Are You Bug Repellant or Gracious?

October 26, 2012

At a recent writer’s conference, I watched one particular author make a complete fool of himself. A friend of mine was conducting a seminar, and this clod-hooved bovine came in late, interrupted my friend by introducing himself while pulling his self-pubbed books out and passing them around the room…causing the seminar to come to a screeching halt. My friend was gobsmacked. After passing his book around, he packed them up and left without a word! Predictably, my friend was livid.

At the banquet, darned if Mr. Rectal/Cranial Inversion didn’t sit down at our banquet table and do the same exact thing. Thankfully, he only got as far as the lovely woman sitting next to me. He even pulled out a CD player and earphones (must have an audio book as well), and insisted the woman take a “quick listen.” Meanwhile, the man made no attempt to engage anyone in conversation. He politely waited for her to scan the pages, whereby he packed up and left. My mouth was in my lap. Word in the hallway was that he did this the entire weekend.

This is not being gracious. This is bug repellant.

As extreme as this case is, there are degrees of Bug Repellancy that defy logic, and you end up working against yourself when promoting your books. Most of the mistakes I see come from self-pubbed and vanity-pubbed authors, and I think it’s because they are a force of one and have no one to advise them on effective promotion.

Social Media

While sitting on an agent/editor panel, we fielded the question about social media. Every single agent supported the idea that social media is a must. The two editors, including me, didn’t agree because we’ve seen how social media is a huge black hole of white noise.

It takes a long time to establish yourself on Facebook or Twitter, so if you aren’t already well-entrenched, then you’re in for a huge disappointment. If everyone is doing the equivalent of the annoying author I described above, then who’s listening? Screeches of “Buy my book!” in 140 characters has the same efficacy as the overused exclamation point – it loses its potency with extreme overuse. With Facebook, you still need to drive people to your page, so how will do that?

We all know that social media is a HUGE time suck – and there are a handful of cases where this modality has generated huge success. Ironically enough, I spoke with many self-pubbed/vanity-pubbed authors, and their complaints were same – promotion sucks stale Twinkie cream. If they’re depending on social media, then I daresay promotion does suck.

Many authors consider social media as the go-to destination for book promotion, and they soon find out that they’re simply one of a million other voices. So what works?

What’s Unique About You?

Maybe a better idea is to ask yourself why readers would want to read your book. Is your book yet another saga of substance abuse, or vampires and werewolves? There are so many books out there, what makes your book unique? This is one of the first questions I ask when considering a manuscript. I may love the writing, but I have to back away if I don’t feel I can sell it because it lacks a unique hook.

Talking about your book’s unique qualities is a far more effective tact than blathering on about “Buy my book!” In truth, few care. What tickles your fancy:

“Buy my book! Mom and Auntie Bertie loved it!”

or

“Women are the heartbeat of the family and they never get sick…until they do, and all hell breaks loose. The nightmare happened to Brian O’Mara-Croft when his wife, Patty, suffered a ‘widowmaker’ heart attack. PULSE OF MY HEART is Brian’s and Patty’s journey on how they handled life, love, survival, and everything in between.”

One is a plea, and the other is an effective pitch about their book’s unique qualities and the elements that make this book a “gotta have it.”

But it’s a valuable consideration to those whose plans include a serious writing career. It doesn’t matter how or who publishes your book, you reach a far wider audience if you can speak to the high points of your book that will pique readers’ interest. What you’re showing is that you are thoughtful of your readership and not caught up in your own ego. You’re putting yourself in your readers’ shoes. That’s being gracious.

Go To the Source

Rather than throwing a dart and hoping it hits the target, go directly to your potential readers. There are a gajillion websites that cater to every genre, so it makes sense to become a regular. Rule #1 – NO DRIVE BY PROMOTION. Forum regulars detest this sort of thing.

