Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, December 14, 2009

Promoting London-style


I am thrilled to be doing an interview with Marsha Moore, author of 24 Hours London, which is a handy guide to enjoying London. My husband and I have had fun thumbing through and daydreaming about what we will do when we go to England one of these days!

I have been following Marsha's blog and reading her interviews here and there, and the picture of a savvy author/promoter has taken shape. I asked her a few questions relative to how she marketed her book, and I love her answers. Hopefully, many of you will find this interview helpful. I certainly did.

24 Hours London is a fun, handy travel guide with a twist. How did you come up with the idea for it?

Thanks, Karen! The idea was developed through a rather convoluted process over a couple weeks. I’d met a publisher who was seeking non-fiction projects. Since I love London and I love exploring, most my ideas were London-related. There’s already a lot of London material out there, so we needed something different; something that didn’t already exist. Most London guides list a mind-boggling number of activities and sights to see, but there didn’t seem to be a guide to help people decide what to do, when – a kind of ready-made itinerary spanning 24 hours. A few more brainstorming sessions later, and the 24 Hours London idea was born! I wrote up a few sample hours to give my publisher a sense of how it would look, and the project developed from there.

What kind of direction did your publisher give you regarding marketing and promotion?

We had a lot of discussions and brainstorming sessions about marketing and promotion; it was very much a team effort. Luckily, we both had previous experience in public relations so we already had a sense of what might work and how to go about getting coverage. We developed a comprehensive ‘plan of attack’ well ahead of time so we were both on the same page.

As with most publishers large and small, the only constraints were time, resources and cost. I’d read a lot about how authors need to take responsibility for their marketing, so I was more than willing to help my book succeed! It was a lot of time and effort – from finding the right contacts at national newspapers to writing press releases – but it definitely paid off. The book The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson has a lot of great (and no-cost) promotional ideas.

I first heard about you and 24 Hours London on Nicola Morgan’s blog. How did you approach her? Have you been reviewed or interviewed on other blogs? Print media? How did you go about getting media attention?

I’d followed Nicola’s blog since its launch about a year ago and I found it extremely useful in advising how to approach and pitch publishers. So when I finally got a book deal, I dropped Nicola a quick line just to say thanks! She asked me to do an interview on her blog, and I was delighted. That was a good marketing lesson for me: you never know when one of your emails will blossom into a great opportunity.

About a month before the book came out, I made a list of blogs and media I thought would be interested and emailed them with a PDF of the book, asking if they’d do a review. Some didn’t respond but many did, and I managed to get some great reviews from influential bloggers right around my release date. The media was a bit harder to crack, but after pitching a few articles based on my book, I got a few hits from some fairly large papers. The key with the media, I think, is not to be afraid to pitch different ideas, even if you don’t hear back from them the first time. Try to find a local or unique angle on your book that makes it relevant to the paper and make sure to send your pitch to the right contact (that’s half the battle!).

And I have to mention the wonderful world of Twitter! It’s been a great medium for me to talk about my book launch, run giveaways and contests, and network with others. I got a radio interview with a fellow Canadian through Twitter, as well as other blog interviews. I’ve ‘met’ a lot of people who’ve been really helpful in getting the word out there about the book.

I like the story of how you successfully approached the mayor of London for a blurb. It goes to show that it never hurts to ask. What advice would you give to authors seeking endorsements? What other success stories can you share about your marketing efforts?

‘It never hurts to ask’ is by far the most important thing I’ve learned. When my publisher suggested getting a blurb from the Mayor, I was willing to try but secretly thinking no way! Three months later, completely out of the blue and long after I’d given up hope, I got an email from the Mayor’s office saying he’d give us a quote – which of course was a massive boost to the book in terms of credibility and marketing.

For authors seeking endorsements, I think the best thing is to just to ask. Try to find other authors or public figures who are relevant to your market and who might lend credibility. Make it easy for them by writing a few blurbs for them to choose from, if they like. And make sure to give them plenty of time to respond. The majority may completely blank you, but if you get one good blurb it’ll be worth it.

I’m also proud of helping to get my book into some of the big London bookstores in time for Christmas. Many of the bookstores had done their buying well in advance, but we visited quite a few in person and pitched the book to them. It was very well received and a couple weeks later many had stocked it! I was wracked with nerves at the thought of selling it face to face, but the results were great.

What has proven to be the most difficult and the easiest parts of promotion for you? Are you like many writers, just wishing you could go back to work and not have to worry about book promotion? Or do you enjoy this part of the author’s life?

Definitely the most difficult thing about promotion is the sheer amount of time it takes to manage. Keeping track of lists, reviews, updating websites and trying to stay on top of everything can drive you bonkers! While I can’t say I found any part of the process easy, I did enjoy a lot of the marketing aspects. When it’s your own product, you can’t help but feel excited and passionate about it. Every time you send an email, there’s an element of excitement: will you get a good review? Will an editor ask you to write an article? What might happen next? So I do enjoy this part of an author’s life, as different as it is to the isolated writing process.

As with anything, though, it’s hard to stay balanced – it’s easy to let the excitement of promotion take over. I tried to keep in mind that above anything else, I’m a writer. I set a daily word target each day to make sure I still managed to do a bit of writing.

What are the five top goals you have for your writing career?

One the non-fiction side of things, I’d like to help grow the 24 Hour brand and develop my reputation as a travel writer. In my fiction writing – which I’m still learning a lot about – I’d like to develop as a story teller and learn more about plot construction and character development. On the business front, I need to understand more about contractual issues and rights related to e-books and such.

Is that five? You’re making me think here, Karen!

What is your next project and how do you plan on promoting this one? What will you do differently, what will you do the same?

24 Hours Paris is due to be released in March 2010 and the promotion plan is pretty much the same as the last book. I’m really happy with what we managed to achieved and I have my fingers crossed the results will be as good for Paris!

Thank you, Karen, for having me on your blog. If any of your readers have questions, they can email me at marshawrites AT gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer! I’d love to hear about others’ promotional ideas, too. And if anyone would like to buy 24 Hours London, it’s available on Amazon or from the Prospera Publishing website (www.prosperapublishing.co.uk) with free delivery worldwide!

Thanks, Marsha, for a wonderful interview!

9 comments:

  1. Wow! What great advice from a pro! If only I'd had 24 Hours Paris when I went there in '98! We only had 24 hours and arrived by bus, without a shower, and sitting in front of some noisy drunks! The city was very clean though since they cleaned it up for the World Cup.

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  2. I guess it pays to be fearless. It can go a long way in book promotion.

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  3. You're welcome, Marsha. I think in a few years you will be in too much demand to do lowly blog interviews :) So I'm glad I got you here now! I know what you mean about the time element of promotion. Even blogging takes a lot of time, and that's all I'm doing right now. But it all pays off, if one is committed to putting in the hours.

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  4. Hey, Liesel, you ought to send a link to this post to all the WiDo authors past, present and future. Great tips here! From someone who actually did it, which makes it worth a lot more.

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  5. I have GOT to figure out how to be more effective on Twitter!

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  6. Thanks Karen and Marsha. That was packed full of great into.

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  7. This is just a brilliant read, well done

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