Book Promotion Tip of the Week #7: February 11, 2013

Book Promotion TipsCreate A Media Kit

(then USE it)

A media package is a collection of germane and interesting background material relating to you and your book that writers of articles for publications (on- or off-line) and individual bloggers can use to enhance the reviews or profiles they are doing about you. When the kit or package is complete, you can send it out by email – or by mail, including a hard copy of the book if one is available – to individuals or publications that you think might want to review your book.

A complete media kit includes between seven and nine components. It should include 1) information on the author – including a biography and an annotated bibliography, lists of awards, prizes, and other writing achievements, etc. – and 2) information on the book, such as an intriguing bit of promo copy and at least a taste of what the book is about, plus perhaps interesting details about the writing process, how the cover was created, other books that readers of your book might like, etc.

The kit should also include 3) photos of the author and the book cover, suitable for reproduction, and information on 4) where the book is available for sale. Make sure to include your 5) email address so that the media person or blogger can contact you if he or she wants additional information.

A press kit can also include 6) an excerpt from the book itself, and 7) copies of reviews. You might want to include some 8) sample questions that an interviewer could ask you about yourself or the book (you can either answer them in the kit or not… depending on your inclination).

Last but not least, you might want to create 9) an actual media release, a well written story that a newspaper or magazine might run about your book if it is looking for a space filler (or the writer is behind schedule and desperate to find some copy for a deadline). You can get lots of information on how to write an effective media release if you simply Google the words “how to write a media release.” This article, from The Toronto Star, is good.

Turn the Media Package into a Website

Once you have all the materials together that I have listed above, and anything else you might want to include in your press kit or media package, you also have the basic components you need to create a website for your book. John A. Aragon and I have just put together the media package for The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid, and we have posted all the pieces on the book’s brand-new website here: www.donvaliente.com

Check, Check & Check

Demonstrate excellence: Before you do anything with your press kit or publish your book’s website, make sure that you have created excellent text copy and that all your links work. Your media package is your ambassador: it is the first contact many influential people will have with your book. If your media package is hastily assembled and badly edited, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Be interesting: This is almost as important, if not more important, than demonstrating excellence. If your website/media package isn’t interesting, no one is going to bother to investigate any further. (I can’t tell you how to be interesting. Either you got it, or you don’t. But keep in mind that the “interesting” part needs to relate in a genuine way to you or your book: putting  photos of your kid’s Popsicle-stick trick in a media package is not likely to do your book any good.)

Update: Don’t forget to add new book reviews and awards as they come in to both your media package and your website.

USE IT!

There is absolutely no point in having a great media package and book website if you don’t tell anyone about it. (I am not talking about telling your buddies on Twitter and Facebook – I am discovering that despite what everyone “in the know” is telling us, social media are almost a total waste of time when it comes to book promotion.) Find the names and addresses/emails of the people and outlets where you want reviews/profiles about you or your book to appear, and send the appropriate individuals a package by mail or via an (interesting) email. Don’t send too many of the latter as blind copies to a single email, either: it is my theory that a lot of genuinely worthwhile emails go to spam because the senders have added too many people to the bcc line. In fact, I tend to prefer to send the same email, one at a time, to each recipient. This takes more time, but I think it’s worth it. Same goes for individually addressing form letters that go out through the traditional mail system.

Second-hand recommendations are always better than first-hand ones. If you tell someone to read your book, it will have an effect that ranges between negative and negligible (unless maybe you have the goods on that other person, or it’s your grandma). Self-promotion cannot compare to the impact of having someone else tell other people to read your book (or even tell them to NEVER read your book. That attracts readers, too: fewer, perhaps, and for entirely the wrong reasons.)

Taking advantage of these truths is the whole purpose of a press kit, of course.

In a future article, I will tell you how John and I went about finding and attempting to contact media we wanted to review Don Valiente, and how I am doing that for The Whole Clove Diet and for my grant-writing podcasts, and I’ll report on how it all worked out.

