name within the knitting community and your promo plan doesn’t include some serious contact with therapy groups, or well-attended classes where you’re teaching people to knit, then I’m going to have a harder time taking your book’s premise seriously.

Anyone can have a fabulous premise/focus/intent for their book, but the promo plan and author platform must support it. Otherwise, I’m going to have a much harder time promoting your book. Imagine if said knitter sits at home knitting toilet paper doilies or pickling eggs, who is she going to talk to? She’s not in touch with any audience, so this makes promoting her book an uphill battle.

Let’s say she works in a bank, and her idea for promotion is to give a talk to her bank mates during their lunch break. That’s also a misfire because it’s a gamble that her fellow bankers will be interested in her book. The genre buyers at bookstores would look at my sales team like they had just gulped down engine grease.

How is she in touch with her intended readership?” they’d ask. And they’d be right.

The Misfire

Publishers promote and sell memoirs based on the author’s platform and targeted promotion plan. It’s not how many people you know, but how many people know you for your book’s topic. You could be the cop who writes true crime, or the partner of someone who had a heart attack – the clincher here is how you put your experiences to work in the public eye – and then base your platform and promo plan around it.

Take a look at your book proposal (for info on how to write one, click here). These are the #1 elements I see in a promo plan in book proposals that make me want to toss myself in front of a herd of rabid camels:

  • I’m available for book signing events
  • I have a Facebook page, Twitter account, and a blog
  • I have public speaking experience

Let’s take ’em one at a time.

I’m available for book signing events

This is a tepid thing to say in a book proposal. You’re available? Well, I should certainly hope so. What you should be asking yourself is how and why would a bookstore want to host your signing. Do you have the ability to draw people to your signing event? Which gets us back to your platform. How many people know you? We schedule book events for our authors, and I can tell you that bookstores aren’t as willing to host author events unless they feel confident the author will bring in paying customers.

I have a Facebook page, Twitter account, and a blog

This has never flipped up my Victoria Secrets because I have yet to see an uptick in sales because someone started a blog, FB page, or spent hours tweeting. Establishing a following takes a long time, so if you’re waiting for a book deal to start that blog, then you’re already too late.

Showing your pretty face sells books. Whether it’s on radio, TV, print, or at a live event, people get excited seeing and hearing the author. Very few authors know how to effectively utilize the magic of social media, so their efforts don’t yield a lot of result. Unless I see that your blog is wildly active with huge numbers of comments and participation, I’m not easily impressed.

Call me an idiot (not really, please), but Twitter eludes me. Every time I visit it, I see tons of tweets flying by, and I wonder if anyone is listening. Unless you happen to be in the Twitterverse at that moment, all those tweets that happened hours ago have passed you by as well. It’s like nailing Jell-O to the wall. Unless you cook with Elmer’s Glue, the experience will slide down the wall.

I have public speaking experience

This is nice, but what does that mean? I have experience filling my car up with gas, but this doesn’t make me a mechanic. What is your speaking experience, and how does it relate to your book? Do you do seminars, or warm up the gang waiting for the train with dirty jokes? Do you speak for a living, or does this equate to calling the kids in for dinner? See, I can’t use this is information because it doesn’t tell me anything. If you’re vague, then I have to wonder why.

So in the end, it’s important to be focused and deliberate with your promotion plan and establishing your platform. If you’re a soccer coach who wrote a manuscript about the joys of baking as a stress reliever, then you have some serious work to do so editors will jump on their desks and scream, “We got us a live one!!!”

The idea is to make yourself an attractive target that showcases you and your book in the best light.


Speaking Gigs Query – Get Their Attention

June 13, 2013

angry beagle

I’ve long insisted to the beagle that she makes for a lousy public speaker, but she persists anyway. Additionally, she knows next to nothing about how to get a speaking gig, so she tends to frequent the bars instead. Don’t let this be you. A lot of you are looking to book speaking engagements as a way to promote your books. From YA writers, who speak at schools, to black-hearted, soulless editors, who speak at writer’s conferences and writer’s groups, the first step is the Query. Yah, you read that right…another *&^% query.

“Here’s what I can offer you…”

And this query is just as important as the query letter you wrote to your agent or publisher because it boils down to someone has something you want. And this is where querying about speaking gigs gets dicey.

Never Beg:  Most writers view this process as “Please, will you book me? I’m really really cool, and so is my book.” In essence, you’re begging. Never beg. You’re better than that.

