Saturday, August 30, 2008

Trailer Parking

You probably know that I host a Blog Talk Radio program called, “Book Bridge: From Authors to Readers.” What you may not know is that the show is owned by Circle of Seven Productions. Circle of Seven specializes in book trailers - they had more than 100 clients last year – and right now they’re busy producing a book trailer for my novel, Blood and Bone.

Will a new book trailer boost sales? Who knows? In fact, does anyone know? I doubt it. But there are a lot of books out there, and sales are not for publishers in general right now, so many seem to have fallen into a “try anything” mode. Publishers naturally encourage authors to get trailers. It can’t hurt and it costs the publisher nothing. Whether or not it convinces people to buy, it is at least entertaining for us all because by definition, authors are creative types. James Patterson talks directly to readers in his videos, pitching and explaining his books as if he were sitting in a book club’s meeting. And Meg Cabot deserves some sort of prize using Barbie dolls to put on a veritable puppet show on video to promote her books.

Entertaining, as I said, but what of my principle of evidence-based marketing? You know, my basic principle that one should not invest in any promotional effort unless there's evidence that it will pay for itself in sales? Well, I haven’t violated it, I’ve simply used some of that creativity I mentioned. Rather than being paid for serving as host of Book Bridge I’ve bartered my services for a book trailer. Their products are excellent, but what really attracted me was their distribution system.

Even their most basic book trailer comes with a lot of potential exposure. They offer the trailer to 30 social media sites, 4 more specific to my genre, half a dozen bookmarking sites and more than 300 bookseller sites. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the video will be accepted at all of them, but in most cases it is. I’m also getting the Transit TV service, which will take my book trailer beyond the internet. You see, mass transit buses in Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando, Atlanta and Milwaukee have TV screens these days to keep the commuters from dying of boredom. Soon, commuters in those cities will be watching my book trailer.

And whether or not my new book trailer will convince people to buy several copies of Blood and Bone, it will certainly give me a good deal of exposure in new places and to new people. And if it DOES cause a bump in sales I will most surely tell you about it here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Solidarity Sells: Enlist Friends to Help Promote Your Book

The parade of valuable guest blogs continues this morning with a super article from my friend Cynthia Polansky. Having been published as a novelist AND non-fiction author, Cindy is uniquely qualified to tell us how to boost book sales. She's a great writer as well as a great person, and the fact that we are both published by Echelon Press is purely cooincidental. ;-)

Here are Cindy's words of wisdom:

You work together, play together; why not promote your book together?Friends are often an overlooked and underutilized resource for book promotion. We're often reluctant to impose, and despite sincere offers to help toot their talented friend's horn, they may balk at the reality of time-consuming marketing campaigns. But what if you offered willing friends simple promotional tasks that produce tangible results? Here are ten guilt-free ways to help them board the promotional bandwagon.

1. Go exponential. Invite friends individually to your next book even tin their area. A personal invitation conveys the event's singular importance, as well as the valued friend's importance. Ask each to bring someone who doesn't know you. Like the old shampoo commercial said,"They'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and ..."

2. Go postal. Create tell-a-friend postcards. Put your book cover on the front with a one-line caption like "You So Have to Read This!" or "Gotta Get This Book for Your Trip!" A simple message goes on the back: "This LOL-funny and thought-provoking book is the perfect vacation read. I know you'll enjoy it as much as I did." Include a header containing title, author, and ISBN, and a footer with your website. Ask friends who've already read your book to mail a few postcards to their friends and colleagues.

3. Go public. Don't have any librarian friends? Make some! Get to know your local public librarians and enlist their help. Create a postcard message encouraging the recipient to visit the library for the book. Ask check-out librarians to slip a few inside your book whenever it's borrowed. If the library doesn't own your title, submit a press packet -including a handful of postcards - to the acquisitions librarian.

4. Go virtual. In your e-newsletter, ask recipients to send a tell-a-friend email. Provide text they can copy and paste into a new email (e.g., Check out my friend's new blog, Crossing Polansky. Here's the opt-in link to her mailing list). Email from a known recipient is less likely to end up in someone's spam folder, and a personal recommendation carries more weight than an email blast.

5. Go nationwide. Create postcards or brochures describing you, your book, and an offer to participate in book club discussions. Most groups love the idea of discussing the selected book with its author. Send brochures to out-of-town friends and ask them to share the brochures with their book club or someone else's. Phone or web-cam visits take you and your book anywhere.