_________________

Please note: I am about to start compiling a pdf of all of my BOOK PROMOTION TIPS OF THE WEEK. If you would like a copy of the most recent complete edition, email me at mary at marywwalters dot com – preferably with BPTW in the subject line – and I will send it to you. No charge. If you want regular updates, let me know that too – but you can save yourself emails if you just subscribe to The Militant Writer after you have downloaded the back posts that you’ve missed.

_________________

Book Promotion Tip of the Week #6.5: February 4, 2013

Book Promotion TipsReport on Our Facebook Launch

On Wednesday, January 30, 2013, John A. Aragon and I held the first “live” Facebook book launch I’ve attended: our own. It was a smashing success, although I may have one or two Facebook friends who are no long speaking to me.

You can still see the proceedings here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/509375175774289/

John and I were celebrating the launch of our new novel, The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid, and our kind guests responded in the spirit of the invitation and the book. Several people brought liquor, and others brought food (Tina Sweet’s Hallowe’en “munchies” were a highlight). A few people played us some music that contributed to the atmosphere, and a couple of videos attracted positive attention (notably the Skeleton Dance that Charlie Maze posted, and the Old Man’s Dance that Liz brought along). There were fruit sculptures, pictures, and even fireworks. It was great.

A couple of people asked us questions about how the book had been written, which we answered. We also provided some info they hadn’t even asked for and probably didn’t want to know (like how the sex scenes – of which there are really only 2.5 or so, but they are notable – came into being).

We held the launch over a period of two hours (7 to 9 p.m. MST, where John lives, in Santa Fe, and 9 to 11 EST where I am). All told, about 40 people dropped by with comments, congratulations, quips and compliments. All in all, it was more fun than some real-life book launches I have been to, and I highly recommend a Facebook launch as a way to attract a bit of attention to your book.

The only drawback was that apparently all the people who’d been invited (which was ALL of our Facebook friends) got notices by email every time anyone posted anything during the party. After about 100 emails, a couple of my friends alerted me to this problem. I knew, as did many others no doubt, that you can “turn off notifications” (upper right-hand corner of your screen) when you don’t want to get any more information about an event on F/B, but they didn’t know that. And a lot of other people probably went offline for the evening and came back to find their email boxes inundated with launch-related info. I apologized to them. I had not realized that unless you decline an invitation to an event (which some people don’t like to do because they think it’s rude), you get a notice about every post that relates to it.

Therefore, if you are having a launch or hosting any other live activity on an actual Facebook Event announcement page, you might want to warn your invitees that if they don’t want to get an avalanche of emails (or an “avalaunch” perhaps), they should decline or turn off their notifications.

For those who did want to attend, however, it was a great party!

Book Promotion Tip of the Week #6: January 29, 2013

Book Promotion TipsHold a FaceBook Book Launch

I have no idea whether you even CAN hold a viable/interesting live event on FaceBook, but we’re going to give it our best shot on the evening of January 30, 2013. My co-author John A. Aragon and I are going to hang out on the Event page I have created for the launch, and we will reply to and “like” the comments from people who drop by. We’re also available to answer any questions people might have about how we co-wrote the book (The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid) — which was a bit tricky since we wrote it on the phone and on Skype. (Or WHY we wrote it, for that matter. If we can remember, we will tell you.) We intend to play some appropriate tunes (thanks to YouTube links) and have a celebration. We’ve invited all our FaceBook friends, and made it open to the public.

BYOB, and leave your horses and weapons at the door.

I’ll report back to you on how it worked out. I’m a bit nervous at the moment (what if 10 people post comments all at once? What if no one does?) but nothing ventured, nothing gained. John and I are used to yattering back and forth with people on the Amazon ABNA forum so I doubt we’ll run short of things to say. ;)

In the meantime, more news from the “Ugly Truth About Fiction” article from last week (and thanks for all the comments on that one, by the way.) Amazon would have a better chance of “winning” if they stopped listening to the idiots on their review forums. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2013/jan/25/why-amazon-just-cant-win

Book Promotion Tip of the Week #5: January 4, 2013

Gold starCause a Ruckus

Do something that will attract attention and preferably cause a few (of the more intelligent and discerning) people (i.e., your ideal readers) to cheer you,  but will cause even more people to get so aggravated with you that they start write-in campaigns from bases in bunkers on writing forums and other blogsites that point out in blindingly mundane, uninformed and narrow-minded detail that you are ignorant, misguided and rude, and that if you think you are so hot and know so much, you should just prove it.