Instead, be gracious. These are people who love your genre, so take the time to learn about them because the knowledge you gain is invaluable. Stop your fingers from commenting on blogs, and open your ears. If someone says something that you feel is poignant, then comment on it. Introduce yourself. Become a regular. By doing this, you’re gaining trust because you truly care about readers of your kind of book.

The universal agreement among all writers is that promoting a book is very hard work. I send out hundreds of TIP sheets and media kits for every one of our authors. I send them to print media, magazines, radio, and pertinent blogs, all in the hopes that someone will find it irresistible. I step outside the norm and hit up unlikely sources who might carry our titles and that our sales teams don’t approach. The goal is to hit the target audience with the biggest bang possible. We can accomplish far more by speaking to the salient points of a book with grace than we can by simply sending a book that says, “Read me,” or worse, pulling out your books with the expectation that everyone will slobber uncontrollably.

If you’ve put this much time into writing your book, doesn’t it only go to reason that you’d spend an equal amount of time showing yourself in the best light possible? Anyone can be bug repellant, as witnesses at this past conference, but it takes someone of heart to put their best foot forward and think of their audience, and not themselves.


Offsite Events: Full Service or A La Carte?

July 30, 2012

I’m having a flashback to when gas stations actually had full service. The cute guy with wavy blond hair would come running out. “What’ll it be?” After devouring his blue eyes, I’d gulp out, “Regular.” Then another beach-bronzed piece of filet mignon would race out to wash my windows and check the oil. Gotta love full service.

I miss full service because I’m a klutz. I’ve dumped gas on my shoes countless times and glorped my own eye with the window wash squeegee. Friends thought I’d been mugged. “Nah, just fillin’ up with gas.”

Publishing has gone the route of gas stations. Some are e-book only, while others do print and e-book. Some have excellent national distribution, others have authors serve as their unpaid sales force. Some have full-steam-ahead editing, and others run their manuscripts through the spin cycle of a quasi-working Spellcheck. Some publishers are only interested in selling to bookstores and others are only interested in selling to their authors.

It doesn’t take a Mensa member to realize that one size does not fit all. We have a la carte needs, so it’s important to have a grip on how and where you think your books will sell. Obviously, the hot button is bookstores and libraries, but that’s only scratching the surface. What kind of support will you get from your publisher if your author tour includes a ton of special events that aren’t in bookstores? Who will organize that? Them? You?

Is your publisher Full Service?

Book Events

In these hard times, many authors are getting very good at looking to special events to promote their books. One of our authors blasts the roof off by promoting at basketball arenas. Another does it with the Alzheimer groups, while others promote in all kinds of off-the-chart places. So the question is one of, “How to you get the books there?” Well, in nearly every case, a bookstore handles sales, which means they order, transport, set up, sell, take down, and transport back to the bookstore.

And who coordinates this?

Well, in our case, we do. I feel better about doing this because I’m fluent in BookSpeak. Authors aren’t, normally. They have enough headaches going on without having to handle the book end. Often they don’t realize the need to constantly follow through to make sure the books are actually ordered and have arrived. I do. Any publisher does.

Just Because We Can Doesn’t Mean We Will 

A friend of mine who’s with a Big Six publisher told me that she’d rather eat a rusty razor blade than deal with offsite events because they’re such a pain. And they are because there are a lot of moving pieces. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be willing to do it. Facts are, the big guns don’t have that kind of manpower to expend on one author. They’re used to dealing in bulk. Small fries like us can easily handle individual requests, no matter how much offsite events make us want to mainline Drano, because we don’t have nearly as many authors.

Why Would We Do It?

Why would we go through the hassle of planning offsite events? $$, of course. Not all books will necessarily sell as well in bookstores as they might at specialty events. Books like ours tend to be specific to a particular audience, so it’s logical to consider where and how an author can find them all under one roof. You can sell bucketloads more books at those kinds of events than a half-year in a bookstore…depending on the book.