Tepid:  The other viewpoint authors take is one of a simple introduction, which comes off as tepid. “My name is Really Cool Author, and my children’s book, First Class Jeans is engaging and funny with the adventures of Jeanie, a well-used pair of jeans, who travels the world and talks about her experiences.” Ok, it’s a cute idea (totally made it up), but this is a new author without an established platform, so there isn’t a clear idea as to why a school should book the gig, other than teachers might enjoy a freebie hour off from teaching Social Studies.

What Can I Do For You?:  Instead, new authors are more successful in booking gigs when they take the tact of “What can I do for you?” If you present clear ideas about your fabulosity, a school, library, hospcoffee shop, bar, etc. will jump in front of a speeding train to book you. Venues are basically looking for a reason to say yes, so a letter of simple introduction isn’t going to convince anyone.

You need something more. You need a solid pitch.

The Pitch

When I first started out doing writers conferences many moons ago, I knew that I wasn’t the only editor wanting to do seminars, so I took the tact of perfecting my pitch.

  • Introduction:  Because I’m a household name only in my mother’s mind, I need to let people know who I am and what kinds of books we publish.
  • List of seminars:  This is the “what can I do for you?” element. Instead of asking them to please, please, please consider booking you because you have fresh breath and laugh at everyone’s jokes, give them a reason why they should by including a list of your seminars. Yes, I said LIST. I found that people love having a choice (and are more likely to book you) because you’re showing that you’re not a one-trick pony. You’re varied and expansive. They know their audience better than you do, so giving them a choice increases your chances of scratching their particular itch.
  • Seminar Content: It’s not enough to just give them a list; you need to give a good description of those seminars, which means your seminars need to have great substance and meat for thought. Start by giving them a quick one-line description, then include bullet points over what you cover, and finish up by showing what their audience will learn. This is key because they now know how fabulous you are. The more info they have, the better able they are to decide which talk is appropriate for their audience.

Over the years, I’ve collected 10 different seminars. Here’s a sample of what I send out to writer’s conferences

Sample

My name is Lynn Price, and I’m editorial director of Behler Publications – an independent trade press that is focused on nonfiction. I’ve been speaking around the country for five years on a variety of topics, which are based on my award-winning book The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box. I hope you find my subject matter of interest for your conference. In addition to doing seminars, I also sit in on pitch sessions, as I’m always looking for fresh, talented voices.

Seminar 1: “I’ve Written The End – Pass Me the Maalox”

  • The Hook – what is it, and what does it do?
  • Writing your Synopsis – “Oh God!”
  • Elements that go into writing a no-snooze cover letter  
  • Submission guidelines – pay attention!
  • Making your writing recession-proof by understanding your readership  
  • Promotion plan – whaddya mean I have to promote?
  • Manuscript formatting

Three things people will learn by attending my seminar:

  1. They will learn the elements that go into creating a short but detailed query letter.
  2. They will learn details what editors are looking for in the submission process.
  3. They will learn the importance of understanding marketplace and the fallacy behind “If I write it, they will come.”


Seminar 9:  Writing Memoir/Biography – Make Them Care
This covers the difference between writing something that has a small audience and capturing an editor’s attention.

 Topics covered:

  • What makes for a big story?
  • The “Who Cares” Factor/What’s the Point?
  • Who are you, and what is your hook?

 Three things people will learn:

  1. Authors will learn to study the marketplace and trends.
  2. Authors will learn to think about their hook and work on their platform.
  3. Authors will understand the importance of having a message.

Lynn Price’s Bio – Behler Publications
Along with being the editorial director for Behler Publications, Lynn Price is the award-winning author of Donovan’s Paradigm, and The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box. Since 2003, Behler Publications has been publishing best selling and critically acclaimed nonfiction about everyday people who end up doing extraordinary things due to a pivotal event that alters their perspective about life. Behler looks for books where readers say, “I’m a better/more thoughtful/smarter person for having read this book.”

 Bestsellers include Jan’s Story by CBS journalist Barry Petersen; Throwaway Players: The Concussion Crisis from PeeWee Football to the NFL by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers president, Gay Culverhouse; and Los Angeles Times bestseller KTLA: News At Ten With Stan Chambers by former Los Angeles news icon Stan Chambers.

 In between her editing duties, Lynn is the irreverent voice of the Behler Blog, and employs two unreliable rescue beagles to serve as her secretary.

Now I’m not saying you need ten different seminars, but you should have several. Again, choice increases your chances that one of your seminars will attract the guy reading your pitch.

It doesn’t matter if you write fiction or nonfiction; there is always something you can pull from your book that will pique someone’s interest. After all, if Mr. Two Surfer Dudes could make lemonade out of what could have been rather lemony, then you can, too. Dig deep and use your marvelous imagination.