I have done this once before, on April 17, 2009, when I (rightly) denounced most literary agents and publishing companies in my first-ever blog post for The Militant Writer: about 4866 people stopped by in a single day and nearly 400 wrote comments – many of them in an effort to explain to me what an idiot I am (however,  those commenters in fact proved only that they don’t know the meaning of the word “irony,”  that they were utterly unaware of what was happening to the publishing industry at the time, and that they would do anything to suck up to agents such as Nathan Bransford, Janet Reid and others, in the faint hope that those august people might deign to even look at their work). That post (and its comments: I didn’t censor or repress any of them) has been read at least in part by 18,000 visitors to the site since I published it.

Unfortunately, I had no books online to sell that day. But I do now.  And now I have another article planned that should have a similar effect. I intend to put it up, right here, one week from today, if not before.

So wait for it… Wait for it…. Wait for it….

Book Promotion Tip of the Week #4: December 26, 2012

Gold starCheck out the competition

Go to amazon.com, Indigo Books or Barnes and Noble (or all three) and track down the top ten books in your literary category (or categories). Analyze what their authors or publishers are doing to promote their books — e.g., do they have websites, giveaways, videos?  Are they on GoodReads? LibraryThing? Shelfari? Which of their techniques are ones that you have not yet put to use, that you might consider?

Don’t be a snob or a know-it-all, as I was when I started on this exercise – which I found online in a couple of places in slightly different versions (one said, “Check out the top 100 books in your category.” Who has time for that?)

The Whole Clove Diet is listed under “domestic fiction,” “humorous fiction,” and “literary fiction,” among other topics. When I checked out the leading ten sellers in the first category, first I came across a series of books for which I have no explanation for the unbelievable sales figures (that would be Fifty Shades of Grey and its progeny and their boxed sets. I tried to read the first one in the series, but found it too badly written to hold my interest — even in the allegedly “erotic” parts. People should check out some actual erotic literature, by Anaïs Nin and others). I thought I could learn nothing from E.L. James as she obviously knows something I do not know about the universe.

Another of my top competitors is Alice Munro, who could write even a very bad book (which I am sure she hasn’t) at this point in her career and still be in the top-ten list: how could I learn anything about book promotion from her?

Yet another was an author named Garth Stein who has apparently written a book from the point of view of a dog. Hmm. Maybe not him, either.

Besides having written books nothing like mine, all of these authors had been published by traditional presses (granted after self-publishing first, in the case of James). I was sure part of their rise to the top of the bestseller lists had to do with promotions departments and reviews in major media.

But when I bit the bullet and investigated more closely, I found that each of these authors did have something that I don’t have — that I could get quite easily — and that is a listing on Wikipedia. In addition, Stein has a video on amazon, and on his website and on YouTube. I guess I could create one of those. The more I looked, the more ideas I found.

One promotional idea I just loved came from another top seller in the “humour” category — Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. She has a map on her website where readers can “pin” their locations in order to be part of the map of readers who have “seen” Harold. Very clever. And adaptable, no doubt, to many other books.

So with an open mind, and keeping my envy in check, I have come up with three promotional activities that I could pursue with little effort, simply by checking out what the competition is doing to promote their books and themselves.

Book Promotion Tip of the Week #3: December 16, 2012

Gold starBe Everywhere You Can

Take advantage of free on-line exposure.

In addition to keeping your profile information updated on your website(s) and your blog(s), find locations where you can copy and paste (and/or refine) your biography. For example,

  • Get yourself an author page (in addition to your reader page) on Goodreads;
  • On Amazon.com, make sure you have a photo and a profile on Author Central and  Shelfari;
  • If you belong to a writers’ organization (as I do to The Writers’ Union of Canada) or some other professional association, take advantage of the opportunities for promotion on its site;
  • Post a profile on Google+.