The second reason is $$. Oh, I already said that, didn’t I? Not only will offsite events yield better sales, but the bookstores have finite shelf space. Books that we (I’m speaking collectively here, not just us) think will sell like hotcakes in the stores may experience very tepid purchase orders. Recently, I saw a case where an author’s first book created a HUGE reaction, and sales were insane. The publisher couldn’t get them out fast enough. It hit the NY Times bestseller list, and the author was interviewed far and wide. Everyone thought his second book would sell just as well.

Crickets.

B&N didn’t want it, few of the indie stores wanted it. Canadian  purchase orders were their only saving grace – and everyone is holding their breath the books don’t come sailing back in returns. Yet, mommy smut is selling at untold numbers. Go figure.

With a marketplace as volatile as this, is it any wonder everyone is scared of their own shadow? There is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to what will sell, so it’s all the more reason to know how far your publisher will go to chase down sales.

Authors, Don’t Attempt This On Your Own

Offsite events can be a mess in terms of returns, invoicing, delivery, coordination between the bookstore and the venue hosting the event. It’s a headache that no author should have to shoulder. When you’re talking to an editor, let them know if you have a strong ability to sell at specialty venues and ask them if they can and will support that. It’s the difference between assuming a huge headache and showing up with a fresh smile while letting someone else do the grunt work.


Promo Plan – Cool Idea vs. Cool Reality

July 9, 2012

I know I’ve blathered on about promo plans numerous times, but it just can’t be discussed enough. Whether you’re going DIY or looking for trade publishing, you need to have a realistic promo plan.

Let me give an example of what I mean.

Author’s Promo Plan:

I plan on approaching baby stores about carrying my book about preemies, including store chains like Babies R Us.

What an Editor is Thinking

Very cool! But where is the author’s market research to see if baby stores will actually carry preemie books…i.e. her preemie book? Where is the statement that says the author talked to a few store managers about whether they would be interested in such a deal? Where is the proof that this plan is even viable?

If it isn’t there, then an editor will see this for exactly what it is: An idea. While ideas are great, they aren’t a promotion plan.

A promotion plan is ability to implement.

What Makes Editors Gooey
So let’s change this around a bit so it catches an editor’s eye:

I have spoken with numerous baby stores in my area after noticing that they had no books about preemies, yet they have great preemie clothing departments. The managers were enthusiastic about the possibility of selling my book, especially when I offered to give a talk at their stores to preemie parents. Additionally, I talked the the head buyer of the preemie department at Babies R Us, and she was excited about seeing my proposal that would get my book into their stores.

See the difference? Editors love ideas. But what they love more is something that has been proven to be possible and is already set in motion by their publicity teams.

Editors have been around the block a few times and spot the difference between, “Hey! This is a great idea” and “Hey! This is reality.” Be prepared to have the goods.

Competitive Titles

Another thing that authors should know is their competition. I know it’s not good to talk in absolutes, but this really is something authors should do if they’re serious about their literary future. I’ve seen more than a few authors (or their agents) include title comps that are as old as the hills and twice as dusty in the attempt to show there’s a hole in the genre and their book will bring this subject matter up to date. Thing is, we do our own search, and if I see scads of books that are very current and very competitive to your book, then I’m going to shake my little finger at you ‘cos you done be busted.

And really, you need to do this anyway, so you understand what you’re up against. If you’re busy wondering why your cancer book isn’t selling, then maybe it’s because you failed to notice the bajillion cancer books already flooding the market. If you’ve spazzed out on establishing a platform, and you have no idea of your competition, then you aren’t properly prepared to sell many books.

You need to be able to speak intelligently to how your book compares and contrasts to your competition. I mean, won’t you look quite the silly if someone interviews you and asks how your book compares to last year’s big hit…and you don’t know it exists? Seen it; squicked out in sympathy for the author. Don’t be that author.

Writing a book is a romantic idea – no really, it is. We get this idea burning in our souls and take the time to get it out. We sweat blood, drink a lot of bad gin (or is that just me?), and wake up in the middle of the night with a brilliant twist of a phrase. But once it’s written, you haven’t reached the end. You’ve reached a whole new beginning, and how you prepare for that predicates the impact your book will make on the marketplace.

