Sunday, February 26, 2012

Marketing & Publicity for Authors: Part 4

I want to devote another post to marketing/publicity ideas but first: since my last post on this subject I’ve fallen in love with Pinterest. I’m a visual person; for each of my novels I collect photos, maps, headshots, clothing ideas, etc. and put them on an idea board that inspires me while I work (for more on this idea board concept, see this terrific post by my friend Judith Graves.) Now I can post these same photos to Pinterest, and share them with my readers. Finally – a place for me to display a vintage map or period gown, fabulous food or room decor! (Or, in the case of FORGIVEN, visuals depicting the tragedy of slavery or earthquake devastation.) Check out what I mean here.

Now, more ideas:

When my first novel, FAITHFUL, came out I was eager to uncover any marketing opportunities available. The first smart move I made was joining the Class of 2k. Originally FAITHFUL was slated for a fall 2009 release; I joined the Class of 2k9 and made a number of friends there, who continue to be both real and virtual compatriots. When I was bumped to 2010 the window of opportunity opened even wider, as I found another writing support group in the Class of 2k10, whom I also count among my closest writing friends.

My advice to debut authors: seek out the opportunities to join groups like 2k, or the Debs, or the Apocalypsies, because this is a lonely business and community is critical to success.

Judith's blog tour badge
The second thing I did was to spend some of my advance on my own publicist (Blue Slip Media). They arranged a five-week blog tour, which gave me a huge, bouncy springboard. They also helped line me up with signing gigs and raised my media profile. I feel it was money very well spent.

If I were to suggest one single publicity item to you it would be: blog tour. Bloggers who love books are our heroes. As an example of give and give again blog touring, I’ll be hosting fellow 2k10 author Judith Graves here on March 22 as part of her SECOND SKIN blog tour. 

And just in case you're thinking that a blog tour has to precede a book launch, here's a terrific idea to punch up a book that's been out for a while and give a boost to an upcoming book: Joy Preble has a blog tour going on for her second novel HAUNTED in time for the release of her third novel in the series, ANASTASIA FOREVER

A recent article on the SCBWI blog  inspired me to think about more out-of-the-box marketing ideas. I love these two that Sara Wilson Etienne dreamed up for the release of HARBINGER:

  • setting up a website around a central idea, theme, place, character – and making it come alive with innovative marketing ideas - essentially creating an "alternate reality" for readers
  • making the blog tour more interesting by focusing it around a theme (in her case, the artist character in her novel)

My friend Holly Cupala (DON'T BREATHE A WORD) is also a clever marketer, who taught me the value of printing out a limited number of first chapter excerpts (complete with blurbs, publisher information and color cover) to send to a selection of independent booksellers. I made them myself for FAITHFUL, paying only for the color cover printing, using a booklet form of standard paper folded in half and Word layout for a two-page spread (yes, it did take me a while to figure out the layout so that pages would print correctly.)

My bookmarks & postcards, front and back
I also want to give a mention to my 2k10 sister Denise Jaden (NEVER ENOUGH), who is an extremely smart marketer. Here’s a recent blog post in which she discusses marketing; I especially like that she’s honest about the lack of success with postcards, but will do bookmarks again. I would agree – the one stellar piece of swag that I would invest in again and again is the bookmark. (Having said that, Blue Slip made me a fabulous postcard for my FORGIVEN release, featuring both of my book covers, with accolades and awards and contact information, that has been a “best seller” and easy for me to hand to booksellers and librarians at events and conferences.)

I make my bookmarks myself using Word, with all relevant information and cover on the front, and a bleed-out cover on the back over which I add accolades, awards and quotes, maximizing all the space; I have them printed on the heaviest card stock available at my local printer. Note that I leave just enough space for my signature on the back side of the bookmarks, which some like to collect.
I love those little elephants!

Finally, check out this sweet idea from my friend Lynne Kelly (CHAINED) who made bookmarks with an elephant charm attachment – so definitely a “keeper”!! Here's how she did it:

For the bookmarks themselves, I had them designed by Jeff Fielder, then I uploaded the designs and ordered them from To make some of them more special, I ordered a variety of elephant charms from Etsy sellers and attached them to the bookmarks with hemp twine. I'd tried a couple different kinds of string, like embroidery thread that unraveled too easily, then found the roll of hemp in the beading section of Hobby Lobby.   