I am not talking here about social media–Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like–where it is important to engage with other subscribers on a regular basis. I’m talking about places where your bio will simply reside, like wallpaper, where readers who are interested can easily find out more about you and find a link to your website(s) or your book(s). And btw, if you stop visiting a website that you used to frequent, as I have authonomy, for example, there is no reason to remove your profile.

Keep the bios interesting, brief, to the point, and professional. For example, I don’t see much reason to post personal details in an online bio, such as my marital status or the number of children I have: this information has nothing to do with my writing.

Make sure you keep track of where you’ve posted these bios and diarize a visit to each of them every three months or so, in order to keep them (and your photo) updated.

As always, I welcome your comments on this post. Specifically, I invite you to add other suggestions of places where you have posted author information about yourself –at no cost to you — for interested readers and book purchasers.

Book Promotion Tip of the Week #2: December 9, 2012

Gold star

Reach out to your readers

Increase your online profile and attract new readers by commenting regularly on other people’s posts about issues that relate to the subject of your book (without actually pitching the book itself. You won’t make any friends if you do that. Just make sure that the signature on the comment includes a link back to the website where you promote yourself and your book, and that your comment is so interesting that no one will be able to resist clicking through to find out more about you.)

  1. Use your search engine to find subject matter that relates to your topic (in the case of my books about grantwriting, I might Google, for example, “funding proposals,” “grant writing” and “grant deadline”), and
  2. when you find an article, a blog post, or a forum topic that relates to what you have written about, read the item and then make an intelligent comment. (You do need to read the item because in order to attract interest, you must figure out where the article writer or the original poster is coming from, and you need to find a hook in the article – some specific issue or statement – that you can refer to in your response.)

If your book is non-fiction of any kind, this exercise should be fairly straightforward. If you have written a novel or a book of poetry, on the other hand, you may have to sit down and actually think about what subject matter you would like to explore with other individuals online. In the case of  my most recent novel, The Whole Clove Diet, again my approach is fairly obvious: I can search for forums about body image, blogs about food addiction and news items about the latest diets, and I’m there. But I can also explore other aspects of the novel by searching for “addictions” in general (there is an alcoholic in the novel whose approach to booze has a lot in common with Rita’s toward food)– or even ”stepmothers,” as my main character is one of those. For my first novel, The Woman Upstairs, relevant topics would include “mother-daughter relationships” and “family conflict.”  Even “oppressive WASP Ontario childhood” would fit the bill.

Keep in mind that using actual quotation marks will help you with a search: if I search the two words “funding” and “proposals” together without the quotation marks, I get a result that can go far outside my area of focus. If I put quotation marks around “funding proposals,” I get only sites that contain those two words in the text­ in that order: which is what I want.

Also keep in mind that you are not looking for other writers with this initiative. In my experience, writers are not great buyers of books written by writers they have met online. Most writers have their own agendas for what they want to read. So don’t bother searching “my first novel” – it won’t get you anywhere productive because people who are writing about first novels today are a dime a dozen (or even more in some cases).

Remember that the idea here is to contribute to the online discussion about a subject that matters to you and to other people, not to make a sales pitch. You want to become part of the online community that is writing about an issue you have explored in your book.

You aren’t likely to make immediate sales of your book this way, but if you become a person who is known to make intelligent comments on a specific subject area, you will eventually attract readers.

You have to give, many times in most cases, before you will receive.

Book Promotion Tip of the Week #1: December 2, 2012

Gold starDemonstrate Your Excellence

If you are the author of a well written, well edited, self-published book, you need to help it get the attention it deserves. There are lots of people who will assume that just because your book is self-published, it must be crap – poorly written drivel featuring lots of typos laid out incompetently on the page.