Don’t get caught with your Vickie Secrets down around your ankles. Separate the Cool Idea from Cool Reality, and keep your eyes wide open to your competition – and you’ll find an editor who simply can’t live without you.


Are you undervaluing your book?

June 27, 2012

I know, I know, you’re looking at me in horror. “Undervalue my BOOK? Are you barking mad?”

Of course, we all believe our books are fabulous things that are worthy of high praise, oodles of money, and undying love from fans all over the world. Not talking about that, though. I’m talking about something deeper, which involves underestimating your book’s potential. This comes from not looking at your book through a marketing prism.

Case in point; I met an author at a writer’s conference who’d written a personal journey about her addiction and how it had impacted her family. The thing that made it noteworthy is that the book included her daughter’s perspective as well. Interesting concept, sez I, it’s a big book.

Blink blink. Big book?

Absolutely. Any editor who signs you is looking down the road as to the book’s impact on the marketplace. This book is unique because, while there are a jillion addiction books, the commonality drops off when you include addiction from the viewpoint of those who had to suffer through it with you. As such, this book would be great for Alateens and Alanon members. You and your daughter could be doing talks about your experience and offer advice, taken from your book, to help others who are still living the nightmare.

The author blinked again. She admitted that she’d never looked at her book in that way. She was simply writing about her and her family’s experiences.

She undervalued her book. And lots of writers do.

Story vs. Potential

Memoirs get their roots from something happening in someone’s life that’s extraordinary, and he/she decides to write about it. Authors suffer from tunnel vision, in that their entire focus is on the story; not the potential.

I’ll let you in on a poorly-kept secret: Potential is why publishers want a book.

Editors don’t just look at the story itself, they look at how far the book can go, how widely they can market it, and how many audiences will find the book interesting. The bigger the target, the more exciting the potential.

Authors who appreciate this have already taken preliminary steps toward approaching that potential target before the book even sells to an editor. For instance, the author with the addiction book already has an established relationship with AA, so she can easily contact the various groups to discuss her book. She and her daughter can develop a few talks that discuss their hard experiences and the factors that got Mom clean and brought their family back together.

She could also be talking to schools in order to reach out to kids whose parents have an addiction problem, or those kids themselves have more than a passing fancy to the drink. They could talk about the damage that path created from a firsthand perspective. And all of these talks lead right back to her book. If she starts giving talks now, then she has an established platform in which to wow an editor, who will do the happy dance.

The other option is to do nothing, which won’t make a potential editor dance quite as wildly because the author has zero platform, and there isn’t much time in which to establish one.

Fiction

And you novelists aren’t immune to undervaluing your books. It’s true that you don’t need a platform for a novel because, well, your world is fake. However, you’d be hardly kicked out to the curb for having a platform.

I’ve referred to my experiences with the Two Surfer Dudes from time to time because he is such a great example of taking nothing and turning it into something. Long story short, this surfer writer penned a fantasy/SF book whose main characters were surfer dudes – sort of a Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but with some really oddball characters in a funky SF/fantasy setting. In short, a really tough sell.

Predictably, no editor would touch his book. By the time he sat down in my promotion seminar, he was pretty down in the mouth because he’d gone vanity press and realized he’d get zero promotion help or distribution. He ended up making lemonade by capitalizing on his own experiences as a well-known local surfer to launch his book to his potential readership – other surfers.

Because he knew nothing about how books are sold, he’d undervalued his book’s potential by not considering how his personal life could elevate his book’s footprint.

So for your novelists; take a peek at your own lives. Is there something you can pull out from your life that creates a bridge between your story and your target audience? Are you the the cop who writes detective novels? Are you the Reiki Master who writes about a surgeon who incorporates alternative medicine in her practice? Are you a nurse who writes medical romance novels?