6. Go professional. Make a list of friends who work in professional offices and aesthetic businesses like day spas, hair salons, gyms, or studios. Ask if you can place bookmarks or other small promo items at the office check-out desk or waiting room tables. A very close friend confident in her boss's generosity might even inquire about a small display of your books for sale. As a courtesy, offer the professional a share in the sales or donate a portion to her favorite charity.

7. Go academic. Ask any friends with young children if they're interested in a unique teacher gift. A personalized, autographed book makes a meaningful gift and spotlights the importance and enjoyment of reading. Be discerning, though: Your erotic novel probably isn't the best gift choice for Sister Mary Catherine.

8. Go home. If any friends sell merchandise at home parties, ask if they'd be willing to insert your bookmarks in the merchandise catalogs.Or put together a promo item - such as a small bag of candy with your book's business card attached - to tuck into each merchandise bag before your friend distributes the orders. Show your appreciation by offering to host a party at your own home.

9. Go fish. Encourage friends who already own your book to pay it forward: pass it along to another reader, a book swap, synagogue gift shop, or yard sale. Or donate it to a women's shelter or hospital library. Cajole frequent-flyer pals into slipping a bookmark inside in-flight magazines. That seat's next occupant may become your next reader!

10. Go crazy. You may have a think-tank right in your own backyard. Ask friends over for a brain-storming party - nothing like a little wine to get the ideas flowing! A word of caution: before you solicit their help, take stock of what's going on in your friends' lives right now. Someone in the midst of a divorce or training for a triathlon has enough on her plate without adding your book promotion. Solid friendships are as precious as a spot on the NY Times bestseller list, and a lot more enduring. Remember to return the favor every chance you get. After all, isn't that what friends are for?

Cynthia Polansky is the author of two novels and four nonfiction books(written as Cynthia P. Gallagher). She has terrific friends who continue to provide support while she works on her next book, "Whiff: Human Aroma Through the Ages."

Visit her website at

Sunday, August 17, 2008

How Authors REALLY Make Money!

Hello, everyone,

I've had some excellent luck with great guest bloggers lately. Today I am blessed to have a really great writeup from author and speaker L. Diane Wolfe know for her tenacity and drive as for her uplifting series of YA novels – hence the nickname “Spunk On A Stick!”

Trust me, this lady knows whereof she speaks when it comes to the real life of a working author. Take it away, Diane!:

Thank you to Austin for allowing me to appear on his blog and post one from the trenches…

We’ve all watched authors and celebrities receive huge, million-dollar book deals and thought, “Wow, I could live on that!”

Problem is, most authors don’t make that kind of money. Most authors make next to no money!

When I first started out with my YA series, The Circle of Friends, I held no grand illusions of hitting the best-seller lists. I knew I was tackling one of the toughest sells out there – fiction. I just settled into my niche of clean YA fiction, and promoted and toured like a madwoman. And on my chosen publishing path, I was quite successful. (Most authors who go that route fail miserably and never put out another book, which is why I steer writers away from that path.)

Of course, my challenge could have been even greater! I do publishing & promoting seminars in North Carolina community colleges, and most of the attendees are looking to publish either poetry or their memoirs. Those are incredibly tough sells!

I know there’s one school of thought that says write what you know best and start with that. But after extensive publishing research and discussions with other publishers, I believe the best course of action is to research the market and see what is selling. Why pour your blood, sweat and tears into a project no one else wants to read? Good marketing suggests that you discover what people want first. Non-fiction lends itself very well to this approach – find a need and then fill it!

All of this will put you in a position to make more money, but it’s still not the ultimate answer. So after carefully considering your market and target audience and promotions, what else can an author do?

Speaking engagements!

Do you realize how much the top motivational speakers receive in speaking fees? Usually six figures! Those people make more money speaking than they do from book sales. The same thing applies to any expert in a chosen field. Try getting a top medical expert or corporate CEO or ex-president to come speak to your company and you’ll see what I mean.

We can’t all make six-figures, but the opportunity to make money as a professional speaker is out there for those who want it. Every day, businesses, organizations and schools are seeking speakers. They are looking for experts – for you! This is a wide-open door for non-fiction authors, and even fiction authors can tailor themselves to be experts on some subject. (After all, just as much research goes into a fictional book as does a non-fiction book!) As any successful author will tell you, the key is to diversify and offer more than just books – and speaking is a great way to branch out into other areas.

When I began writing The Circle of Friends six years ago, I had no idea it would lead to paid speaking engagements. I’d spoken on stage in front of five thousand people before, but never received payment! Now I have expanded my list of seminars to include topics such as leadership and goal setting. This in turn has led to other areas, including private consulting and a publishing company. And to tie in with my seminars (as well as to remain profitable and further perpetuate my speaking opportunities), my first non-fiction book will be released next year.

