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Publicity for your Writing

Author Self-promotion

Letting people know you have a book out without sounding like a car salesman (or looking like a forlorn girl scout selling cookies) is a delicate operation. Somewhat impossible at times. There’s a bit of cloak and dagger involved and perhaps some secret surveillance required before pouncing in, tying up the buyer, extracting their wallet and placing the order–all without them figuring out you are the perpetrator.

I don’t like to throw stones at other authors or their methods, but here is just one word of advice:

When a forum thread/topic specifically asks for no self promotion, Do Not Self Promote. Do not write and ask why self promo isn’t allowed. Do not add a signature line with your title. Do not rant against the unfairness of the universe. Do not call the original poster names. Do not make comments such as “you don’t rule this forum and here’s my book.” Quoting the right to free speech is not helpful.

If you must use aggressive or rude bullying tactics that make you look more combative than a badger tearing into a meal, you may as well go ahead and tie up the buyer and steal their wallet. I guarantee you the theft will be a more successful financial venture than spouting about your book. In a word, get over yourself. There are places where talking about your book is welcomed. There are places where it is not. Learn the difference and stop running naked through a church in the middle of a wedding.

Rant Over.

Posted: September 6, 2010
Filed in Publicity for your Writing

E-Reader or Paperback?

This article is probably of more interest to writers and publishers than to readers, but there’s some interesting data for everyone. It comes from blogger SmartBitchesTrashyBooks who attended a conference where several presentations were given by various industry professionals, including one from Bowker and one from Goodreads CEO, Otis Chandler. I’m only going to pull a couple of quotes from her article as it’s very long.

From the Bowker presentation, I found this summary interesting (as reported by SmartBitchesTrashyBooks):

Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading was a presentation of data from the Bowker and Book Industry Study Group survey of, you guessed it, reader attitudes toward reading, specifically print (referred to as P) and digital (E) reading.

Highlights: Readers are switching from P to E but the number of people migrating has leveled off a bit, while those with e-readers still buy more books.

There may be a seasonal shift in e book purchase. e.g. Person receives digital reader as a gift at the end of the year, they buy a boatload of books in January, then their purchases level off. The data for the past year or so seems to support that hypothesis.

This doesn’t surprise me and my sales generally reflect this data. There was more from this presentation; click one of the links above to see what else SmartBitches had to say.

I found two or three bullet points from the Goodreads CEO, Otis Chandler, to be very interesting:

Goodreads has a community of 7 million registered readers, and is largest reader site in the world.

Some 250 million books are shelved at Goodreads

There was a 60% increase in shelving after the recommendation engine launched, and the recommendations engine is meant to hit the “mid-list sweet spot.” Angela James asked during the Q&A what the minimum threshold of ratings a book needed to have in order to be added to the recommendation engine. Chandler didn’t know the exact figure, but guessed it was maybe about 100 ratings.

There is a minimum level of user star ratings needed to be included in the recommendation engine.

My takeaway from these bullet points is simple:

I need 100 decent ratings for my books on Goodreads in order for the Goodreads engine to recommend my books to other readers on Goodreads.

That is a a LOT of ratings. This is why it’s important to at least add a star rating to your favorite authors no matter what site you use, be it LibraryThing, Shelfari or Goodreads. Amazon and B&N, of course, require not only a star rating, but at least a short review.

In short, people find books when they see the recommendations on Amazon, Goodreads and other book sites. Never think your star ratings don’t count. Don’t think your reviews don’t count. They very much make a difference!

Many of you who read my blog have also reviewed my books–I can’t say thank you often enough. Your reviews and kind words keep me going.

Your reviews and star ratings–not just for my books, but for all your favorite books, make a huge difference in whether or not these books find an audience.

Last but not least, the Goodreads team put the slides from the presentation online for anyone interested in details about how and where readers find books to read.

Posted: March 30, 2012
Filed in Publicity for your Writing, Writing Links

Libraries: Promotion Events

I’m a big fan of libraries–as a writer and a reader. As a writer, there are things you can do to promote your work within the system–and sell more books not only to the library but to the public.

I’m going to do a series of posts on things to help sell into the library market, but remember the number one place to find out is–the library!