Since there are, in fact, many “indie” published books fitting that description to a T, it is very difficult for most self-published authors to get their books reviewed by established media. To take advantage of this situation, some book-trade publications (including the erstwhile respectable Kirkus Reviews and Publishers’ Weekly) are now selling reviews for what I consider to be way too much money  ($425?? Are you kidding me? What’s the point? How is even a good review from one of these outlets–and the price doesn’t include any guarantees that the review will be positive–going to improve your sales? You’re still not going to be eligible for most awards competitions, and most established booksellers still aren’t going to stock your books. Furthermore, your average readers couldn’t give a damn about Kirkus Reviews or Publishers’ Weekly–if they even know what they are). As far as I’m concerned you can spend your book-promotion budget, if you have one, much more wisely.

To help get your wheat to stand out from the chaff:

1) Submit your book to every awards program for published books for which it is eligible that you can afford. (Some awards programs are also quite expensive, and may not be worth the investment, especially if there are likely to be so many books submitted that winning becomes a crapshoot: check out the previous years’ winners of these competitions. But don’t dismiss award competitions just because they cost a bit of money: there are certainly administrative costs involved–including, we hope, some payment for the judges.) Don’t overlook local and regional competitions, and those specific to your genre (e.g. western, historical fiction, speculative fiction). Google to find them (“writing competitions self-published books, steam punk” for example). You may not win, but you may be a finalist or semi-finalist, as The Whole Clove Diet was in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition four years ago, or you may not be even a semi-finalist but may still get a great review from a judge that you can then use in promotion (as I recently did from the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards);

2) Look for groups of readers that are giving their stamps of approval to well written, self-published/indie books, and submit a copy of your book for their review. Leaders in this field include the folks at the Book Readers Appreciation Group (B.R.A.G.): their readers evaluate books that are nominated or submitted, and the ones they find to be of sufficient quality receive a B.R.A.G. Medallion and appear as recommendations on their site. Such notice can bring side-benefits aside from the actual selection: not only was The Whole Clove Diet a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree (which is an accolade I can and do use in my promotion and on my website), the news of its status was also tweeted by the B.R.A.G. organizers and mentioned on their Facebook page. Recently the novel was also named a B.R.A.G. Book of the Week, which gave it even more attention.

Aside from B.R.A.G., there are many other sites that are devoted to helping readers sort the worthwhile from the junk in indie/self published books. (I invite you to add your recommendations of such sites as comments to this post for the benefit of other writers.) In a world where agents and publishing houses are no longer the gatekeepers they once were, readers need to help other readers find the best new writers and books around. When they get themselves organized into groups (or become individual book review bloggers), the work they do benefits us not as readers, but as writers too.

Book Marketing and Promotion Guide (Links)

How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It

Introduction

Let’s Get Visible

Sell That Book: Building A Promotional Campaign From The Ground Up (I)

Sell That Book: Building A Promotional Campaign From The Ground Up (I)

I Have Been Spurred To Action

A good friend (thanks, Larry Anderson!) recently introduced me to another good friend of his who is also a writer who is in a similar position to the one I am in re: book promotion. Both of us have recently published books, but due to the other demands on our time we have found no time to market them — much less figure out the most effective ways of doing so in this brave new world of publishing, where there are too many options for everything.

Her name is Kathryn Burke and she lives in Edmonton. Her first book, An Accidental Advocate – A Mother’s Journey with Her Exceptional Son, has already been on several non-fiction best seller lists. She is working on her second book now; entitled Preventing Conflict In Special Educationit is likely to enjoy similar attention as it addresses the concerns of innumerable parents, teachers and students. Kathryn, who works part-time as executive director of the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta, is also the brains behind ldexperience.ca, a site that was designed “to help people affected by learning disabilities share their experiences.”