If you look inward, it’s possible that you have qualities that will elevate your book from “eh” to “wow!” After all, if a surfer dude can sell a fantasy/SF about two surfer dudes, anything is possible when you take steps to do some serious analysis.

Vision

Analysis takes vision. It means that you’re looking beyond just your story, and envisioning key elements that will attract an audience. Your story is more than just your imagination. It’s a culmination of your experiences, your perspective on how you view the world, and what’s burning in your soul. It’s that literary itch that needs scratching. It’s passion.

If you’re not emotionally attached to your story, then how do plan to advocate its reason-to-be? Even a fun little romantic comedy has deep roots that drive your passion, right? It shouldn’t be a stretch to expand your vision in order to appreciate the value of your book and decide how far you can take it.

I’ve met more than a few authors whose faces were painted with panic when I suggested huge plans for their book. They simply hadn’t taken the time to look at their story’s potential and didn’t understand the vision it takes to go where no book has gone before. Ah, thank you, Capt. Picard.

So take another look at your book and analyze whether you’re undervaluing your little friend. If you are, then maybe you could think about changing course, and go get ’em!


Online presence – is it necessary?

June 26, 2012

The question comes up periodically as to whether it’s absolutely necessary to have an online presence, so I thought I’d break this question down into bite-sized pieces  because, let’s face it, “online” is an oversized beast. You have the usual suspects; Twitter, Facebook, a blog, a website, LinkedIn…and it all begins to overwhelm, right?

So what’s necessary? Or mandatory?

For starters, nothing is mandatory, and no one is putting a stapler to your head and forcing you to make merry with the Internet. However, the question becomes academic when editors are looking at a book contract. The first thing the sales guys ask for is the promo plan. If I come out and say that the writer lives under a rock and barely has running water, they will laugh me out of the zip code.

No Islanders, Please

Not everyone is in touch with their inner hambone, so what do you do if you’re just plain shy? Well, it makes things a lot more challenging for your editor. Gone are the days where one can pull a Hemingway by writing from exotic locales while drinking with the natives, and sell bajillions of books. It’s all about promotion and publicity – and sitting on an island (no matter how intoxicating) won’t let readers know that you and your book exist.

Of course, your editor and promo teams do their bit by blasting your book out to the national accounts, local bookstores, libraries, media, and reviewers. But be aware that no matter how far and wide your publisher blasts your book, sales depend on one thing; the reader who will buy the book, love it, and talk about it. And this is where social media can be a big help because they reach millions of potential readers with a single keystroke.

Connecting with a large audience vs. Hit ‘n Run

It’s not enough to simply start a blog or sign up for a Twitter or Facebook account, blab about your book, and boOm, instant sales. Those of us who have been involved with social media will attest to rolling our eyes at the “Hit ‘n Run” author. These guys do nothing but talk about themselves and their wonderful book, and always include a link to Amazon. They don’t cultivate online relationships and treat those friends like, well, friends. Instead, they barge into TwitterLand or comment on blog posts with the link to their book and a thinly-disguised suggestion to rush to Amazon and buy their book.

They only take; they never give. This isn’t effective social media. Just because people aren’t sitting across the table from you doesn’t mean a departure from social niceties. If you want people to engage with you, you have to give them something to engage with. The more you give of yourself (and I’m not talking about handing out your locker combination), the more people will be attracted to you. Give and Take is much better for your literary career than Hit ‘n Run.

Natural Curiosity

Having an online presence is two-fold; not only are you meeting new people who have the same interests as you, but it’s the main chance for your readers to learn more about you. Now, that may squick you out because you’re a private person, but many readers who love a book have a natural curiosity about the author. A blog, FB, or Twitter account satisfies a reader’s author fix.

You don’t have to reveal your shoe size or true color of your hair (personally, I have no clue about mine, other than I’m sure it involves lots of gray). I know a few very private, shy people who have a lovely online presence because they deflect away from their personal lives. They’re great about interacting with others by asking how they’re doing, did they finally get over the flu, or how’s that broken toe.