Libraries do have author events–and they will sometimes pay an author a small amount if the author gives an educational talk. The talk can be on writing techniques, submitting to magazines, short story writing, getting published, research or perhaps the subject matter covered in the book. Ask at your local library about opportunities. If they do have a budget to pay authors offer to accept an average of the last three events the library hosted. (This tip comes from author J.A. Konrath.)

Libraries do host book signings/sales, although they generally seem to prefer doing this after an author is established and has several books to sell to the public. Check with your local librarian about setting something up. The library generally puts up notices for you, signs people up (so you know about how many will attend) orders the books ahead of time, and handles the sales part.

Check with your librarian about being chosen for their “bookclub” choice of the month if they run such a program. This may mean the library will buy at least two copies of your book. It also means that those in the bookclub will either get your book from other libraries or will buy it.

Find out if your library has a “new releases” shelf. Most do. This shelf is often near the front of the library. For some patrons, it is the ONLY shelf they visit. They go in, get a few of the latest releases, and check out.

New books stay on the New Release shelf for approximately six months. You want your book there. You want it to get checked out as often as possible in that first six months to generate word-of-mouth. More importantly, if your book is checked out frequently, the library is much more likely to order your next release.

Note: Ask the library to order your book before the release date so that your book arrives as quickly as possible. Most libraries will not put your book on the new release shelf if it is already six months old–ie the New Release shelf is stocked by the publication date, NOT the date the library recieves the book. Some libraries will not put paperbacks on the new release shelf either, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Libraries often have “Theme” shelves. This is good once your book is off of the New Release shelf. Like the New Release shelf, it is a special shelf or section. The books are picked from the rest of the library masses and put on display so that they stand out. Libraries do themes such as: crafts, Christmas, fall, spring, winter, science fiction, cozies, thrillers, oldies but loved mysteries, etc. Talk to your librarian about where your book might fit. Come up with themes or reasons that it DOES fit. Books picked for themes see more check-out traffic.

There are many, many activities in the summer for kids. If you have YA or children’s book, talk to your librarian about performing a reading or giving a talk during the summer when kids are available.

In the next post, I’ll talk about some of the promotional items you might want to send to libraries to help them notice your books!

Posted: May 16, 2007
Filed in Publicity for your Writing, Writing Links

Library-Promotional Items

If you are an author hoping to use your local library to promote you book, check with your library before you design and order your promotional material. Each librarian has specific needs and tastes! What’s more, most librarians will be happy to show you samples of other promotional material they have received and this material might give you good ideas.

Here are a few things to consider:

Libraries may or may not want to give out your bookmark. Check with the library before you print 500 extra. Most will be more than happy to give out bookmarks, but some have rules against it. I can tell you for certain that bookmarks that appeal to children get picked up more often than anything too formal that contains only basic book information.

Each purchasing librarian has a preferred way of receiving information about books. Check with your local librarians to find out if they prefer post cards, a letter, colored flyers or envelopes stuffed with all of the above. Here’s the feedback I received when I asked:

  • For the best overall cost and most preferred: Send an oversized postcard. Make sure that there is a color picture of the book on the front. Include the Title, author name, ISBN for hardback, soft cover and audio if available. Include the author website! Make sure the words/fonts are easy to read!!! If your postcard is the front cover of your book, leave white space for the basic information about your book. Librarians will look up review information before ordering, but if you have positive reviews, you might include a quick list on the back with quotes from readers.
  • If you are going to the expense of a large envelope stuffed with PR materials, the librarians I interviewed said they love “freebies.” This can include: pens, bookmarks, coasters, temporary tattoos or stickers (they might use stickers for kids activities). Overall, the response was: “Make it worth my time to open the envelope. Too much information is a waste of paper. I need the basic information, and I need it in a font that is easy to read. I’m going to look the reviews up, so including the entire review in the package isn’t useful.”
  • Most librarians did not like photocopied colored sheets with long book descriptions, althougth this works better for a non-fiction book. I saw some samples–the photocopy was of poor qualilty, no color picture of the book and nothing but text. Keep it interesting and short–lots of pictures, quick lists of reviews, quick list of quotes and sign it personally.

Finally, be aware of when your local library budget is approved. You want to make sure to get your book on the order list when the library still has money allocated for books. Very often, towards the end of the budget year, there may be no new books ordered for two or three months–the money for books is gone for that year. If you know when this happens in your local library, you can work with them to make sure your book gets ordered at the best time possible.