Sweet and smart.

I hope some of these ideas help with your next round of marketing and publicity! Next time - how your "street team" can help you.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Debut Authors of the Class of 2k12: AC Gaughen & SCARLET

I'm delighted to be back with another introduction to the Class of 2k12. Author AC Gaughen has crafted a wonderful twist on the legend of Robin Hood - one of my personal favorites - with her debut SCARLET...and don't you love that cover??

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, SCARLET. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

SCARLET is a reimagining of the Robin Hood legend--with Will Scarlet as a very grumpy, knife wielding teen girl. She has a lot of dark secrets and holds to them very, very tight, but she also has people she wants to protect, all set in the brutality and inequality of Britain’s Middle Ages.

Honestly, Scarlet’s voice is what inspired the story--it came out on a paper in grad school and it took a really long time for me to figure out what the story was.  Once I realized who she was, her story just came out like a flood.  It was really fun. 

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

This is what I’ve always wanted to be doing, so I’ve always been writing in the genre since I was about 14.  I have about 150 notebooks of other stories!  I’ve had a few shorter pieces published, but this is my first novel. 

Your story will be very inspiring to my readers. :) Can you describe your path to the publication of SCARLET?

I had been trying to get an agent with various novels for about three years before SCARLET began catching the interest of several agents.  About a month after I sent it out on submission I signed with my agent, and she sold it to Bloomsbury/Walker within five months after that.  From there, it’s really a bizarre waiting game--I waited for about six months for the contract to be finalized (eep!  That’s nerve-wracking), and then it’s very start and stop--you’ll wait, then get a revision that has to be done post haste, turn it in, wait for the next step, which should be done with more urgency, etc.  It’s exciting! 

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Something I told myself before I got published and something I tell my self all the time still--keep going.  When you think you have a great story, keep going until it’s amazing, until it really breaks your boundaries.  When you think everyone’s rejecting you and this whole business is impossible to break into, keep going.  When you’re stressed and exhausted, just keep going. 

That is truly the best advice. Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

One of the things that I find incredibly inspiring right now is the work I’m doing with Boston GLOW, a non profit in Boston that I’m a board member of.  One of the major initiatives I run with them is an essay contest that encourages girls in underfunded school systems to create local, actionable change.  It gives girls that aren’t used to speaking up a new voice--and it’s just incredibly humbling and uplifting. 

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I’ve been working on another novel for a whiiiile now--longer than I’ve worked on any before.  Honestly I’m not sure if it will ever see the light of day, but I think sometimes you have to write without the thought of any kind of publication.  But then again, some times it helps your writing to think of the potential audience. 

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about SCARLET  Thanks Janet!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Marketing & Publicity for Authors: Part 3

Note: In the past week I’ve discovered the Pinterest site. Like Glogster, you create your own poster boards, but with a cleaner look, and you can pull things from around the internet. I see this as a fun way to create visual “likes” and connect with readers and other authors. I'm thinking of ways to create boards for each of my novels - pictures of places, foods, etc. 

Now on to today’s post.

To continue with my series on marketing and promotion, I asked a few of my colleagues to share their own tips. Here they are in no particular order:

From Judith Graves (UNDER MY SKIN, SECOND SKIN):

When promoting with social media in particular, it's difficult to find a balance between blatant self-promotion and genuine interactions with followers. I try to keep the following three E's in mind: 

·      Encourage - be a cheerleader for others. For each self-promo or "product" update, promote three other authors, aspiring writers, bloggers, or friends of literacy.
·      Educate - share your knowledge with others. And don't be afraid to share your mistakes along road to publication - so your followers can avoid similar pitfalls.
·      Engage - invite your followers to share their knowledge, opinions, tips, tricks and concerns about the industry. Allow discussion, but insist on respect for opposing viewpoints.