Consider your speaking gigs thoughtfully. Introduce yourself, give them a list of your seminars, and include a general rundown of what each seminar covers, and what audiences will learn. The added benefit is that you’re forced to think about your seminars with a focused intent with a intended outcome – that the audience will walk away with a lasting impression.

And before you sit back and cry, “Yabut, I’m a new writer!” I say so what? Just because you’re new doesn’t mean you’re unworthy. That’s the beauty of your seminar outline. It shows event planners exactly how marvelous you are. Go with confidence! This approach is the difference between hopey hopey to BoOya…gotta speaking gig. And speaking gigs not only sells books, but it puts you directly in front of your readership…and that’s about as delicious as it gets.


Interview Interruptus- When things go wonky

April 15, 2013

interview

One of my beautiful authors emailed me the other day to report on her latest media events. The reporter interviewing her had obviously not read her book, so she wasn’t fully prepared.

/ rant on: Why on earth would anyone interview someone when they are completely unprepared?? I’d rather eat a rusty razor blade that go into anything unprepared. Gah. /rant off

I felt for my author because she’s like most authors, who doesn’t think of herself as a product or brand, but as, well, a writer. So it’s easy to get caught flat-footed. But the truth is that once you sell that book, you need to put on your business hat and shoes (and matching handbag), and think like a promoter, which includes giving interviews.

My author’s interview interruptus brought back memories of when I faced a reporter many moons ago who was equally ill-prepared, so her questions were mind-bogglingly inane. I became a bit nervous when she looked at me with that deer-in-the-headlights expression that screams, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” so I sorta took control and spoon-fed her information that she could use…and make her look like a star.

My novel is medical fiction with a bit of a twist. When she stumbled, I jumped in and asked her if she’d ever thought about whether her doctor’s belief system could/would impact the way he treated her. Boyo, she stopped cold and really pondered the question. So I segued into Donovan’s Paradigm, and how that question plagues my two main characters, and how they wrestle with the potential and consequences of that idea. From there, it became easier for her to come up with her own questions because she became engaged in the topic.

And that’s the trick. If you draw a reporter in and make them look good, they’ll work with you. Revealing your irritation at their lack of preparation won’t get you squat.

My best advice is to channel the Girl Scouts and BE PREPARED:

  1. Always have a copy of your book on hand to give to the interviewer. They often have a copy, but if they don’t you can give them yours. It’s just a nice thing to do…even if it ends up on eBay.
  2. Go into your interview believing they haven’t read your book: That way, you won’t be surprised and will be able to remain calm and centered. When you’re calm and centered, you tend to think better on your feet.
  3. LISTEN:  Too often we’re thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than listening to the reporter’s question and watching their body language. I’ve learned this particular gem from talking to authors during marketing strategy sessions. Even though I have all the promo stuff in front of me, the authors often says something in passing that I pounce on because it encapsulates the essence of their books, and drastically changes the promo strategy. A reporter may say something in all innocence (or ignorance), and it could end up being the igniter for something brilliant that escapes your precious pie hole.
  4. Pull out your main theme that invites discussion:  The idea is to give the reporter something to grasp, so they can get a good interview. Help them out by saying something open-ended:

Interviews are stressful enough without having a case of the sphincter puckers while you watch your interview circle the drain. Give them an opener that they can use as a life line.

Reporters usually have the formulaic open-ended question tucked beneath their bra strap: “Why did you write your book?” If you have a good amount of time to blow on an interview, this question can be lots of fun because it explores you, the author, and gives you a personality. But normally, the reporter has a nanosecond, and this question eats up precious time that doesn’t say anything about your book, which is the purpose of an interview because you’re hoping to grab readers’ attention.

Best way to do that is to be prepared for the disaster.

As for my gorgeous author? Phht. She’s a pro and pulled it off…despite being deathly ill…and threw in interesting elements of her book. That said, I doubt she’ll ever go into another interview without having more tricks up her sleeve. And neither should you. Avoid Interview Interruptus, and go out and rock it.


Book Promotion – Don’t Be a TV Commercial

January 21, 2013

charmin bear

Am I the only one squicked out at TV commercials? I mean really…do we need to have a moaning hottie stretched across a Scrabble board telling Mr. Jack in the Box “No Nookie”? Is this the most effective way to sell a breakfast sandwich?

And what about the girl making out with a walrus in order to sell Skittles? Makes me want to hurk up every Skittle that’s ever gone into my pie hole.

Please don’t even get me started on the Charmin commerical with the bear family who can’t seem to learn how to clean themselves. Their tag line is “Enjoy the Go.”