One other note: Libraries prefer hardback books because they last longer. They can rebind paperback books to help them last longer. If you have extra copies of your cover, offer libraries an copy or two (these are often used by authors as PR tools.) The library may rebind your book as a hardcover with the appropriate artwork before it ever sees the shelves. This will ensure that it is read often and well. Be aware that if your book is somehow damaged or destroyed before it has been checked out much, it will not automatically be reordered.

Libraries can be one of the most welcoming places in the world for authors. Take advantage of them!

After you’ve worked with them–here’s a link so that you can find out how many libraries carry your book:

Posted: May 31, 2007
Filed in Publicity for your Writing, Writing Links

Publicists and Publicity

goosebookThis weekend I attended a talk by book publicist P.J. Nunn. (Thanks to the local Austin Sisters in Crime chapter for setting it up.) PJ blogs once a week over at Dead Guy where she imparts little gems about what authors need to do to get noticed. You can also find out more about PJ’s company, Breakthrough Promotions, on her website.

Anyway, I brought home a few useful tips and facts. Since I read Dead Guy, not all of the things were a surprise, but I tried to condense a few of the more interesting tidbits here:

  1. Once you sign a contract with a book company, you need to start looking for a publicist if you intend to hire one. Actual events won’t be scheduled, but you’ll have time to interview various publicists and once you hire one, she will keep you in the back of her mind–when booksellers or radio people call her looking for a book tie-in, she’ll know if you and your book are a good fit.

    P.J. likes to know about a book coming out twelve to eighteen months in advance to work you into the schedule and do the best job. She works with authors with a shorter time-frame all the time, but the longer in advance she knows, the better. You don’t need a publicist BEFORE the contract is signed.
  2. Books distributed by other than Ingrim or Baker (as is common with smaller publishers) cannot generally be carried by major book chains without going through an approval process. In other words, if your book won’t be distributed by the big name distributors, you won’t appear in stores. You MAY be able to get one or two local chain store(s) to carry the book if they know you (you shop there, you take the time to introduce yourself, etc). The chains won’t order them unless someone comes in and requests the book. They will order that single copy for the customer, but not carry the book on the shelf (this is actually true of some bookstores even if you are with a major publisher–if the book isn’t on their buy list, they will only order the one copy).

    There is an approved list of small publishers/vendors that the chains reference to see if they will carry your book, but this list is not readily obtainable–nor is it easy to get a publisher on the list if it is not already on there. You will have a harder time selling your book through bookstores. For any signings, you may have to supply the books yourself (the bookstores will process them and you’ll get paid for sales, but you have to have the inventory). This is something to take into consideration when you’re signing that contract. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sign–but it does mean you should know your selling job is going to be harder. A few publicists may try to help you/your publisher get on the approved list, but it is difficult and not something the bookstores are particularly interested in doing. PJ didn’t use the word “impossible,” but you could see it on her forehead.
  3. Print announcements (newspapers, magazines) are the hardest advertising/announcements to obtain these days. You must schedule three to six months in advance. You generally must have a personal angle/hook to get a write-up–not just being a local writer, but a tie-in with some event. For example, if you write cooking cozies, you have a better chance of a local radio or paper spot if you use that book angle during a large summertime cook-off.
  4. Kirkus and Library Journal require two copies of your book in order to even consider doing a review. Publisher’s Weekly requires one (I think–better plan on two just in case). In these times of cutbacks, consider that your author copies (the number of free copies you get from your publisher varies by contract) are going to be used for publicity. You might want to try and get more copies in your contract so you have more to use for publicity.
  5. If you don’t get ARCs (Advance User Copies) from the publisher, consider doing your own semi-professional bound copies at Kinkos/Office Max to send to some review places. It must look nice!!! Do not make a hack job of it or your book will likely be set aside and ignored. (Ten to twenty ARCS is a common number of ARCS done today, but that number is dwindling. That number is also generally a smaller number with small presses.)
  6. If you write a Christmas book (as is quite common with cozies) you have a limited shelf life. Be aware of this when/if you’re asked to do a specialty/holiday book of any sort.
  7. Take something eye-catching to your book signing. Examples: Lego displays that depict a scene in the book. Mini-crime scene. Framed objects or a poster board with clippings/objects that apply to your book. Do not dress as a vampire or get too cute…do not go naked with a sign board of your book cover covering…parts of your body!
  8. What can a first time author expect from a publicist? As an unknown, a publicist should be able to get you:

