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!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Author Promotion

My last post about book signings with the anxiety and even desperation that often accompany these events got me thinking about author promotion. The message is getting through loud and clear-- authors have to promote themselves and their books because nobody else will care enough to do it. The publisher cares, but often has a whole lot of books to market, with most of the attention going to the next title, or to the bestselling titles, or whatever. Anyone but moi, right? And if you are lucky enough to be one of those bestsellers, you better stay with it to keep your place on top.

There's no way out of it. We have to promote.

I have an upcoming interview with 24 Hours London author Marsha Moore on her book promotion. She has some great ideas and success stories. I am obsessed by this idea of promotion. There's a lot out there on the subject--good, bad and ugly. That idea of approaching passersby to put a copy of your book in their hands? No, that's a bad idea. Jane's comment about the writer of the recipe book in Costco wearing a chef's coat and engaging people with a genuine smile--good idea.

What are some of the ideas you've heard? Some that you want to try? Some you would never feel comfortable with? That you would resist with every fiber of your being? And what are you excited to do?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Blogging relieves anxiety and Book signings don't

When I have anxiety over things, even a near panic attack, I can blog and it calms me down. Maybe because it's instant writing to an audience (although a somewhat invisible audience), which to a writer is instant gratification. Chocolate will also calm my anxiety attacks, but blogging is less fattening. And talking to my husband or one of my kids who know how to relate to my crazy fears also helps, but they're all asleep.

I could write about what is giving me anxiety and bore you all to tears. Half the time I don't know myself, it just comes in the night, a sleep snatcher, and drives me to do things--like fill the dishwasher, fold laundry and blog. Read, comment, post. Read, comment, post.

Okay, now to the second part of this post, which I'm sure is much more interesting and thought-provoking than "my anxiety and how I cure it":

A Tale of Two Book Signings.

I attended W. Everett Prusso's signing at Borders last Friday and was very impressed. He had a poster set up, he had invited many, many friends and family, and he had a group of family members who stayed with him the entire time so he wasn't sitting there alone. A good number of his invited friends stopped by and purchased copies of his book, Ghost Waves. The people at Borders were pleased by the results. He prepared ahead of time, and at the event he conducted himself with class and good taste.

Now the next story. It's short and painful. Setting--Costco, a great place to have carry your book and do signings due to all the traffic. Characters-- woman with a stack of books at her table and an attractive young man who just happens to belong to the clan of Gowen. Freakish event that really did happen-- the Gowen fellow is walking down the aisle of this Costco toward the book section with an acquaintance of the female gender. Gowen is closest to the author's table. Author, still seated at her table, grabs his hand and says, "I'm so and so, and I wrote this book." Handsome Gowen fellow nods, smiles and says, "Okay," as he quickly walks on, with no desire whatsoever to even look at her book, let alone buy a copy.

Conclusion: This is why people will avoid book signing tables. They're afraid of being accosted. Better to bring your own friends who want to buy your book, have a party, sell a few copies and walk away with your self-respect. Desperation doesn't sell books.

Prusso, yours was a successful signing. Good job.