Enjoy. The. Go?????? Good holy Helvetica, Batman. May the Cosmic Muffin strike me dead if I ever find myself amused because it’ll be a sure sign that I’ve finally gone ’round the bend.

Spam-a-Lot

And sure, we can probably agree this is not an effective way to market a product. But we also need to consider the gimmicks used to market books. With so many authors going DIY, I’m seeing some equally squick-worthy attempts at promotion. Most come in the fashion of the ever-irritating SPAM email. “Hey, lookie what Jane Author has written! It’s the coolest thing since Hemingway!”

Uh huh. Spammy emails – often sent by vermin passing themselves off as internet publicists – are bug repellant, not enticing nuggets of joy.

Book promotion is about calling attention to your book in a positive way that entices readers to hop, skip, and jump to their nearest bookstore. Spam emails have absolutely zero effect, and all you’ve done is separated yourself from your hard-earned dollars to someone who’s laughing all the way to the bank. Spam publicists will tell you they send “announcements” to “targeted” audiences, but that’s hooey. They have large databases and simply spam them with a click of a button. Collect $500, move on to the next sucker.

Hopefully, there are personal aspects that you can draw upon that will create a bridge between you, your book, and your readers, and spam publicists aren’t the way to go.

Look For the Golden Thread

I know there are more limitations if you write fiction. Not like you can exactly promote yourself as the owner of a purple unicorn and three trolls, right? But are there some elements to your book that can serve as a kickstarter? Something that connects you to your story and, therefore, your audience? I always harken back to Mr. Surfer Dude and his challenges of trying to sell his DIY surfer dude SF/Fantasy. We helped him make lemonade out of some serious lemons, without having to resort to inane gimmicks. He never made millions, but he ended up having a ton of fun, met a lot of new people, and sold more books than he ever dreamed possible, considering his storyline.

Blogs

I’ve seen some very effective marketing via author blogs. Blogs take awhile to gain an audience, so it’s best to have one going before your book ever comes out. One amusing blog began with the genre author’s journey of getting published…but that wasn’t the main fare. She has a wonderful sense of humor and her blog posts surround some inane, goofy thing she does, which tie directly into the type of books she writes. In short, she drew in potential readers through humor, but it ties in with her genre. So when she got a publishing deal, her book sold like hot cakes.

next15minutesI adore Kim Kircher’s blog, and not just because we published her fabulous book THE NEXT FIFTEEN MINUTES. I love her blog because it’s the perfect example of talking to her audience on  topics that connect her to them. Her posts always make me think because she finds the miraculous in her job as a bomb-tossing ski patrol Amazon woman. She ties her experiences on the slopes to everyday life – observations we can all apply to our lives. This is an example of everything done right because the tone of her blog is the exact tone of her fabulous book. And if you haven’t read it, run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore and get a copy or three. Makes for the perfect Valentine’s gift.

I’ve seen a lot of misfires as well. Blogs that try to be too serious, for instance. Now, there are times when this makes sense; human trafficking would be very hard to make light, chatty posts. The trick is to match the your tone of your blog to the tone of your book, like Kim’s. Your book could have some very serious issues – heart attacks, for instance – but if your book includes a lot of things that are utterly hysterical, it’s perfectly appropriate to strike a lighter tone with your blog because it’ll pull in readers, who will want to read your book.

Seminars/Talks

These are delicious things because potential readers get to see you up close and personal. If you’ve discovered your inner hambone, I recommend these because a live audience is the best place to get instant feedback and wonderful questions. It’s also a lovely place to get more invitations to give more talks. Dropping seeds, and all that.

But take care. I’ve seen cases where the speakers were fabulous, but their books were disappointing because they had a completely different tone. More than once I’ve told authors to think about their talks. They get standing ovations for a reason, so they MUST carry that same tone in their books. It’s what their audience is expecting. And vice versa. Your talks and your book must be complementary, not war against each other. That’s as bad as a Charmin commercial.

Whatever form of promotion you choose to do, do it with dignity. Don’t be a dancing hamburger who’s crying about having no cheese. Don’t be the poor souls at Book Expo America, who wander the rows and rows of publishers wearing toilets on their heads, or dressed up as pickles (seen ’em, pinky swear) hoping an editor will leap out, screaming, “I MUST sign you!”

Analyze your personality. Are you good in front of an audience, or would you be better doing radio? Are you a talented blogger, or do you write magazine articles? Follow your passion…after all, you went so far to write your book, so you owe it to yourself to keep your dignity and promote smartly.


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