It Takes Time

One thing that bothers me when looking at submissions is when the author says they “plan” on getting involved with social media. For starters, this shows me they are true neophytes. You don’t sign up with FB, Twitter, or start a blog and expect instant attention. It takes time…LOTS of time to gain a readership. If you aren’t established now, then the social media promotion doesn’t flip up my Vickie Secrets.

Who Is Reading Me?

Your potential readers, for one. It’s just like what Ma Bell used to sing on their commercials; “Reach out and touch someone.” Only you’re reaching out and touching lotsa peeps. And you never know who may stumble across your blog or Twitter feed. I’ve received many emails from reviewers or journalists who read a blog post or saw my Tweet about a particular book of ours and wanted a review copy.

While at the ALA last Sunday, a librarian told me that she read my tweet about Ann Meyers Drysdale signing copies of her book, YOU LET SOME GIRL BEAT YOU? at the Consortium booth, and wanted to be sure she got her copy because they were planning on ordering for their library. We’ve also received interview requests because of a tweet Annie did. Huzzah to social media.

People of like minds will follow your blog, Twitter feed, or FB page, so it’s important to pander to that crowd. If you wrote a book about inverted belly buttons, then it’s a good idea to focus to the inverted belly button crowd with tweets or blog posts.

Networking is the most valuable friend in the publishing business (well, any business, for that matter), and social media allows you to network on a much larger scale – provided you’re doing it right.

What do I write about?

This is a big ticket item that plagues lots of blogs. The author has no real idea what to write about, so there’s no cohesion…which means, no steady readers. Too many fall into the trap of writing about being writers, which won’t necessarily appeal to those who will buy your book. I’ve noticed many popular author blogs focus on appealing to their readers by writing about their genre and how it mixes with their lives.

Tawna Fensky’s blog is a prime example of this. She’s extremely clever and always manages to incorporate the romance genre and how she views the world through that prism. The result is hysterical because she taps into the most common denominators that many can relate to. I don’t even read romance, but I did buy her book. Multiply that times a whole lotta other people, and you have an author who is going to sell a lotta books…and I can attest to that because I’ve seen her sales on Bookscan.

But Tawna began her blog two years before her book came out. That’s what I mean by planning ahead, knowing what to write about, understanding that lots of influential people could stumble across your blog, and appreciating the natural curiosity of blog readers.

Maintenance: Once Involved, Stay Involved

Is there anything worse than going to someone’s blog and seeing their last post was in June 2011? You can see the cyber cobwebs in the corners. It’s depressing.

If you’re gonna do it, you hafta maintain it…which is laborious, especially blogs. You need to come up with new blog posts all the time, and there are times when the creativity just ain’t working, and the well runs dry. The easy move is to just abandon it. Problem is, it’s easy to stay away, especially if you’ve been blogging for a long time. You need to come up with fun stuff that keeps it entertaining for you, too.

Maintaining your presence, whether it’s through writing a blog or hanging out in Twitter or FB, is about balance between your real life and your online life, so you need to consider how often you’ll blog. Every day or three times a week? You want to avoid losing readers, so it has to be often enough to keep them coming back.

Interaction Schminteraction

Lots of this stuff gets lost in the ether, so it’s a lot of time spent with possibly little rewards. Interaction can be overrated, and if you’re just not into that, then put up a website. This gives your readers someplace to go to find out more about you and your book. It’s a great place for reviews and links to upcoming events, or news articles.

End All, Be All

There are plenty of readers who don’t follow social media and buy books from talking to friends, trolling the bookstore, or reading the newspaper. That’s why it’s important to have a well-rounded promo plan.

In the end, whether you involve yourself in social media is a personal decision. Your editor can’t make you do it (though you’d be insane not to at least have a website), but I’ll wager my margarita budget that they consider your social media involvement (or lack, thereof).