    • reviews on the internet
    • Local paper announcement (sometimes these are very difficult.)
    • Book signings
    • Library Appearance
    • Radio Appearance (local, smaller markets)
    • Maybe local tv
  9. How much would something like the above package cost? Anywhere from $500 to $25,000, depending on the publicist. If you hire a publicist, ASK what you will get for your money–how many interviews, print appearances, signings, etc. Keep in mind the publicist may not get every single one that you talk about–but you should have some sort of meter in mind for your money. PJ works with “packages,” trying to set up “x” number of things for a certain price and more for a higher price. This may seem obvious, but it is not–many publicists will take your money with no particular plan in place.

I’ll talk more tomorrow or later in the week about my impressions of the discussions at the meeting–my own personal take-away. If you have questions, throw them in the comments–or visit Dead Guys and post comments for PJ there. She’s very approachable and helpful.

Posted: June 17, 2009
Filed in Publicity for your Writing, Writing Links

Publicity Advice: Old and New

stackbooks In yesterday’s post I covered points and tips that book publicist PJ Nunn shared at a recent Sister’s in Crime meeting in Austin, Texas. Today I’m going to talk about some of my thoughts. For now, I’ll mainly cover: Internet promotion versus Everything Else

PJ talked about a promotion pyramid (she didn’t have the graphic, but described it and I may have gotten some of the details…let’s just say there’s room for error). At the bottom of the pyramid (most important) was print/library, then radio, signings and last, at the top, internet.

I thought it an interesting pyramid and probably the exact opposite of how I would prioritize. I don’t know if it is a generation thing (I think I’m the same age as she is) or just a usage thing. I have never subscribed to a newspaper. Ever. I don’t listen to talk radio. When a commercial comes on, I switch stations (almost compulsively, I kid you not.) I rarely hear ads. For one to stay with me…probably isn’t going to happen.

PJ mentioned that the internet can become the worst time-sink of all the activities. I agree. Just like anything else, you have to prioritize your time. But…the internet is where I get *all* my book recommendations these days. Maybe I’m a minority. And I’m not saying I want to miss out on other opportunities. I’d prioritize the library pretty high on the list as well.

PJ didn’t mention that she blogged on Dead Guy until I raised my hand and asked about it. Yet–as an advertising tool, it must have worked because I attended the talk after learning about it from reading…the Dead Guy post. There were about fifteen of us in attendance, and I was the only one that heard about it via the internet that I know of. So yeah, the hit rate wasn’t high. But I don’t participate in Sister’s in Crime (I don’t have a book published so there’s not a lot of incentive.) I also don’t go out much so even had the bookstore had a notice I never would have seen it.

I order most of my books online (seriously–99 percent.) My book club is online. I read reviews online. I get a number of books from the library, and if I am likely to attend an event–it will be at the library. I’ll hear about the event by chance or because the library posts it on their internet page (which I see frequently when I’m out browsing to see if they have a title.)

Now, granted, I’m just one book buyer/reader. BUT after listening to PJ talk, I felt that yes, I’d have to give more consideration to some of the other things on the pyramid. I still left feeling that the internet was probably the most important tool I could use. Why? Because of all the things that she talked about, the internet was the most cost-effective. It won’t reach everyone. But neither do any of the other mediums. A book signing is going to eat up an entire day and possibly have travel costs as well as smaller costs (a candy dish, a display, etc.) And there is no guarantee you’ll sell any books at all. In fact, if I were to be published by a small publisher, book signings would fall lower on the list because the chance of being carried by stores would be even smaller.

Libraries are my second pick because I’ve seen how well they work. Not just talks either. A visit to a library to talk to the librarian about your book can mean the book gets displayed or promoted during its release–or during a special promotion on certain topics.

Newspaper and other print? If I had to pay for it, I’d skip. Like anyone, I’d love to be reviewed anywhere, but there are long lines to get reviewed. I’d have to study each market carefully before “spending” an ARC or print copy. I’m a reviewer. It is impossible to review every book I am sent.

I think you have to pick a few markets and try really hard to get coverage. The topic of review markets has been discussed on Dead Guy before and I think most people felt that a professional review beat blog reviews hands-down. I…tended to disagree with that. Any review is good. Reviews on sites with lots of traffic are obviously better than an individual blog (such as my own.) But competition is fierce. I think you gotta try to get the mentions where you can and not be snobby about it. We’d all love to be on Oprah, but it isn’t going to happen.