So, to the writer who wants to make money as an author – don’t quit your day job just yet! But start planning your path and editorial niche now. Research the market and consider all of the possibilities.

And for goodness sakes, think BIG!

L. Diane Wolfe – a.k.a. “SpunkOnAStick”

Author & Speaker

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Writing Lesson Number One: To Thine Own Self Be True

From time to time an author whose work I admire will send along a useful tip or timely comment from their writing life. Today I'd like to introduce Peggy Ehrhart, a mystery writer who shares an experience from her time in a writer's group that we can all learn from. Here's Peggy's story in her own words, although she does say that all the names have been changed:

“I don’t feel any feeling.”

That was *Betty’s mantra every time I read scenes from my work in progress to my writers’ group.

People often ask me now if I’m in a writers’ group, or if I got feedback from friends or relatives while writing Sweet Man Is Gone. No, I say with a shudder. No writers’ groups and no in-progress feedback. Never again.

This is what happened.

Betty wore me down with her complaints about the lack of feeling in my project.

No feeling, I would brood unhappily as I drove home. If there’s no feeling, no one will care what happens to my heroine. No editor will want my book. In my darkest moments, I was convinced I’d never be published because I myself had a horrible flaw--no feeling. It’s true that I don’t often show emotion in public, but it had never occurred to me before Betty that maybe I was truly incomplete when it came to emotional development.

I resolved to remedy the problem—at least as it manifested itself in my writing. I went through the manuscript and tried to imagine what a feeling person would feel in the situations my heroine encountered.

So my heroine started to cry. She cried a lot. I challenged my descriptive abilities to come up with different ways to talk about crying: gulping sobs alternated with trickles of tears, or moist-eyed howls of misery.

Betty warmed to my project. My heroine became even more emotional.

Around that time I made a new friend at a summer guitar workshop, *Carrie. Carrie had recently retired from a job in publishing and had decided to devote herself to music. We started practicing together and inevitably I mentioned that I was writing a mystery.

“Oh, I’d love to read it,” she said.

I gave her the first several chapters and looked forward eagerly to what I was sure would be lavish praise—for one thing, the mystery was about music. But her reaction wasn't what I expected. “I wouldn't want to read a book like this,” she said after she’d had my chapters for a week.
“No?” I felt my throat clutch the way it does when I’m nervous.
“No one would. Your sleuth isn't a good heroine at all.”
“She’s not? What’s the problem?” I said, trying to control my distress and make my voice sound merely conversational, rather than devastated.
“I couldn't stand her.”
“What’s wrong with her?”
“Well,” Carrie said, shuffling my pages back into their folder. “She’s much too emotional. She cries all the time.”

Peggy Ehrhart is a former English professor who now writes mysteries and plays blues guitar. "Sweet Man Is Gone," featuring sexy blues-singer sleuth Maxx Maxwell, is just out from Five Star/Gale/Cengage. Visit her at .

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I've been branded! (Author's Spouse)

Ok, so it isn't as if Austin put iron to the coals and burned his initials into my skin, but he did brand me in a sense.

The other day he commented that I was his first experience with branding. He then went on to remind me that he had branded me with the moniker of his “lovely wife Dee”. I actually took issue with it in the beginning, but he wanted me to know that he thought of me that way so he continued to introduce me as his “lovely wife Dee” wherever we went and for whatever he wrote.

Although he had not consciously intended for it to happen, it actually became my name. The other day he received an email from a reader expressing objection to the fact that Austin had referred to me as “just” his wife in a recent blog. I have been at conferences or meetings where people have come up to me and introduced themselves to me by saying “hi I’m so-and-so you must be Austin’s lovely wife Dee”, so nice to meet you.

So what is my point in all of this? Well it must be about branding, eh?

The point is that big business has big dollars to spend in order to get you to recognize their brand, a Chihuahua or a little girl in pig-tails or whatever it is that gets you to remember them. For those of us who don’t have big dollars we have to use our brains and talents to wedge an idea or a phrase or a concept into our readers’ minds to get them to remember who we are so the next time they see us they will remember us.

I would love to use this blog as a forum for us to share our thoughts for branding ourselves, our books and our characters.

So tell me, what are you doing to make yourself, your book or your character memorable!

Until next time…don’t let their obsession become your undoing!

Austin’s lovely wife Denise, formerly Dee