When I’m considering offering a contract, I check the author’s online presence because I know readers will check. It’s great if they already have an active blog with lots of commenters. Personally, I don’t care if they’re on twitter or FB because I’m not wholly convinced those two mediums sell a ton of books.

Conversely, I get a case of butterflies if an author intends to rely solely on social media as their promotion plan because promotion is a multi-pronged attack. It can be a huge benefit (provided it’s done right), but it’s not meant to serve as a replacement from all other promotion.

The end game is this: If you’re going to do social media, do it right. Is it necessary? Depends on your personality, the kind of book you’ve written, and your ability to appeal to your potential readership. It can be a lot of fun or akin to giving the beagle a bath. Tread carefully and mindfully.


Public Speaking – Tapping Into Your Inner Hambone

June 15, 2012

In light of my post on how to best pitch your seminar to the Ms. Head Bananas of the world, I thought I’d talk a bit more about seminars and public speaking, in general.

Promotion is key to gaining a readership, and one of the effective ways of doing this is public speaking. It’s not for everyone and can be an acquired taste. But it also makes an impact because it’s the only place where potential readers can see you in all your gorgeiosity. They can see your passion and your humor – and trust me, this goes a LONG way to making a sale. I’ve seen great speakers sell out of really crappy books. Conversely, I’ve seen really crappy speakers not sell a single copy of a fabulous book.

So the advice here is, do public speaking if it really floats your boat.

Why Do a Seminar?

Well, for starters, you do a seminar because you have information to impart, and it’s pretty easy to find a place that will give you the platform in which to get that message out. Bookstores are a logical choice, since they’ll sell your book for you after you’ve spoken to your adoring masses. But there are plenty of other places, as well. Consider your readership and figure out where and how to gather them together in a single venue. A captive audience is one who will buy your book.

Topic seems to be a sticking point for a lot of authors – what is my message when I write romance/fantasy/SF/mystery/thriller/historical fiction? I’ve often used the example of Mr. Two Surfer Dudes because he’s a shining example of how to take something from seemingly-nothing and create a wonderful platform for his books. Now that was a gent who really found his inner hambone.

Your message is key. It should teach something, enlighten, or inspire. Nonfiction is pretty much a no-brainer in the seminar department – but even nonfiction writers can miss the mark. They are so close to their book that, oftentimes, they fail to see the marketable qualities that can be pulled out and discussed in a seminar. This is why it’s vital to discuss this with your editor and/or their marketing guys. They have ideas bursting out their pores.

Booking an Event

Bookstores and libraries are more apt to book an author for a signing if they have a talk because they have more to promote than just your book. Which poster would entice you to attend a book event:

Come to a booksigning for Alana Banana, author of If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Time For Margaritas

or

Come listen to author Alana Banana discuss her book, If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Time For Margaritas – a humorous look at bar drinks from around the US. Alana will discuss which cocktails are better, why a single cocktail will add years to your life, and why rum is considered nectar of the gods.

The second blurb is meant to pull in readers who would be interested in a book of this nature, along with learning something.

Consider your book, even if its fiction. Is there something you can pull out that would make for an interesting talk? Back when I doing promotion for Donovan’s Paradigm, I wanted to get readers thinking because that’s an extension of my book. So I had a talk that asked the question, “Do you think your doctor’s beliefs influence the way they treat you?”

It was an intriguing question that brought in readers to hear what blasphemy I had to say. It made for a lively give and take with the audience, which I adored. And they always bought the book.

I”m Shy

Many authors would rather swallow hollow-point bullets than speak in front of an audience, so perhaps doing Skype talks or blog interviews is more your thing. The important consideration is to allow readers to “see” you, to get a feel for who you are. You may not think you’re terribly fascinating (ask my kids; they think I’m as dull as an English muffin), but your readers don’t, and they appreciate the opportunity to hear what you have to say.

In this business, shyness is a buzzkill.