Then too, I spend time reading book blogs. Professional ones and hobby ones. Some people will probably only read the “pro” ones. Some people are just looking to talk books.

Radio: I’m ambivalent about radio simply because I don’t listen. I wouldn’t turn down a radio spot. I’ve been on the radio before (it’s a little nerve-wracking). The key is: If someone is listening to the radio, are they going to stop and take the time to write down the book title? Maybe. But it’s not an impulse buy.

I’ll talk a little more about radio and podcasts–it came up during the Q&A and again, I found it pretty interesting.

And keep in mind that PJ wasn’t against the internet — but the internet is something you can do for yourself. Some of the other venues might be harder and that’s where an author can benefit from her network and knowledge.

I’d also like to think we are on the cusp of change. The internet has opened entire venues that were closed before–including researching and accessing information such as this. It’s a wonderful tool that can provide an author with exposure, interaction and discussions.

Posted: June 18, 2009
Filed in Publicity for your Writing, Writing Links

Writing Reviews – I Want Covers!

Some of you may know that I review for BSCreviews (formerly known as Prince. No, I mean, formerly BookSpotCentral). I also do a few reviews or book mentions on my own site. Most of the books I review come to me from BSCreview via a highly secret selection process. Others come to me direct from the author, a publicist or the publisher. Some of them are library books or books I buy. I don’t review all the books I receive. BUT when I do, for the love of all that is holy, why in the world do authors not have pictures of their book covers easily accessible on their website? WHY???

Here’s the problem. For BSCreviews, it is difficult, if not impossible, to use Amazon pictures. We have to edit the pictures to get rid of the white space or the “look inside” feature that is sprayed all over the cover. This causes much cursing and flat out isn’t worth the time because the cover ends up looking like someone took a hatchet to them.

If I start looking for the cover shot before I write the review and the book was good, but not fall-down good…I may decide to just scrap the review (if it isn’t one that I’ve signed up to do–say it’s a library book). Yes, I am that lazy. But here’s the deal. Doing book reviews takes time. Usually a minimum of an hour. There’s links, there’s getting the required info that each review site specifies, there’s special *%#% formatting that each review site wants. There’s logging in to a site, getting the review typed in, approvals if required, and then there’s the cover:

Covers sell books.
Covers grab the eye.
Covers have color and make the review more than just a string of words.

And with most review sites, the cover is required and it’s required in a specific format/size. No one can have the cover in all sizes, but a decently sized photo, with no white space around it, can easily be resized down a few notches. Covers cannot easily be resized LARGER.

There are many, many, MANY authors that do not have cover shots on their websites. Of those that do, they usually offer one size. It is almost always HUGE. It often runs the length of the sidebar or parts of it are across the top or there’s just one giant picture that you link to from a “cover shot” link. Sometimes it is embedded into the website design and can’t be copied or saved as a picture. Too many times it has artwork added around the outside or is a special link, making it hard to copy.

ARGH. Most reviews need a nice, medium cover shot (about the size of the one Amazon puts out, but without the white, without any extra words). It should be resizable and CLEAR–this means that authors can’t have taken a very small shot and resized it bigger because by the time us reviewers use the shot, it looks like my aunt Mildred took the picture using manual focus without her glasses.

Ideally? A bio page or a “cover shots” page with every published book cover available, especially books that just came out or that will come out soon. If I am doing an interview or a larger article about an author, I want previous books, I want covers from various series–I want covers!

A medium sized cover shot is imperative (somewhere in the 150 to 200 pixel size). I personally use 150 and/or 200 quite frequently. A larger size (250- 300) might be nice to have, especially for short mentions where the cover is given a prominent spot. Smaller thumbnails are pretty easy to create when putting them in a post so they aren’t necessary.

And while I’m on the topic–authors should almost always use a cover shot as their avatar (those little pictures beside their name when posting or commenting.) I’ve bought many a book because I see that little tiny cover and I go check it out. No matter how pretty a person, I have yet to follow a link that has an author photo rather than a cover shot. Maybe it’s just me.

Posted: May 16, 2009
Filed in Publicity for your Writing, Writing Links