If you base your social media usage around the E's you'll ENSURE your posts are relevant, informative and gracious. This kind of profile will EARN loyal followers and build solid connections with your intended audience. It's as EASY as E, E, E! ;)


·      Put a Google Alert on your name, your book name, your name + book name (spelling variations, etc., since if you are like me you will run into a fair number of misspellings). Watch for bloggers waiting for your book—you can always politely contact them about interviews, guests posts, etc.
·      You can’t always send review copies (and most of the time publishers don’t give you that many), but you can respond to requests and see if they’d like to do an interview or guest post. As a side note, setting up blog tours can be very time-consuming, but there are a couple of blog sites out there that may want to organize one for you.
·      If you have an ARC to spare, check out some ARC tour blogs—they usually sign up ~10 bloggers who will mail one galley among themselves and review.
·      If you can get to a major conference (BEA, ALA, etc.), it’s great for exposure—see if your publisher can sponsor you and/or schedule you for a signing.
·      And…pace yourself, because marketing can be consuming and exhausting! You can always do more, but I think it’s good to do what you can do well and what is fun for you.


My tip would be that I multi-task:  if I’m going somewhere for journalism, teaching, etc., I try to incorporate book marketing with whatever else I’m doing.  (I’d like to add that this is one tip I need to incorporate more. Take advantage of those expensive trips by visiting bookstores!)

Don't forget to mine organizations you belong to. When DREAMING ANASTASIA released in '09, I reached out to the alum groups of my college sorority. Not only did they come out to support my Chicago area signings, but I reconnected to people I hadn't seen in a while and ultimately it has led to speaking engagements here in Houston with various alum chapters and also some nice support from colleagues.

My question for readers this week:

Do you think blog tours work? If you’ve arranged your own tour, how did you get started? How did it go?

In two weeks I’ll be back with some out-of-the-box thoughts.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Marketing & Publicity for Authors, Part 2

A caveat I should have mentioned in Part 1 of this series: I hope that having a familiarity with marketing and publicity will help you get your books into the hands of your audience; but nothing can replace the time and energy you should put into writing the best book you can write in the first place.

Before I continue with a few more online marketing tools, I want to address a couple of relevant questions that emerged this week.

1. You can cross-post from Facebook to Twitter and vice versa. Check the settings menu for each site, and you'll find instructions for setting up this link. With one post you can now double your coverage (if you exceed Twitter's length limit with a Facebook post Twitter will turn the "leftovers" into a link.)
Clever shorthand guide to social media by Douglas Wray, who posted via Instagram

2. A reader mentioned the press room on my website. This is a wonderful idea I borrowed from other writers. It's set up so that someone wanting my head shot, cover jpeg, and/or book information can access these easily, with jpegs at different resolutions for different purposes. Newbies: don't forget your ISBN. My first 1000 bookmarks were missing this vital information.

3. Katie Davis has recently published this guide to marketing - "How To Promote Your Children's Book" - that I found useful and that goes into much greater depth than I can here.

4. In case you have doubts about the need for activity in the spheres of blogging and social networking, check out this excellent post by Joanna Penn on the subject.

Okay, on to some slightly more out-of-the-box internet tools.

1. Google+ : Yes, I have joined this social networking site. No, I have not become immersed. What I like is the ability to create different groups (circles) so that I can target my information. What I don't like is that it's just one more social site I have no time to visit. On the other hand, here's a unique way to use Google+ - as a work motivator, with members of a social circle all writing "together" as if they were in a coffee shop or at a writing retreat.

2. Tumblr : I also have a Tumblr account, but for the same reason my Google+ is underused, my Tumblr is quiet. However, there are advantages to Tumblr. It's basically a cross between a blog and Facebook, in my view, where you can repost a blog, but also link directly to Twitter, video, photo, or articles. If you are just starting out and feeling underwhelmed, this is one site to explore.

3. Klout : Well, okay, everyone wants clout. And this site offers a way for you to track your social media metrics - which basically means your industry "clout". Is it useful? Yes, mainly because you will have a more realistic view of how your marketing is impacting the world at large. It is not a social networking site, so don't expect to connect with readers. But it will allow you to measure the effectiveness of your marketing by tracking the number of times you are tweeted, retweeted, mentioned, etc.

4. Glogster : Here's one I haven't really explored but after only a few minutes' peeking I am salivating. As I'm a visual person, this is my kind of site. You can create a "poster" of anything - your work, your life - and connect with teens who are obviously drawn to this site. As are teachers, who have begun to use it as an extension for self-expression in the classroom. Will it help with marketing? Hmmm. Remains to be seen.

Next time - some really out-of-the-box ways to market your books and generate publicity.