Analyze Your Personality

Writing a book is no longer a matter of, “If you write it, they will come.” They won’t. With all the distractions in our lives, it’s easy to get lost among the white noise, which means that we all have to work harder to be heard. That also means that editors love an author who isn’t afraid to get out and show their pretty faces.

Take the time to analyze yourself; what kind of promotion are you comfortable doing? Personally, as hambone-y as I am, I will bathe in engine grease rather than do a booksigning event because it’s so hit or miss.

Even if I have a great talk planned, there’s no guarantee that anyone will show up. To counter that, I contact my potential audience. In Donovan’s Paradigm’s case, I sent out flyers to local nursing groups, alternative care clinics, and doctor’s clinics. The last thing I wanted to do is talk to the one guy who came in for the free water and cookies. At that, planning doesn’t equal success.

But dollars to doughnuts, I can attest that I always sold far more books after making public appearances. Yeppers, it’s that important. So if you feel you have a hambone just waiting to surface, give it some meat to work with and think about what elements of your book would make for a wonderful talk.


Promo plan – beware the name dropping

March 29, 2012

"I knows lotz of peoplez..."

I’m a one for specifics. I often b-p-m (bitch, piss, and moan) about SPECIFICS when discussing query letters and synopses, and now I’m b-p-m’ing about it in book proposals. In a word, vague bites it. If you’re going to mention The Big HooHa Name in your proposal, then I really appreciate it when you back that up with specifics.

Here is an example of what I mean…something that drives me a bit batty because I see it so much in the promotion plan section of book proposals:

“Joe Bogglesfart is head of Big HooHa Group and has promised to help promote my book any way he can.”

What does this mean? It’s lovely you mention a Mr. BigPants, but how does his name and position specifically play into helping promote your book?

  • Is he going to have you on his radio show?
  • Is he going to host a signing event and make sure all the local media is there to capture your smiling mug?
  • Does he have the stuffing to get you on the Today Show?
  • Will he climb to the top of Mt. Everest and give a big shout out to the yaks?

See, without specifics, I consider this a throwaway statement because it has no meaning.

On the other hand, this is very helpful:

“I am long-life friends with Joe Bogglesfart, who is host of the popular morning show, The Anorexic Yak. He has promised to have me on his show upon release of my book.”

This lets me know that I may be able to anchor some national buzz for your book should this appearance come to pass.

I know it’s fun to be able to toss around important names because we hope that importance will leech over to us. But it has to mean something. The name Antonio Banderas will naturally have me breaking out in a post-menopausal sweat, screeching, “Where? Where? Let me at ‘im!” But unless Tony has offered to do a commercial on prime time TV discussing my brilliance, then he’s little more than a name that has no meaning attached to it.

The Foreword

Another pet peeve that drives me to mainline rotgut gin at noon is the promise of a Mr. BigPants foreword. Unless you really have that promise in the bag – preferably already written – then avoid saying it. I’ve seen all sorts of promises like this only to find out, after digging deeper, that well…um…er…Mr. BigPants’ foreword isn’t forthcoming after all.

It may be perfectly legit, and you thought you really did have that promise, but it looks a bit suspect if you’re standing in my Nikes. Avoid the problem by keeping it under your hat. If it does come through, think how your editor will do the happy happy joy joy dance and sing your praises ’til the beagles stop howling. After all, the fact that a big name has offered to write a foreword isn’t a selling point to me. Your book is the selling point, and everything is else is gravy.

I tend to think of this name-dropping thing as query-stuffing in much the same manner as when Mary Katherine Horner used to stuff her bra in sixth grade. It was as phony then as query-stuffing is now. I realize authors stuff their queries with big names so I’ll get all slobbery and ask for pages. And I may have done that many years ago, but now, after a few bumps and burns, I’m harder to impress.

It all comes down to the book. If the book and the author’s personal platform speak for themselves, then “big name” is simply icing on the cake. That way, if things fall through, I’m not weeping in my margarita.

In other words, no try to foolz us, ‘cos we getz mad.


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