For my part, I have three recent projects that are available for sale:

  1. my third novel, The Whole Clove Diet;
  2. the Really Effective Writing suite of MP3 audiocasts – based on the grant-writing book Write An Effective Funding Application: A Guide for Researchers and Scholars – with one series customized for each of three groups: a) researchers and scholars; b) community groups and non-profit organizations; and c) writers and other artists; and
  3. ta-dah!! A new novel, co-authored with my good buddy, the endlessly fascinating lawyer cum writer John A. Aragon of Santa Fe, New Mexico (who is also too busy at the moment to do book promotion). It is entitled The Adventures of Don Valiente And The Apache Canyon Kid and it has been described by the noted Canadian writer of westerns and other fine novels, Fred Stenson, as a “bold and sexy chase from end to end.”

Promotional Challenges (Ones I Suspect Other Authors May Be Facing, Too)

For the most part, aside from subscribers to my blogs (not an insignificant number, but not millions of people either) and my friends and family, and a few others, hardly anyone knows that these products of mine exist. For the past few months–in fact for the majority of the time since The Whole Clove Diet was published and I completed the audiocasts–I have not only become very busy with freelance work, I have also been utterly overwhelmed by the range of possibilities that exist at this time in history the for promotion of books–and other communications products.

What do I do”? Do I attempt a traditional book-promotion strategy involving media releases, bookstore communications, the distribution of review copies with an author promo package? Or do I embrace the new media and devote my attention to Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn and other social-media platforms? Do I create a video or two for YouTube?

Maybe I need to consider entirely different tacks – invent a video game based on my grantwriting book for example (just a little joke) or turn The Whole Clove Diet into a reality television series (also a joke). Perhaps I should take a leaf from the late, great book-promotion schemer Jack McClelland and do something outrageous that will bring the media to me: indulge in guerilla marketing, in other words (I am not excluding this idea at all. It appeals to me enormously). Maybe I should just hire a damned publicist (although I’ve heard of too many who have produced disappointing results and I can’t afford it anyway. Besides, I really do enjoy the promotional part of my work.)

In this digital era, the promotional opportunities are endless, but so are the number of new writers out there vying for readers’ attention (and recent stats say that book-readership is going down as fast as the average quality of the writing that is being published. Pretty soon there will be more “writers” than readers).

The only thing that is limited – and it is severely limited – is time. How do I maximize the hours that I do invest in book and audiocast promotion so that I still have time to serve my freelance editing clients and maybe even write another novel? Not to mention hanging out from time to time with my kids, my grandkids, and my fellow.

Despite the fact that the prospects have been so overwhelming that I have done nothing much at all in a focussed way to promote the books and the grant-writing audiocasts I have mentioned, I really do believe in them. And what reviews there have been so far have been excellent. It is time to get serious about this.

Campaign Kickoff

Life has a funny way of helping out when you need something (not, I believe, because of anything magical, but because needing something makes — or should make — you open to recognizing and welcoming opportunities that are really always there). Thanks to this introduction to Kathryn, and our first Skype meeting to compare notes, I am now really eager to get going on this project.

Kathryn and I have  committed to hold Skype meetings one a week and to do something (anything! :) ) in the meantime that we can report on that relates to promoting our books. I am  feeling optimistic. And so is she. Already I’ve attended one webinar entitled “Be Your Own Publicist,” which was hosted by The Writers’ Union of Canada. I’ll provide details on it in my next post. And I have signed up to attend another one next week from the Wildfire Academy entitled How To Become A Bestselling Author, which Kathryn recommended.

Our books have nothing in common, really, but therein lies some of our strength. Kathryn and I are going to be finding out how to approach publicity and promotion in ways that should benefit all writers —- whether thy write fiction, non-fiction or poetry, whether they write literary or commercial books, whether they write for adults or for children. We want to sort the wheat from the chaff — not among books, but among ways of promoting them.

The most important part of this journey is going to be to share it. Not only with one another, but with our fellow writers (including Larry!). Hence this journal of our investigations, our findings, our observations and our conclusions. We welcome readers’ input as well: if a man can crowdsource healing of a brain tumour that the doctors haven’t yet been able to contain, surely Kathryn and I can find some helpful advice from those who have tried promotional ideas I haven’t thought of – or have found widely touted methods to be useless — or have applied traditional promotional methods with new twists. We can all learn together.